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What is Forest school?

The Irish Forest School Association defines forest school as :

An opportunity for the same group of learners and leaders to spend a sustained period outdoors, once a week, in a wooded environment, ideally year round. A regular routine is followed that is learner-led and facilitated by trained leaders. Learning is holistic and closely related to developmental stage and regular curricular requirements. There must be a high ratio of leaders to learners, everyone must be suitably dressed and a risk/benefit approach to health and safety is followed by all.  (IFSA, 2017)

Forest School is a learner-centred or child-led process with close links to regular curriculum objectives. The success of Forest School is to a large degree dependent upon the skills of the Forest School leaders who can identify and capitalise on the varied opportunities for learning that emerge from the children’s interaction with the setting.


We must teach our children
To smell the earth,
To taste the rain,
To touch the wind,
To see things grow,
To hear the sun rise
And night fall,
To care.

~ John Cleal

Forest School Principles

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.


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.



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

Holistic development

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


Opportunity to take risks

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

Qualified practitioners

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

These principles are based on the UK model of Forest School learning that is promoted by the Forest School Association (

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