Wed, Oct 22, 2008 - Page 2 News List

FEATURE: Differentiation allows Tainan school to survive

COMMUNITY To avoid being marginalized, the school taught ecology to help students discover the unique characteristics of their local environment

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wang Chun-chieh, right, and his student Wang Hsiang-hao of Shuangchun Elementary School in Tainan display fiddler crabs that they captured in a wetland near the school during a guided ecological tour for school visitors on Oct. 7.

PHOTO: FLORA WANG, TAIPEI TIMES

The nation’s declining birth rate has dealt a death blow to a considerable number of small elementary schools over the past seven years.

Ministry of Education statistics showed that, in the past school year, there were 859 primary schools in the country that had only six classes per school.

A number of local governments, such as the Tainan and Chiayi county governments, have actively sought to close small primary schools in a bid to cut government expenditure.

As many as 138 schools nationwide, particularly in remote areas in central and southern Taiwan, were shut down or merged with neighboring schools by local education bureaus between 2001 and the last academic year, ministry statistics show.

For the schools that remained, fighting for survival is an immediate concern.

Tainan County’s Shuangchun Elementary School faced the same problem other tiny schools did.

“We were informed two days after Tainan County Commissioner Su Huan-chih (蘇煥智) was re-elected [in 2005] that the school would be closed,” Wang Li-hui (王麗惠), director of the school’s academic and student affairs, said earlier this month.

The school was placed on the county government’s chopping board because it did not meet the new minimum student number — 60 students — set by the government in 2005.

However, the school was able to reverse its fate by emphasizing its unique character and promoting courses that made it irreplaceable.

The key to the school’s success was helping its students gain a better understanding of the neighborhood they live in.

Located between the mouths of Pachang Creek (八掌溪) and Jishuei River (急水溪), the school enjoys a rich ecology.

Students at the school are surrounded by extensive fish ponds, large schools of fiddler crabs and seemingly endless mangroves.

However, the location of the school also made it vulnerable to flooding.

Despite this disadvantage, “we managed to transform [the school] into an experimental and model school promoting marine education by taking advantage of [the surrounding] environment,” Wang said.

“The county government now gives a lot of credit to the school [for the transformation],” she said.

The school began its makeover by first building a windmill to help draw floodwater away and diverting the wastewater into an ecological pond, she said.

The mill then served as a small wind turbine, which the school’s teachers used to help students understand power-generating technology and the importance of finding alternative resources, she said.

ECOLOGY LESSONS

Students are required to take weekly ecology lessons to learn about the plant and animal life surrounding them, she said.

“[During the sessions, students are introduced to] seashore animals and plants, nearby waters, tides and waves,” she said.

The lessons help prepare the students for the school’s guided ecological tour program — a “show and tell” opportunity for students to present the unique characteristics of their neighborhood.

Wang Chun-chieh, who teaches the subject to fifth and sixth graders, said six to seven children who passed the ecological coursewere chosen as the school’s “little ecological tour guides.”

They are tasked with introducing the local ecosystem to visitors to the school, Wang Chun-chieh said while taking reporters on a tour to the nearby Shuangchun Coastal Recreation Area on Oct. 7.

This story has been viewed 3151 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top