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School Culture: American Nicaraguan School

SCHOOL CULTURE

Compared to other schools, such as ones in the United States where people in grades are measured by the hundreds, ANS could be described as a relatively ‘small’ school, with only about 40-70 people per grade. Yet, among bilingual Nicaraguan schools, this is a considerable amount.

The ANS community is relatively close and tight-knit. Everyone is friendly, welcoming and willing to help out with anything you may need. Although there are defined and well-structured social groups within grades, these all interact well. Also, while there is grade unity, relations between grades are also usually very good.

ANS, unlike LIA, is a secular institution, meaning that no particular religious practices are integrated into the overall school culture.  This fits exactly with the idea of heterogeneity in our school; ANS is currently composed of students of more than 35 nationalities. This wealth of differences has made it a great learning environment, seeing as students are exposed to a variety of people and ideas from many backgrounds and perspectives.

Current ANS junior and former LIA student, Mariajose Serrano, affirms this idea. “Since Lincoln is a small school, it also has a small community,” she says. “this means that there is a very friendly environment. People usually all know each other.”

Serrano also states that her transition to ANS was very smooth. “I was worried about some things before coming here,” she confesses, “one of those being the friend-finding process. I didn’t know about the social environment here, or how it easy it would be to find your ‘people.’ Much to my surprise, though, I adapted really quickly my first week here and found it to be incredibly welcoming. In addition to getting to know other new students, I also had a buddy who showed me around. The school is just really welcoming in general, and the people here are just really nice, the type to always greet you in the mornings and talk to you in class.”

ACADEMICS

In terms of academics, ANS stands out for being more focused on overall balance rather than specific expertise. The school aims, above all,  to create independent, well-rounded students that are given the opportunity to excel not just in one area of interest, but many. This is clearly reflected in its academic and extracurricular systems, which are not only designed to further intellectual curiosity, but also to foster values like leadership, collaboration, open-mindedness and service.

ANS runs on a schedule with alternating days, meaning that students have specific classes on Day 1 and specific classes on Day 2. Classes start at 7:05 p.m., and there are four 90-minute classes a day. For high school, there is a 15-minute break after the first class, and then a 30-minute lunch after two more classes. In contrast to Lincoln, there is no homeroom.

The ANS slogan is “connecting the global community.” This phrase is taken quite literally in our community, since the curriculum aims to provide students with the opportunity to attend college in virtually any part of the world. On top of the required ANS Diploma, students are offered two additional graduation programs: the Nicaraguan Bachillerato and the Global Studies Academy Certificate. For each of these certificates, there are certain course requirements.

For the standard ANS Diploma, four credits of English, mathematics, Spanish, science, and social studies are required. Additionally, two credits physical education, and a half credit of fine arts are expected. Interestingly, the school demands one credit of Senior Capstone.

There are also a variety of electives that students can take in addition to their core classes. High school students have two slots, and can have up to four semester-long electives if they wish. These range from all topics — from architecture to forensic biology to world film to even journalism itself.

In addition to learning in the classroom, learning outside the classroom happens through a variety of extracurricular opportunities. This not only includes the opportunity to participate in around 15 community service clubs, but also the chance to engage in sports and the arts.

SPORTS

“The American Nicaraguan School balances academics and athletics,” says Serrano. “They are both given importance.”

ANS aims to produce well-rounded students. The school places high value on athletics, as it offers an extensive list of extracurriculars. Specifically, the school conducts six year-long courses for both male and female teams. Moreover, in Physical Education class alone, students engage in a variety of sports, including: soccer, swimming, basketball, volleyball, track & volleyball, badminton, ping pong, and chess.

A system for rewarding athletic excellence is established. At the end of every school year, an Athletic Awards Ceremony is held; it celebrates the outstanding performers in each sport, and honors those who have dedicated their time to multiple teams.

An ANS junior and dedicated swimmer, Maria Cobos, asserts the significance of this event. “The Athletic Awards Ceremony encourages me to continue working hard,” says Cobos. “It appreciates the efforts of student-athletes.”

Moreover, ANS outwardly displays pride in athletic achievements. For instance, a “Hall of Fame” frames the most successful athletes from our school since 1998.

Evidently, dedication to athletics is embedded into the culture of our school, through an extensive extracurriculars list, and a system for the appreciation of athletes.

ARTS

On top of motivating engagement in sports, ANS offers a variety of courses in the arts. For secondary students, visual art courses include AP Studio Art, Contemporary Art, and Exploration of Architecture. Regarding the performing arts, there are also numerous options, including Guitar, Instrumental Music, and Vocal Music.

Increasingly, the school is developing the Arts Department. In March, nine musicians attended AASCA Music in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. This school year, a drama club was established, lead by junior Edoardo Amador. “I have a dedicated, enthusiastic group,” he says. “We look forward to a winter play and a spring musical.” Amazingly, he has pioneered the implementation of a drama course for the next academic school year. Indeed, ANS is increasingly fostering an appreciation for the arts.

 

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