$500 Grant Opportunity for Maine Middle Grades!!!

Wow! The Natural Resources Council of Maine is offering a wonderful opportunity to middle grades schools and clubs in Maine

Kennebec River

Six $500 grants


 Protecting the Nature of Maine—Projects that educate and engage students in Maine’s environment and the value of protecting it

 Application deadline:

December 1, 2015

Contact person: Gabrielle Grunkemeyer, Grants Director at ggrunk@nrcm.org


Here are the specifics:

Project requirements:

  • Must take place in winter/spring 2016 and be completed by June 10, 2016.
  • Must write and submit 3 blog posts for NRCM website – describing project, progress, and outcome
  • Must be available to the press and/or provide press statements and photos for media to highlight the project**
  • Must give 1 final presentation to NRCM staff and board about project and what students learned

Application Process:

  • Complete and submit grant application by December 1, 2015.
  • Return to Gabrielle Grunkemeyer, Grants Director at ggrunk@nrcm.org
  • Applications will be evaluated by NRCM
  • Grant awards announced January 4, 2016
  • Grant checks dispersed by January 15, 2016

NRCM will evaluate your application on the following criteria:

Baxter21. Align with NRCM’s mission—Relevance to one of our four program areas:

  • Clean Air, Clean Energy
  • Healthy Waters
  • Woods,Wildlife, and Wilderness
  • Sustainability and Toxics

2. Defined activities, goal(s), and implementation plan, if relevant




Click on NRCM School Grant Guidelines and Application to download more information and the application.


Juvenile Bald EageIt seems to us at MAMLE that this grant opportunity opens the way for a spectacular learning  experience for your students when you combine it with the Samantha Smith Challenge.

Challenge your students to make a difference in their world!

Build a bridge between your classroom and the world to help your students understand that no matter what age, they can be part of solving the challenges and problems they see around them in the world.

Samantha Smith Challenge Celebration

The first Monday in June is designated Samantha Smith Day in Maine. This year the first annual Samantha Smith Challenge celebration was held in the Hall of Flags at the Maine State House on Samantha Smith Day. Over 500 students from across Maine accepted the challenge put forth by American Who Tell the Truth and the Maine Association for Middle Level Education to choose a problem in their community, state, country or the world that they would like to address and help solve.

King Middle School sets up their project.
King Middle School sets up their project.

The Hall of Flags began to pulse with energy as students poured into the room to set up their projects. Posterboards, trifolds, iPads, laptops, and oil paintings appeared and transformed the Hall into a showcase of student curiosity, hard work, research skills, and commitment to addressing troublesome issues. These students tackled a myriad of topics: underage drinking, animal abuse, poverty, homelessness, mental illness, cyberbullying, suicide, and harmful bacteria lurking right under our noses.


an image of student projects
Examples of projects
Students who accepted the Samantha Smith Challenge
Students who accepted the Samantha Smith Challenge


image of students talking to visiitors
Students explain what they learned and how they hope to address the issues.

A variety of distinguished visitors shared with students their stories related to becoming an active participant in addressing the problems of our communities–near and far.

image of Nancy Doda
MC Dr. Nancy Doda

Dr. Nancy Doda, 2014 MAMLE Annual Conference keynoter and Brazee Award honoree, guided the festivities and introduced the honored guests.

Jane Smith, the mother of Samantha, congratulated students and reflected upon her daughter’s legacy to the world.

image of jane Smith
Jane Smith, Samantha’s mother.

Former Maine legislator Elizabeth McTaggert introduced Senator Angus King who addressed the students via a video message.

Elizabeth McTaggert
Elizabeth McTaggert
image of Senator Angus King
Senator Angus King, Senator (I) from Maine

Maine’s First Lady Ann LePage chatted with students and helped put into context the world in which Samantha Smith lived–the Cold War era.

image of Ann Lepage and students
Ann Lepage chats with students from Lyman Moore Middle School.
image of Ann LePage
Ann LePage addresses the students who participated in the Samantha Smith Challenge.

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap shared why his family moved to Maine during the Cold War and congratulated students for becoming involved with important issues in their community.

image of Maine's Secretary of State
Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap
image of the audience
The Hall of Flags was packed!

Florence Reed, the founder of Sustainable Harvest International, shared how she was on a similar journey to the students to address real issues that affect communities and possibly the world at large.

image of Florence Reed
Florence Reed

The morning ended with each school receiving from Robert Shetterly of Americans Who Tell the Truth a poster of his painting of Samantha Smith.

image of King Middle School Students
King Middle School, Portland
image of Leonard Middle School Students
Leonard Middle School, Old Town/RSU 34
images of Lyman Moore students
Lyman Moore Middle School, Portland
image of Messalonskee students
Messalonskee Middle School, Oakland/RSU 18
image of Mt. Ararat students
Mt. Ararat Middle School, Topsham/SAD 75
image of students from Whittier MS
Poland Community School

The teachers were also honored and received a thundering round of applause from their students.

images of teachers involved
The Teachers


Lessons learned by participating in this type of project—quotes from the students. 

“I always have room to grow. I had thought about poverty as something very other than myself, something that didn’t really affect me. Turns out it’s not, and the kind of thinking I used to have was actually part of the problem because it prevented us from finding solutions.”  Leonard Middle School student

Doing suicide has been a tough challenge.  It’s been devastating reading each story and finding a solution.  Through the past couple of weeks on working on this, it’s been rough.” Lyman Moore Middle School student

“It was fun because it wasn’t “school work”; we got to go out in the community and change an issue that is affecting our area.”   Messalonskee Middle School student

“I learned that I didn’t give up after we had our first setback and two more after that.” York Middle School student

“Working on this project has made us come back to reality and realize that this is a bigger problem than we thought. It’s hard to believe that we have found over 110 cases of cyberbullying that end in suicide.  We were shocked by the large amount of teens (especially females) that have admitted to cyberbullying and/or being cyberbullied.  Cyberbullying is a huge epidemic of the modern day world. It has to stop now before we lose all sense of morality.”

Poland Community School students

One Student Can Make a Difference!

Lindsay Mahoney from Messalonskee reports how one student took on the Samantha Smith Challenge:
“How can we work together with the Maine Government to reduce homelessness, hunger, and poverty in our state?” That was the essential question for our Samantha Smith challenge. Throughout the research process, we discussed existing programs in Maine such as food stamp assistance, WIC, and SNAP. The “SNAP-Ed” challenge not only fit perfectly with what we were doing, it gave learners another opportunity to take action and make a difference in our community through authentic voice and choice!
Molly is a young lady who is no stranger to volunteering and providing food to those less fortunate than herself. She also enjoys cooking and experimenting with vegetarian meals for her and her family.
Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 12.15.20 PM
The SNAP-Ed challenge was open to anyone in the state of Maine, and I could not be more proud that a middle school student accepted and won this challenge! Read more about the challenge and her recipe.
Maine State House
Maine State House
Participants in the Samantha Smith Challenge will be honored June 1, 2015 in the Hall of Flags at the State House in Augusta. First Lady Ann LePage, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, and Sustainable Harvest International founder Florence Reed will join in honoring the students. Over 600 middle grades students from across the state accepted the challenge. Kudos to all of them and their teachers!
Conference Sponsor
Conference Sponsor

Samantha Smith Challenge

Do you remember when a group of Freeport elementary students took on fast food giant McDonalds and won? Concerned about the environmental impact of styrofoam packaging,  the students convinced Freeport’s town council to ban its use. McDonalds had to come up with another way to serve their hamburgers.   How about Katie Brown who at age 11 raised money to purchase protective vests for police dogs? And… did you know there are students all over the state participating in research projects related to the invasive European green crab?   Given the opportunity, our students will amaze us!

Samantha Smith-Used with permission from Americans Who Tell the Truth
Samantha Smith-Used with permission from Americans Who Tell the Truth

After the December break is a long stretch of instructional time in which to do something extraordinary. Join other middle grades teachers and students across Maine as they accept MAMLE’s and Americans Who Tell the Truth’s  Samantha Smith Challenge. Invite your students to amaze you and their school community by taking on a real life problem—local, state, national, or international—and work to come up with a viable solution or plan of action. Here is an excerpt from a recent news release:

The purpose of the Samantha Smith Engaged Student Challenge is to build a bridge between the classroom and the world and to show students that no matter what age, they can be part of solving the challenges and problems they see around them in the world. Samantha’s journey began with her concern about nuclear war. A year later she was an eleven year old teaching adults and children about making peace. Her progress from concern to courageous engagement was a series of small steps and decisions—the kind of thing any of us can do!

Here is the link to the teacher’s page for the Challenge: http://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org/the-samantha-smith-challenge

Working to save clams from European green crab--Woolwich Central School
Working to save clams from European green crab–Woolwich Central School

Should you wonder how you could possibly fit in this type of project with all you have to do, consider Maine’s Guiding Principles:

Guiding Principles

Part of The Maine Learning Results: Parameters for Essential Instruction

The knowledge and skills described in the Maine Department of Education Regulation 132 support Maine students in achieving the goals established in Maine’s Guiding Principles. The Guiding Principles state that each Maine student must leave school as:

A. A clear and effective communicator who:

  • Demonstrates organized and purposeful communication in English and at least one other language
  • Uses evidence and logic appropriately in communication
  • Adjusts communication based on the audience
  • Uses a variety of modes of expression (spoken, written and visual and performing including the use of technology to create and share the expressions)

B. A self-directed and lifelong learner who: 

  • Freeport MS students share research projects with visitors from Sweden.
    Freeport MS students share research projects with visitors from Sweden.

    Recognizes the need for information and locates and evaluates resources

  • Applies knowledge to set goals and make informed decisions
  • Applies knowledge in new contexts
  • Demonstrates initiative and independence
  • Demonstrates flexibility including the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn
  • Demonstrates reliability and concern for quality
  • Uses interpersonal skills to learn and work with individuals from diverse backgrounds

C. A creative and practical problem solver who:

  • Observes and evaluates situations to define problems
  • Frames questions, makes predictions and designs data/information collection and analysis strategies
  • Identifies patterns, trends and relationships that apply to solutions
  • Generates a variety of solutions, builds a case for a best response and critically evaluates the effectiveness of the response
  • Sees opportunities, finds resources and seeks results
  • Uses information and technology to solve problems
  • Perseveres in challenging situations

D. A responsible and involved citizen who:

  • Students from Phippsburg keep their community informed about their local history.
    Students from Phippsburg keep their community informed about their local history.

    Participates positively in the community and designs creative solutions to meet human needs and wants

  • Accepts responsibility for personal decisions and actions
  • Demonstrates ethical behavior and the moral courage to sustain it
  • Understands and respects diversity
  • Displays global awareness and economic and civic literacy
  • Demonstrates awareness of personal and community health and wellness

E. An integrative and informed thinker who:

  • Gains and applies knowledge across disciplines and learning contexts and to real-life situations with and without technology
  • Evaluates and synthesizes information from multiple sources
  • Applies ideas across disciplines
  • Applies systems thinking to understand the interaction and influence of related parts on each other and on outcomes

The Samantha Smith Challenge fits the bill as a way for your students to work toward proficiency and meet the high standards of Maine’s Guiding Principles.