Cien Aguas International School: Leverages Superlative Educational Standards

Cien Aguas

The goal of a dual languages program is to develop bilingualism and biliteracy, high academic achievement in both languages, and sociocultural competence. Students develop an appreciation and respect for different cultures at an early age. Bilingual and biliteracy skills are developed by providing students with group work requiring authentic language use, among other opportunities to communicate genuinely. High academic achievement in both languages is achieved by designing lessons with original and translated texts that engage and challenge children in both languages.

Sociocultural competences allow children to develop their identity, challenge them to question and make connections between themselves and the material that they are learning, and value and respect all humans. In the competitive world of the 21st century, these students are more likely to succeed with their awareness, knowledge, and understanding of diversity.

It is important to be able to communicate in different languages and understand others in today’s world. A person who can collaborate and communicate well across cultures is more valuable than ever. As a result, there is a growing demand for qualified teachers who can integrate bilingual education into the classroom.

An effective partnership among parents, students, and universities for a common goal has opened doors of global exposure for students, and in the coming future, it can turn out to be a significant step in making a unified society.

Cien Aguas International School has been carrying the same legacy and is on a mission to empower students to face global challenges.

Cien Aguas International School was authorized in 2009 as a state-charter K-8 school. In its first-year enrolment, it stood at 105 students and has grown every year since then. In the 2022-23 school year, it currently serves 426 students.

Noble Attempts

Beginning with an initial population that was heavily English-dominant, the leadership at Cien Aguas has worked to continue to attract bilingual emergent students every year (currently serving ~30 percent of ELL students). To draw from families that may need additional support in order to send their children to a charter school, the school has worked to secure three school bus routes, a sliding scale after-school program that provides childcare through 6 p.m. daily, and offers meals that comply with the federal school lunch program.

The student population who qualifies for free and reduced-priced lunch in the current school year is over 80 percent. Parents cite the school’s dual language program and the excellent benefit of being able to learn and communicate in both Spanish and English as the biggest draw that brings them to the school. They also express appreciation for the kindness and attentiveness of the Cien Aguas community.

Demonstrating High Achievement with Diversity

Cien Aguas International School was founded by a group of five bilingual educators who envisioned a school that would serve as a model of best practices in bilingual education and a robust, attractive option for parents in the Southeast Heights of Albuquerque.

Since its first year of operation, the school has served as a host site for educators from across the country and world, attending the national La Cosecha Conference that is hosted in Albuquerque and Santa Fe in alternating years.

The school embodies the philosophy that a diverse group of students can demonstrate high academic achievement when they learn in a dual-language program that uses interdisciplinary instruction—the Cien Aguas curriculum centres upon big, meaningful units of study, focusing on global issues.

Cien Aguas International School is a K-8 school with a focus on dual language instruction, inquiry, and environmental sustainability. It seeks to develop students who can ask and investigate important questions about the world around them, are committed to a sustainable society, and are working toward cross-cultural competence, bilingualism, and biliteracy in Spanish and English.

Promoting Innovative Ways

The curriculum of the school has a global perspective and is organized around thematic units of study. This is stressed throughout the curriculum, teaching students to pose and respond to crucial inquiries and conduct research to investigate answers. The use of Project GLAD® (Guided Language Acquisition Design) strategies, incorporating interactive walls, poetry, songs, extensive cooperative learning, and a range of reading materials, provides a framework for students to be successful. Textbooks are rarely used in school.

The school is a 90/10 dual language program; in this model, kindergarten students are taught 90 percent in Spanish, with English instruction increasing by 10 percent each year until a 50–50 percent language balance is achieved in the fourth grade. This 50/50 model continues to 8th grade.

Rigorous Academic Curriculum

Cien Aguas holds the philosophy that a diverse group of students can demonstrate high academic achievement and social integration when standards are high, the school climate is respectful, and the instructional program is first-rate.

Cien Aguas values cooperation, inquiry, problem-solving, and a rigorous academic curriculum. The school is committed to a rich, thematically integrated curriculum that sets out clear expectations for students yet allows room for individuals to learn in different ways and at different paces.

It is also committed to valuing students of different backgrounds and teaching its community to communicate across those differences. It is dedicated to promoting environmental and international awareness and teaching students to work to create a sustainable future.

Keeping the Mission Close to Heart

Sra. Patricia Garcıá is at the heart of this program. Sra. Garcıá was part of the original team of teachers who started the school. At the time, she taught a combination 2-3rd grade classroom; she currently serves students and teachers as curriculum and instructional coach. Sra. Garcıá holds the school’s mission and vision close to her heart; she is the glue that holds the school together and the compass that guides instruction and focus.

Sra. Garcıá’s works tirelessly to ascertain that the Project GLAD® units are aligned, the standards are incorporated, and the teachers are supported. As a national Project GLAD® trainer, she models classes, provides professional development, and writes curriculum, among numerous other responsibilities.

Year after year, Cien Aguas participates in the La Cosecha Dual Language Conference and hosts visitors to the school from around the country. Many of its teachers were also present at the conference.

The school has participated in research activities with the University of New Mexico, focusing on different content areas as well as dual language education and the lottery system, focusing and actively recruiting bilingual emergent students and highlighting and celebrating their bilingualism.

Creating a Unified School

A challenge the school encountered when first starting the operations was maintaining a truly bicultural and bilingual student body from K-8 so that students are sharing from a dual language and bicultural perspective. The school has worked to overcome this by having three different bus routes that go to the different parts of the city where students come from.

The school is trying to find a new building to hold the population as it grows comfortably. At first, it was all in one K-6 campus at a church building, then it had separate K-5 and 6-8 schools in different buildings across town, and then it moved into one building and was working to be a unified school. It has now moved into a permanent K-8 building.

Like all other schools, Cien Aguas International School faces adversities; it is currently working on finding bilingual teachers who hold true to its philosophy of teaching. It is working to overcome this by interviewing teachers from Spain and México and growing its own teachers with the Teacher Fellows program. Some of its former students have come back to become teachers and Educational Assistants at the school!

USPs of Cien Aguas

In alignment with its sustainability mission, the school has a strong Horticulture program that teaches students about planting and harvesting crops, which are then turned into food that is shared with its community. Students learn about recycling and composting and support all classrooms through its Energy Stars program.

Other programs unique to the school include Baila, Baila, a folkloric dance class, and Theater classes that align with the school’s social studies curriculum. Its middle school students enjoy a Film class while ES students are engaged in a rich Fine Arts class in which they explore painting, drawing, ceramics, and more. After-school activities include team sports (Soccer and Volleyball), JiuJitsu, Chess Club, Battle of the Books, and Dungeons and Dragons.

Students can have breakfasts, lunches, and snacks at school via APS Food and Nutrition Services. The school works with kids who have particular nutritional needs and offers nutrition education.

Upholding High Standards

The school’s goal is to provide access to and provide enticing, nutritious meals at the lowest cost possible through cooperation between students, staff, the school, families, and the community.

The department strives to uphold high standards and responsibility while continually exceeding families’ expectations.

Today, Cien Aguas enjoys a construction lab where students use science and math skills to build things that coincide with the curriculum in middle school.

Beginning in Elementary School, some of the School’s Project GLAD® units have a global focus where students study different landforms, economics, and ways of life in other countries.

Cien Aguas has witnessed a growth spurt since the very beginning of its establishment; the testimony to it is the awards and recognition the school has received over the years. The school has received ‘The Best of 2022 Albuquerque School;’ it has been featured on Spanish language evening news and has been featured on Univision; in addition, the elementary school has been ranked in the top 5, and the middle school has been ranked in the top 3 in New Mexico.

The school wants to continue creating individuals who are:

  • Learners with a high awareness of the world they live in,
  • Communicators who can function well in two languages and who value and embrace different cultures,
  • Individuals who show respect for themselves, others, and the environment,
  • Decision-makers who consider the needs of the communities they are part of, and
  • Problem-solvers who ask and answer important questions.

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