What is Forest School?
Forest 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?
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.