The National Science Council will showcase how scientific knowledge can be learned through traditional Aboriginal culture at the third annual Aboriginal Science Festival on Saturday.
Part of the council’s Aboriginal science education project, the festival will be held at the sports center in Wulai District (烏來), New Taipei City (新北市). The focus will be on the traditional culture of Atayal and Paiwan Aborigines, but will also include features from other Aboriginal tribes.
The project aims to develop science education that is closely linked with Aboriginal cultures and traditions for students in Aboriginal communities to spark their interest in learning and help narrow the gap in science education between urban and rural areas.
Research teams from 10 universities and 37 schools in Aboriginal communities have been involved in the project over the past three years.
At the festival, students will learn about the habitat of wild animals and the mechanics behind different types of traps through activities about Aboriginal hunting and trap-setting skills. Students can also try their hand at Aboriginal embroidery and learn about symmetry and calculation.
Erecting bamboo sticks to make a swing used in Paiwan Aboriginal weddings will also be a lesson in physics about balance and mechanics.
Hwa Kuo-yuan (華國媛), an associate professor at National Taipei University of Technology, said teaching nutrition and how to calculate body mass index (BMI) is now being applied to Aboriginal food that students are more familiar with.
Unga Kalay, an associate professor at National Pingtung University of Education and an Amis Aborigine, said many Aboriginal students felt alienated when confronted with current teaching materials and fear they would be reprimanded for not memorizing calculation formulas.
“However, they think it’s fun when the teaching materials are linked to their traditions,” she said.
Many Amis children are familiar with the custom of striking hakhak, or “sticky rice,” while it is hot and turning it into toron, or sticky rice balls, a common activity at gatherings, she said.
However, children might not know why it has to be struck while it’s hot, or the science behind it, she said.
Aboriginal cultures are rich in scientific knowledge, Unga Kalay said, and the project hopes to pass on this knowledge to elementary- school students through actual experiments and observation of these traditions at the festival, instead of by teaching formulas and principles in advance.