Tamorak – Taiwan’s First Amis School
In Hualien’s Makotaay village, along Provincial Highway 11, where it is home to the Amis people lies Tamorak, Taiwan’s first Amis school. Tamorak was founded in 2015 by former public school teacher, Nakaw, who after witnessing her indigenous students struggle in a public school setting saw the need for a school that not only centered its education on indigenous culture and tradition, but one that is taught in native language knowing that language is the basis of cultural preservation.
After leaving the public sector in 2009, Nakaw committed three years to the Waldorf teacher education program at the Ci-Xin Waldorf School in Yilan. With Waldorf education’s emphasis on nature, the arts, rhymes, storytelling, handwork and crafts, Nakaw found it to be particularly suitable for indigenous youths. Tamorak currently has nine preschoolers and 12 students in the first to fifth grade. Its curriculum is designed to fit every developmental stage while connecting students with nature, their local environment, and everyday living. Five years on, though not without the challenges of teacher and curriculum development, the team continues to strive forward.
For students new to the Tamorak learning environment, parents are invited to participate in everyday activities such as cooking. Parents at the Tamorak choose the school not only for their children to learn the mother tongue, but also for its strong connection to the environment as well as its learnings and exposures to the gifts of nature.
Students at the Tamorak learn culture, language and history through the stories of different tribespeople as well as rhymes. Tribal history, cultural values, important tribal events, and the Austronesian culture are few of the topics covered in class.
During the summer and winter holidays, Nakaw and teachers work hard to enrich the curriculum. To date, they have created over 30 Amis rhymes. They developed innovative courses such as farming to fulfill the needs of the mixed-age classroom which aims to build teamwork and self-reliance in an environment that is loving and accepting. In effort to promote indigenous languages, and in collaboration with artists and professionals, teachers and parents of Tamorak created a series of animated rhymes which were widely shared on the internet.
As students progress, topics will advance from tribal architecture to forest and marine education. In Tamorak’s future, the plan is to not only continue teacher training and the develop of curriculum, but to share teaching resources and serve as a model for indigenous teachers who wish to adopt its vision.
“Tamorak” which means pumpkin in Amis represent growth. Since its beginnings, The Alliance Cultural Foundation (ACF) has supported part of its funding. ACF believes that language plays a significant role in cultural preservation; encouraging youths to speak their native tongue will contribute to the safeguarding of their culture and traditions.