Environmental Education at Bitou Elementary

The Northeast Coast's Most Scenic School

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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文‧陳亮君 圖‧林旻萱











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。












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。


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文・陳亮君 写真・林旻萱 翻訳・山口 雪菜























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