Forest School

What is Forest School?  

Forest School is an ethos, a way of working with children in nature over time, not a place or institution as the name might suggest. At Forest School children of all ages visit the same woodland or natural area on a regular basis, usually for 2-3 hours once weekly, with qualified Forest School Leaders (currently accredited by the Open College Network, Level 3). We work with the same small-sized group of people every week over a longterm basis (we aim for a minimum of ten weeks, but over a full school year has been shown to be most effective).

At Forest School we are a community of learners, as in we co-create our group agreements, we build trust, we are encouraged to learn through play, learn about nature and develop our connection to it, how to handle and assess risks and most importantly to use our own initiative to solve problems and co-operate with others.

Learners are taught to use tools safely, can immerse themselves in play, become self motivated and curious, can play with trial and error, be creative, establish and grow in confidence, self-esteem, critical thinking and learn both physical and behavioural boundaries.

Forest School programmes can run throughout the year, we go out in all weathers (except for high winds). Qualified Forest School practitioners are outdoor first aid trained, need to be Garda vetted to work with organisations and strive to have a positive impact on the woodlands and green spaces they use, including litter picking and woodland management. A Forest School Leader needs to be covered by insurance to operate and to that end Forest School Ireland is fully insured to run children’s programmes and to teach adults.

Groups range from Primary and Secondary Schools, after-schools programmes, bespoke programmes with an organisation or group e.g. home-school networks, at-risk groups or through funded projects. Sometimes a Forest School leader will be hired by an organisation or an organisation can have a certified Forest School Leader within it, for example a school can have teachers who are trained Forest School Leaders to run programmes for the school community as part of the curriculum.

In. Ní Chrónín is a fully trained Forest School teacher and we were blessed last year just after our return from Covid to be able to have 6 sessions of a Forest School Programme. We received amazing feedback from from the pupils and staff and hopefully it will become an annual programme in our school.

FS Principle 1: Regular sessions

Forest school is a long-term process of regular sessions, rather than a one-off or infrequent visits; the cycle of planning, observation, adaptation and review links each session.

Principle 2: Woodland setting

Forest school takes place in a woodland or natural environment to support the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world.

Principle 3: Community

Forest school uses a range of learner-centred processes to create a community for being, development, and learning.

Principle 4: Holistic development

Forest school aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.

Principle 5: Opportunity to take risks

Forest school offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.

Principle 6: Qualified practitioners

Forest school is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice