Forest School Leadership

Brigit’s Garden is proud to offer the first Certificate in Forest School Leadership in Ireland that leads to a Level 6 award on the National Framework for Qualifications. This is a Special Purpose award and is worth 20 credits. The course equips you with the knowledge, skills and competence needed to work as a qualified Forest School leader. It prepares you to lead effective and safe Forest School programmes outdoors for children, families and adults, with nature connection at the heart of the practice.

The course is delivered by our professional team of tutors, all of whom have many years’ experience leading and teaching Forest School in a wide range of settings. If you have any queries you can email Laura at adulteducation@brigitsgarden.ie.

Upcoming courses

There are two courses staring in June 2023. Course One has very limited availability and Course Two is now full. To apply for a place on course one, use this form.

Please note that you need to attend all the dates for your course. Days and sessions are not transferrable between different courses. Each course has 20 places.

  • Course 1, Birch “Beith”. In-person dates at Brigit’s Garden from 9-4.45:

Thursday/Friday 15th & 16th June

Thursday/Friday 13th & 14th July

Thursday/Friday 10th & 11th August

Thursday/Friday 7th & 8th September

Final Day – Saturday  6th of April 2024

Dates of webinars: (Webinars all on Tuesdays from 4 to 6pm)

Webinar 1 – 13th June

Webinar 2 – 27th June

Webinar 3 – 11th July

Webinar 4 – 8th August

  • Course 2, Oak “Dair”. In-person dates at Brigit’s Garden from 9-4.45:

Friday/Saturday 23rd & 24th June

Friday/Saturday 28th & 29th July

Friday/Saturday 25th & 26th August

Saturday/Sunday 30th September & 1st October

Final Day – Saturday 27th April 2024

Dates of webinars: (Webinars all on Tuesdays from 4 to 6pm)

Webinar 1 – 20th June

Webinar 2 – 4th July

Webinar 3 – 25th July

Webinar 4 – 22nd August

Future Courses

Further courses will start in Brigit’s Garden and in Meath/Kildare in the autumn, and additional courses will be run around the country in 2024, dates to be confirmed. To register your interest in future courses, use this form.

What are the entry requirements?

  • A minimum QQI Level 5 qualification e.g. Leaving Certificate or equivalent. Check QQI levels here.
  • Be aged 21 or over
  • Have a teaching or leadership qualification, or at least two years’ experience leading groups of children or adults
  • Be able to attend all timetabled classes and participate in all course-related activities
  • Be able to complete the specified hours of self-directed learning
  • Have competence in written and spoken English
  • Have access to a laptop and good quality broadband
  • Have sufficient IT skills to engage with our learning management system

If you don’t meet the entry requirements but think you may have sufficient learning based on your work, another programme of study or other learning experience you can apply for entry using Recognition of Prior Learning, email us for further information about this route of entry.

Before starting your pilot project in month 5 or 6 of the course, you will need to show that you have an outdoor first aid certificate, Remote Emergency Care level 2 or 3 (not included in price of course); a child safeguarding certificate (e.g. TUSLA Children First e-learning programme); be Garda vetted with your client group and have suitable insurance. Your tutor will advise further about these requirements.

How applications are processed

  • Fill in the online application form and submit it to us.
  • Places on the course are allocated on a first-come first-served basis to suitable applicants, with a maximum of 20 learners per course. If the course is full we will put you on a waiting list and offer you a place if one becomes available, or a place on the next course.
  • Your place is confirmed on payment of the course fee. 

What is Forest School?

Forest School LeadershipForest School is an innovative educational approach to outdoor learning in a woodland or natural setting. Participants have the opportunity to develop their skills, self-awareness and confidence through hands-on play and engaging learning outside in nature – benefits that are confirmed by a growing body of research.

Forest School is not a one-off experience but offers regular sessions over a period of time to maximize the benefits. Participants are usually children, but Forest School can also be offered to teenagers or adults. Forest School is becoming increasingly popular in primary schools, early years’ groups and in community settings.

Who is the course for?

It is important that Forest School is run by qualified Forest School leaders. This Certificate course offers a professional qualification that equips you with all the theory and skills you need to run your own Forest School sessions.

The course is ideal for a wide range of people who wish to join the growing number of professional Forest School leaders in Ireland, including teachers, early years’ practitioners, youth workers, environmental educators and all those with an interest in outdoor learning and development.

What does the course cover?

The Certificate in Forest School Leadership consists of four sections that are taught in parallel to ensure a good balance of theory, practice and practical skills.

  • In Section 1 you learn about the history and ethos of Forest School, its six principles and benefits, as well as relevant theory in learning, child development, leadership and the value of play.
  • In Section 2 you learn about woodland ecology and how to identify flora and fauna species. You also explore the benefits of nature connection and place-based learning, as well as the folklore and culture of trees and woodlands in Ireland.
  • Section 3 covers the wide range practical skills you need to become a Forest School leader – including using tools and making woodland crafts, making play apparatus with ropes, constructing shelters and dens, lighting and cooking on campfires, and using stories, songs and natural artwork.
  • Section 4 brings it all together and teaches all the skills you need to design, deliver and evaluate your own Forest School programmes for a range of client groups.

On successful completion of the course, you will be able to:

  • Describe in detail the origins, principles, ethos, pedagogy and benefits of Forest School practice.
  • Describe and apply learning and developmental theories relevant to Forest School.
  • Evaluate and reflect on the importance of our native woodland environments and ecosystems. for biodiversity, practical conservation activities, environmental stewardship and nature connection.
  • Identify a variety of flora and fauna, including native species, and explain their uses and their links to Irish customs, traditions, and folklore.
  • Correctly apply a comprehensive range of specialised practical skills and concepts relevant to Forest School.
  • Develop and maintain a Forest School Policies and Procedures Manual with consideration of current legislation.
  • Design, deliver and evaluate a six-session Forest School programme.

How long does the course take? Forest School Leadership

The course is delivered on a part-time basis over eleven months. The teaching sessions are held in-person, mainly in the woodland classroom, for a total of nine days: two days a month for months 1-4, and a final day in month 11.

There are also four online webinars in months 1-4.

During months 5-10 you plan, run and evaluate a series of pilot Forest School sessions for a group of participants as part of your assessment – see below for details.

The course involves about 120 hours of your own self-directed learning:  writing up notes and a journal, researching and writing assessments and running your pilot programme. You will need to commit sufficient time to your self-directed learning, which is in addition to the in-person training days.

How is the course assessed?

There are four assignments for the course. Assignments 1,2, and 4 are submitted online though our learning management system.

  • Assignment 1 and 2 are written assignments that are handed in at the end of month 3.
  • Assessment 3 is a practical skills demonstration, held in month 4. You must pass this before progressing to assessment 4.
  • Assessment 4 is a project which requires you to design and plan a pilot programme of six Forest School sessions for a group of participants. You draw up a Policies and Procedures Manual that you will use to guide the safe and effective delivery of your pilot programme. You then deliver, evaluate and reflect on the pilot. It is your responsibility to identify a suitable group of participants for your pilot, which may be in your workplace. Your tutor will guide you through the pilot and may be able to help you find a group if necessary.

You need to pass each assessment to achieve the Level 6 award. The pass mark is 50%. Your final award is graded as a Pass (50-54%), Merit (65-79%) or Distinction (80-100%).

Teaching methods and learner supports

We want every learner to flourish, and we are committed to a learner-centred approach which is flexible, creative and inclusive.

The teaching methodologies include whole group and small group sessions, practical skills demonstrations and practice sessions, group sharing and preparation for assignments. The teaching reflects the Forest School ethos of hands-on and place-based learning, with nature connection at the heart of the experience.

All course materials are easily accessed on our online learning management system.

Your tutor will encourage you to set your own goals, conduct research, develop your awareness and reflect on and evaluate your own progress and learning. We also encourage peer support within the group, both in the class and via the online platform.

Your tutor will be available throughout to support and advise you. There is also a Learner Handbook and a comprehensive induction.

We do our best to accommodate learners who have additional support needs, e.g. dyslexia. If you have a support need please email us and we will arrange to discuss options with you.

Can I transfer to the course from other courses, or progress on to other courses?

At present we do not have any formal transfer or progression arrangements for this course though we aim to research these for the future. However, the Level 6 award may be evidence of Continuous Professional Development. It may also enable a learner to gain entry to Level 7 courses for which a Level 6 award is required.

Opportunities for continuing professional development

We encourage graduates to join the Irish Forest School Association (IFSA), which supports the development of Forest School in Ireland and provides gatherings, networking events and opportunities for further learning. We also invite you to join our Brigit’s Garden Community of Practice, a forum for ongoing learning and networking.

IFSA currently offers one year of free membership to graduates of this Level 6 course, and reduced rates for any events held during the course.

Course fees, refunds & cancellations

The course fee is €1,500 for the full course and must be paid before the course begins. We send you an invoice when we accept your application. The full fee is due at least three weeks before the start of a course. Your place is not confirmed until the fee is paid in full. We may impose a late payment penalty if fees are not paid on time.

We may be able to facilitate an applicant who may otherwise be excluded from participating to pay by instalments, in exceptional circumstances only.  An application to avail of our instalment payment scheme should be submitted with your application, and the Education Coordinator will review the application and discuss the circumstances with you.

The course fee does not include the cost of an outdoor first aid course (Remote Emergency Care Level 2 or 3), which normally costs in the region of €150.

If a course is not viable, we notify applicants and invite them to transfer any fees paid for a place on the next available course, or refund any fees paid.

We facilitate applicants who wish to defer a place for a period of up to a year if the person cannot undertake the course on the dates booked. We require written notice of the intention to defer a place at least three weeks before the start date to facilitate this.

If you cancel your application more than three weeks in advance of the start date we will refund your course fee less a €150 administration charge. If you cancel less than three weeks but not less than five days before the start date a 50% cancellation fee applies. If you cancel within five days of the start or withdraw from the course we do not make any refund.

If for any reason Brigit’s Garden has to cancel a course we have insurance which ensures that learners will be reimbursed for any fees paid.

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