Adobe Bluffs Elementary School
Adobe Bluffs Elementary School
Serves 500+ students, Transitional Kindergarten to Grade 5
Adobe Bluffs Elementary School (ABES) is a public school in the Poway Unified School District, San Diego, California. The school, founded in 1992, currently serves students in transitional Kindergarten to Grade 5 (TK–5). In 2016, Mandarin Foreign Language in Elementary School (FLES) was introduced to the school and offers Mandarin to the entire school. In 2018, the Mandarin immersion program was launched. Immersion follows a 50/50 model, with 50% of student instruction in Mandarin and 50% in English. Out of the 500+ student body, 130 students (26%) are in the Mandarin immersion program.
ABES has created an exceptional Mandarin program model in a public school. In order to uplift and elevate future-ready global competency, TK–5 students are offered two pathways of instruction in Mandarin Chinese language and culture that intertwine to create unity within the school. One path consists of instruction for one hour a week in the Foreign Language in Elementary School (FLES) program. Students are exposed to the Chinese language with “everyday” vocabulary, the phonetic system, poems, short stories, and songs. Cultural components such as calligraphy, abacus use, and paper cutting are also an integral part of learning. ABES also offers a unique two-way Dual Language Mandarin Immersion program, with each class made up of 50% native English speakers and 50% native Mandarin speakers.
The Mandarin programs at ABES inspire and motivate students to participate in an inclusive, caring, and collaborative learning community. Through the rich resources made available through the various local and abroad partnerships, students participate in a wide variety of activities such as calligraphy, dance, and poetry. These activities provide students the opportunity to perform in front of others and to have hands-on experiences, immersing themselves in the Chinese culture. Students can participate in live performances and perform throughout San Diego, including as part of the Poway Unified State of the District event in 2020. Students also participate in traditional art experiences and games and learn how to play and listen to traditional instruments in the Mandarin extracurricular club.
Students naturally collaborate and come together to create a positive learning environment through the shared experience of learning Mandarin. As students in the Dual Language Immersion program become more fluent in Mandarin, they motivate the FLES students to develop and grow their vocabulary through conversations. Students can be found playing games and speaking to each other in Mandarin on the playground. Although there are two different pathways to learning Mandarin, students are united and have great pride in what they are learning, which is facilitated by the innovative teaching practices that all ABES teachers strive to emulate and produce. Teachers work diligently to incorporate instructional strategies and leverage technology to design innovative learning experiences for students.
The shared connection of learning cultivated by the Dual Language Immersion and FLES programs has allowed students to learn to appreciate cultural diversity, promote empathy, and build friendships.
The ABES Mandarin programs have been notably supported by the community and families within and outside the Poway Unified School District. This has increased enrollment numbers each year and has brought new life to an already thriving school. The diversity of ethnicities and languages (14) within the student population has risen across all groups. The school staff include four credentialed Chinese teachers. These robust increases in students and staff have bolstered cultural awareness, inclusion, and acceptance, and they participate together in highly anticipated Chinese celebrations. Partnerships with the community like the Chinese Cultural Center at San Diego State University have provided rich cultural experiences through the arts, esteemed guests from Taiwan and China, and mentorships.
In order to uplift and elevate future-ready global competencies, all ABES students have access to instruction in Mandarin Chinese language and culture. The Dual Language Immersion and FLES programs provide students with opportunities to acquire the language and prepare them to be globally interconnected by embracing and learning about the Chinese culture. The Two-Way Dual Language Immersion Program, which is the first of its kind in San Diego County, allows students to gain mastery in Mandarin, and students leave the school fluent in Mandarin. The FLES program offers students rich cultural experiences and exposure to the Mandarin language, and students leave with everyday communication skills. Both groups have the ability to communicate in Chinese, both orally and in writing; make presentations; express thoughts about familiar topics; and use sentences and series of connected sentences through spoken, written, or signed language. Students learn to be culturally and globally responsive, recognizing there are significant similarities as well as differences in behaviors and perspectives among cultures. Students regularly interact with peers across the world to engage with and learn from them.
Another unique element is ABES’s partnership with San Diego State University’s Chinese Cultural Center, which has proven essential for providing resources for students to be globally prepared. The university provides resources; access to community events; extracurricular programs to encourage lifelong learning and engagement; and support staff, who help in the Mandarin classes. Additional partnerships that sponsor cultural assemblies, local and international artists in residence, and other multi-faceted programs that enhance student learning include the House of China in Balboa Park; the Chinese Language and Education Center; Xiamen University in Fujian, China; Amity Institute; and sister school, Chongqing Renmin Primary School. Many students also participate in the extracurricular Mandarin Club, performing at the Annual Moon Festival at Balboa Park and at other community events around San Diego. Each year, all students take part in ABES’ Lunar New Year celebration to demonstrate their Mandarin language skills and appreciation of Chinese culture. Additionally, the program encourages lifelong learning and engagement by offering Mandarin classes for parents.
In 2018, ABES received international recognition and was awarded the “Confucius Classroom of the Year” in Chengdu, China, from the Ministry of Education. Out of 150 countries and thousands of educational institutions competing for the honor, ABES was the only public elementary school from the United States to receive this prestigious award for the Best Foreign Language Program.
In June 2021, ABES Mandarin Programs was selected as the 2021 “Impact Award” recipient for the Innovation in Education Awards by Classroom of the Future.
Qiuyu Julie Li