Environmental Education at Bitou Elementary

The Northeast Coast's Most Scenic School
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2018 / October

Ivan Chen /photos courtesy of Lin Min-hsuan /tr. by Robert Green


Our visit to Taiwan’s Northeast Coast begins with an interview amid majestic scenery. Standing next to the large window of her second-floor office, Chen Yu Fang, principal of Bi­tou Elementary School, introduces the surrounding landscape. To the left, wave-cut rock platforms slope toward the sea below the Bi­tou Cape Trail. To the right, the Long­dong rock-climbing site and Long­dong Bay can be seen in the distance, as well as the San­diao Cape Lighthouse even farther afield. “From the second-floor classrooms the students are treated to seascapes that change by the day due to the endless variations of the sunlight and the clouds,” Chen says.

 


 

Bitou Cape marks the boundary between the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Bi­tou Elementary School sits midway up the mountainous landscape. It is Taiwan’s northern­most elementary school that faces the Pacific. With only 28 students (including 12 kindergarten students), Bi­tou Elementary is tiny by any standard, but it sits amid stunning natural ­surroundings.

A school transformed

Shortly after Chen took over as principal of Bi­tou Elementary, Typhoon Sou­delor ripped the roof off of the school and damaged the windows. The school had already been in a state of disrepair, and after the destruction caused by the typhoon it was in a disastrous state. “It was in August three years ago that Soudelor struck,” Chen says. “I’ll never forget it.”

Today two towers flank the school entrance, representing the Bi­tou Cape Lighthouse. Shells collected by teachers and students during beach cleanups decorate the bases of the towers. Inside the schoolyard paintings inspired by Mermaid Melody, a Japanese cartoon, adorn a reviewing stand overlooking the school’s running track, and images of the lighthouse and of dolphinfish chasing flying fish adorn the surrounding walls. There are also paintings representing the flora of Bi­tou Cape across the four seasons, and the timetables on the walls outside the classrooms are framed with ­creatures such as crested serpent eagles, scaly rock crabs and dolphins. A ship’s whistle and an eagle’s cry are used in place of a school bell, signaling the beginning and end of classes.

The stairway from the first to the second floor of the school is decorated with wall paintings of the nearby scenery. “That one is the fishing village, with its houses of coral stone,” Chen explains. “Over here are Long­dong, the rock-climbing site and San­diao Cape. These show the night sky at different times of the year, and the brilliance of the stars. And here are golden spider lilies....   

Chen’s tour continues with a look at the classrooms, which are marvelous to behold. They are decorated with different themes—astronomy, forests, the Mediterranean. The library mimics the cabin of a ship and leads to a platform for viewing the night sky.

Over the last three years the school has been raising funds for renovations. “After the typhoon we entered all sorts of competitions to raise money to transform the school.”

Chen makes it sounds easy, but it has been a long road. Under her direction Bi­tou Elementary won two awards in the Ministry of Education’s 2017 annual school commendations, one for its unique learning environment and curriculum for hosting study camps, and another for its campus aesthetics and renovations. It also won a silver medal in 2018 from the Ministry of Education’s K-12 Education Administration for its outdoor learning environment. “Whether in contests held by New Tai­pei City or the Ministry of Education, we just want to perform well in order to secure funding to improve the school and its environs,” Chen says.

A unique learning environment

Bitou Elementary offers ocean-based outdoor learning during autumn and spring—at the start of the school year in September and October, before the monsoon winds arrive; and in May and June when the days become hotter and the seawater is not too cold. At these times, the school arranges for students go kayak­ing and snorkeling. Students also visit the famous sea erosion platform on the coast below the school. There they study the landscape and its ecology. On the day of our visit, Bi­tou ­Elementary and the Village of Angelic Children have arranged for a visit to the erosion platform for disadvantaged children from rural areas. 

On this occasion the students are in the care of Sealion Wu, a retired teacher from ­Yonghe Elementary School. “Just now one of you asked me how come water flows out of the cliff face in some places but not in others,” says Wu to the children. “Who can tell me the answer?”

Wu introduces the students to the characteristics of sandstone and shale, handing them pieces of each to experiment with. “Sandstone is porous, so it bubbles when you put it in water, but shale doesn’t,” he explains.

Because sandstone is porous but shale is less porous, rainwater flows down through the sandstone until it hits a layer of shale; then, because it cannot go through the shale, it flows out of the cliff face.

Next Wu takes the students to observe creatures in the intertidal zone. “First you have to find a crab, and then spot a fish,” he tells them. “And then you can search for a new creature on your own.”

As soon as one is found, a student yells “Crab!” “This is a scaly rock crab [Plagusia squamosa],” says Wu, “but people around here call it the white-bellied crab because of the white coloring on its underside.” Wu uses the intertidal zone as a living classroom to teach the children to identify the varied lifeforms.

The third organism that the children find is identified by Wu as the pyramid periwinkle (Nodilittorina pyramidalis), a species of sea snail that lives in the intertidal zone. “Don’t disturb them though,” he tells them. “They are active only in the evening when they feed, and if you detach them from the rocks and deprive them of their perch, they will die.”

Through these questions and answers the students are able to learn first hand about the natural world.

Aside from the erosion platform, students find a treasury of rich course material about the sea at Bi­tou Fishing Harbor. The children learn about the varieties of fishing boats and the tides from local fishermen and elderly residents. Even the local seafood restaurants provide living classrooms for the students, where they learn about Bi­tou Cape’s marine environment through the variations in the content of the local catch in different seasons. 

“Our school is quite unique in that we have sports events both on land and at sea.” Chen Yu Fang ­explains that from their first or second year, students practice wearing lifejackets while competing in sports. In the third and fourth years, they learn snorkeling, kayaking and canoeing, either at Bi­tou Harbor’s ­Ruansi Park or at nearby Long­dong Bay Ocean Park.

Learning in the natural world

The sea is part of the shared memory of the people of Taiwan’s Northeast Coast. “I’m really impressed with a group of people in the area,” says Chen Mei-hsiu, director of the Northeast and Yi­lan Coast National Scenic Area Administration (NYCNSA). “They include diving instructors, guesthouse operators and volunteers, and on the weekends they organize groups of divers to come and clean up the coast and river mouths and pluck garbage from the sea.”

Much of the trash is carried across the ocean and washes ashore in Taiwan on sea currents or with passing typhoons. Ocean trash has become a global problem.

On Christmas Eve last year, the administrators of Long­dong Bay Ocean Park organized a cleanup of the seabed and the coastline. Participants included diving enthusiasts and other concerned citizens from various walks of life, including doctors, police officers, office workers, teachers and students. In one day they removed about 60 bags of garbage, weighing around 200 kilograms. In addition, staff from the NYCNSA have stepped up patrols during the breeding season of the pere­grine falcon and enlisted the aid of volunteers from the Wild Bird Society of Kee­lung to stand guard over breeding grounds to ensure that the birds are not disturbed. They also provide telescopes to allow tourists to observe the birds without disturbing them.

On March 21, the NYCNSA held an environmental education event to replant the Formosa lily. Students and teachers from Bi­tou Elementary and local residents joined representatives from the New Tai­pei City Government and businesses based in New Tai­pei to plant 1,500 Formosa lily seedlings on Goat­grass Slope on the school grounds and on Moon-Facing Hillside adjacent to the Bi­tou Cape Trail.

Environmental preservation efforts on the Northeast Coast have found success through the combined efforts of the government and concerned citizens, and have been praised by international groups. In 2015 the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Tourism for Tomorrow Awards listed the Old Cao­ling Loop Line Bicycle Path, which runs around the coast of San­diao Cape, as a finalist for a Destination Award, considered the Nobel Prize for the tourism industry. In both 2016 and 2017 the Northeast Coast was selected as one of the Top 100 Green Destinations, and in 2017 the unique geology of Bi­tou and Long­dong received further publicity when the Geological Society Located in Tai­pei held an international seminar promoting the area.

In the future, the NYCNSA will continue its efforts to protect breeding peregrine falcons and to replant Formosa lilies, and will work with civic groups to clean up the ocean and shoreline. Furthermore, unused barracks along the Bi­tou Cape Trail will be repurposed to promote conservation and ecological education and will be a potential resource for future recreational activities.

Preserving Taiwan’s beautiful coastline and its unique geological features will require the combined efforts of the entire community.       

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繁體中文

東北角最美校園

文‧陳亮君 圖‧林旻萱

「從二樓每一間教室,孩子們看到的海景,每天都不一樣,每一天的雲,每一天的陽光,都有不同的變化。」站在校長室的大窗戶旁,鼻頭國小校長陳玉芳介紹起校園周遭的景物。從左方沿著鼻頭步道下去的海蝕平台,到右方遠處的龍洞攀岩場及龍洞灣,甚至更遠方的三貂角燈塔,本次東北角專訪就在如此壯闊的海景中展開。

 


 

鼻頭角在東海與太平洋的交界處,而鼻頭國小就位在鼻頭角的半山腰上,是台灣面向太平洋的第一所小學。全校28名學生(含幼兒園12人),是名副其實的小學校,不過卻也有著得天獨厚的地理條件。看鼻頭國小校長陳玉芳在短短3年內,如何帶領師生跟大海學習,打造出教學、地景、社區相互依存與融合的教學場域。

特色校園大改造

「3年前的8月我剛上任沒多久就遇到蘇迪勒颱風,印象超深刻……」鼻頭國小校長陳玉芳剛到職沒多久,校舍的屋頂就因為颱風而被吹掀了,窗戶破損加上原本就已年久失修的校園,經過颱風的蹂躪,呈現出滿目瘡痍的慘況。

颱風警報剛解除,陳玉芳試圖請值班的警衛回傳風災狀況,「不行啊!校長,走廊也很危險,現在外面風很大沒辦法看,只知道有什麼東西破掉了。」警衛回報。陳玉芳想說奇怪,颱風不是已走了,於是就驅車前往學校勘查。

沿途風平浪靜,就在往鼻頭國小的半山腰上,倏然狂風大作,在車嚴重搖晃下只好步行上去,步行又不行只好用爬的,並在算準陣風較小的幾秒間,衝出握住學校大門,「喔!有遊客ㄟ,颱風天來走步道,頭殼壞去,不過那看起來很面熟,該不會是新來的校長……」警衛事後述說當時看到這位拼命三郎校長的情景。最後在有驚無險下,第一時間了解學校的災情,「在這體會到自然的力量,所以我們更應懂得尊敬老天爺。」陳玉芳說。

現今的校園,校門口有象徵鼻頭燈塔的雙塔設計,燈塔的下方,用師生淨灘時撿回的貝殼作裝飾。校園內有珍珠美人魚司令台、鼻頭燈塔與鬼頭刀追逐飛魚的彩繪,以及在鼻頭四季常見的植物圖像,各年級也有大冠鷲、白底蟹、小海豚等代表當地生物的班級牌,連上下課的鐘聲也是船笛聲與大冠鷲的叫聲。

沿著環型地質走廊拾階而上,「這邊是漁村,有咕咾石,這邊是龍洞、攀岩場跟三貂角,我們還配合四季星空,還有星光,這是金花石蒜……」陳玉芳邊解說邊帶我們走進教室,一進教室更是讓人驚嘆,有天文宇宙風、森林風、地中海風等情境布置,圖書館更是仿船艙造型,還可通往觀星台等設施。「風災過後我們就參加了一連串的比賽,透過比賽的獎金來爭取經費,改造我們的校園學習環境。」陳玉芳說起這3年來一點一滴地湊足經費來改造校園的過程。

說起來輕鬆,但這一路走來著實不易,鼻頭國小在陳玉芳的帶領下,榮獲教育部106 學年度偏遠學校特色遊學績優學校、教育部106學年度校園美感與環境再造績優學校,以及教育部國教署2018年戶外教育飛揚100「銀牌獎」,「不管是新北市還是全國教育部舉辦的比賽,只要得到比較好的名次,就有經費修繕教學環境與做校園美感環境改造。」陳玉芳提及,校內有一座百獸圖騰石柱,不論颱風還是資金短絀時,她都會來這祈福,說也神奇,就有幾筆捐款是在祈福後,有遊客到此走步道時,對學校有好的印象,進而願意捐款給校方。

得天獨厚教學資源

鼻頭國小的海洋體驗課程,上學期會安排在9~10月,趁東北季風還沒來的時候;下學期則會安排在5~6月天氣變熱且海水不會太冷時,從事輕艇、浮潛等活動。因為學校下方就是著名的海蝕平台,戶外課就會帶學生去做海蝕地景與生物的探訪。採訪當天,正值鼻頭國小與中華天使兒童村合作,招待來自全國的偏鄉弱勢學生,來體驗東北角特殊的海蝕平台地形。

這次負責講解的老師,是永和國小的退休教師吳海獅,「看我手指的方向,有一堆亂石頭堆在那裡,這是怎麼掉下來的?」在同學們七嘴八舌的回答中,老師在旁適時的引導,「原來是因為長期海浪侵蝕,上面岩石太重了,所以掉了下來。」「剛有一個小朋友問我說,那個岩壁怎麼會有水流出來,有的地方就沒有,看誰能解答?」

吳海獅一邊講解砂岩與頁岩的特徵,一邊拿實際兩種不同的石頭給同學們實驗,「這砂岩因顆粒較粗,放進水裡會冒泡泡,頁岩就不會。」原來,砂岩裡面有孔隙,會透水,頁岩比較不透水,所以當上面的雨水透過砂岩,一直往下流,流到沙、頁岩交界的地方,流不下去,就從外面流了出來。

接下來,吳海獅帶領學生前往潮間帶觀察生物,「這裡是鼻頭角有名的海蝕平台潮間帶,第一個要看到螃蟹,第二個要看到魚,第三個你們自己找。」「有螃蟹!」小朋友興奮地叫著,「牠的學名叫作瘤突斜紋方蟹,在地的人稱為『白底仔』,因為牠的腹部是白色的。」吳海獅藉由生動的教學方式,讓學生分辨潮間帶裡的生物,「這眼珠子如果是透明的,表示牠是脫皮,如果牠是活體死掉的,這個眼珠會黑黑的。」

而要學生找的第三種生物,其實就是生長在潮間帶的「顆粒玉黍螺」,「你不要去拿牠,牠只有晚上才會活動吃東西,如果你把牠扯下來,找不到地方棲息的話,就會影響牠的壽命。」生命教育就在師生一問一答中自然地體驗與學習。

舉辦這次活動的中華天使兒童村協會理事長沈桂美說:「此次結合鼻頭國小豐富的自然資源,以海洋生態為主軸,在暑假期間讓這些來自全國各地的小朋友能認識海洋,也邀請了海洋大學博幼社的大哥哥大姊姊來照顧他們。」協會志工海星國小退休校長徐月梅則說:「台灣有名的就是海岸,環境要怎麼愛護,他有經歷過就知道。今天帶小朋友來,他下一次就會帶爸爸媽媽一起來。」

除了生動的海蝕地形課程,鄰近的鼻頭漁港,也是鼻頭國小學生學習海洋知識的寶庫,從當地的漁民、耆老身上,學習到漁船的種類、潮汐的變化,而當地的海產店則是學校在社區的海洋教室,透過當季漁獲的種類、特性,來了解東北角這片海域。「我們學校很特別,除了陸上運動會之外,還有海上運動會。」陳玉芳解釋從一二年級開始就讓學生練習穿救生衣比賽,中高年級的學生則學習浮潛、輕艇與獨木舟,地點就在鼻頭漁港裡的軟絲公園,或是鄰近的龍洞灣海洋公園。至於孩子的反應如何,就如同這次參加潮間帶課程的鼻頭國小四年級學生周靖堯所說:「最喜歡下去潮間帶開始看魚、觀察螃蟹的時候,因為可以更接近海。」

東北角環境教育

海,是東北角民眾的共同回憶。東北角暨宜蘭海岸國家風景區管理處處長陳美秀說:「在東北角這邊,有一群人讓我很感動,有潛水教練,有開民宿的,也有的是志工,為了這塊土地,假日會帶著一群潛水客,一起到海邊、溪口淨灘,還會潛到海裡幫忙撿海洋垃圾。」而這些垃圾很多是跟著颱風,隨著洋流,飄洋過海來到台灣海岸,「海洋垃圾」已經成為全球性的課題。

去(2017)年耶誕節前夕,龍洞灣海洋公園業者就號召一群潛水愛好者和熱心公益民眾,齊心進行海底及海岸清潔,參加人員有醫生、警員、上班族和學校師生,清出約60袋、200公斤的岸上和海底垃圾。另一方面,東北角風管處除了加強龍洞遊隼繁殖的巡查外,也敦請基隆鳥會在繁殖期間,每天派駐志工在龍洞擔任守護員,並提供單筒望遠鏡讓民眾安靜、不驚擾遊隼的方式欣賞鷹姿。

今(2018)年3月21日在鼻頭國小,東北角風管處更再次舉辦「環境教育百合復育活動」,除鼻頭國小師生及當地社區成員,並與新北市政府和轄區廠商,共同於校園內山羊草坡及鼻頭角步道望月坡種下1,500株台灣百合花苗。對於自然與環境,東北角海岸官民一心的成果,近年來更獲得許多國際上的肯定,如2015年東北角海岸線的「舊草嶺環狀線自行車道」獲選入圍有全球觀光界「諾貝爾獎」之稱的「2015明日旅業大獎」(Tourism for Tomorrow Awards)殊榮,2016-17更是連續兩年獲選為全球百大綠色旅遊地,加上2017年由台灣地質學會辦理的國際研討會來共同行銷與交流,讓東北角的鼻頭龍洞地質享譽國際。

未來東北角風管處除了持續推動遊隼保護、百合復育、與民間共同辦理淨海、淨灘等活動外,並將結合鼻頭角步道中,廢棄軍用營舍改建再利用的空間,進行地景保育及生態教育宣導,而這也將是下一個極富潛力的遊憩秘境。如同陳美秀於受訪時所說:「這一代的年輕人對於這裡的地景保育觀念非常好,譬如我們種野百合,幾乎沒有人在採,民眾會互相勸告。」台灣美麗的海岸與珍稀的地質環境,就靠你我來共同維護。                  

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