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The Making of Australia’s Own Forest School Leader Tribe

by Christina Dee on July 12

Forest School Learning Initiative in Australia

Why is a British Forest School training company coming to Queensland, Australia?

Although there are amazing examples of good practice in Outdoor Learning in Queensland, Forest School training has proved to enable Early Childhood Educators and Teachers to have a model of practice.  Our previous Queensland students have been empowered by the Forest school Leader training in particular covering the management of Health and safety issues.

Forest School Learning Initiative (FSLI) is one of the largest Forest School Trainers in the UK and also the largest provider of Forest school sessions to children. FSLI are in a very positive partnership with Nature Play Queensland and have thoroughly enjoyed working with them. It has been a real learning curve for us to appreciate how much Creeks , and rivers are integral part of the Australian culture of outdoor learning. We have loved getting to know and understand Australian plant and animal life, in particular learning and putting in to our training program a strategy to deal with snake sightings. To date, we have trained 110 Forest school Leaders in Queensland since October 2016 and in 2018 we conducted our first training course in Melbourne, Victoria. It was a great success and we are looking forward to doing more training courses there in the future. The next being August 2019.

What is Forest School?

Forest School uses the outdoor environment to help all children learn in a holistic manner. Children are encouraged to develop independence skills, improve their decision-making and raise their self-esteem through small achievable tasks. Forest School and bush kindi are interchangeable terms; they should both follow the Forest School principles and focus on child-led learning and using the outdoors to help a child learn. A Forest School leader is responsible for instigating a Forest school or Bush kindi program in their setting, taking into consideration the Forest School principles, risk benefit analysis and risk management, and the curriculum the setting follows.

Who can benefit from Forest School?

Children of any age and ability. Considerable experience and research has been gained in developing Forest School in early childhood, but over the past 10 years this has been extended through all ages in primary years . Forest School offers excellent learning opportunities for children across all curriculum areas.

“Qualified Practitioners trained in child development, self-esteem, learning theories and practical tool use, facilitate sessions to gain personal outcomes for each participant” (Forest School Leader and Trainer Christina Dee, 2017, cited in Cummins and Masiulanis, 2017, p.137).

Through observation of children, it is important to understand their profile and ensure the Forest School program meets their needs and we are able to work with children to set learning goals and skills they would like to achieve. Each educator aims to provide an opportunity to further a child’s learning. Whilst its roots are planted firmly in our best understanding of the pedagogical theory of how children learn, Forest School practice puts the learner at the heart of their learning experience, setting achievable goals through small achievable tasks. From this fundamental platform, facilitative Forest School pedagogues offer children and young people the opportunity, over repeated visits, to engage with the rich natural diversity of the woodland environment to help build confidence, sensitivity, resilience and curiosity. Forest School practitioners are drawn from myriad interest groups, including outdoor education, indoor education and different environmental disciplines.

The opportunity to bring the Forest school ethos to Australia is amazing. I am absolutely delighted to report that we have now run 7 Australian Level 3 Forest School Leader courses with overwhelming success! Our qualifying Level 3 Forest School Leaders have been passionate, engaged and an enthusiastic group with a breadth of experience and knowledge.

The 5-day training consisted of the teaching and learning of:

  • The ethos and practice of a forest school program and the links to educational theorists, the EYLF, National Quality Standards, My Time, Our Place and the Australian National curriculum,
  • Children’s holistic development and how the approach links to self-esteem, resilience and emotional intelligence,
  • Risk management and health and safety policy and practice, including outdoor first aid scenarios,
  • Children’s brain development, learning styles, schemas and behavioural management at Forest School,
  • Observations and analysis of Forest School sessions with children,
  • The environmental impact and management of the Forest School site,
  • How to plan and evaluate Forest School sessions,
  • How to complete a ‘Forest School Handbook’ for your service,
  • An introduction to flora and fauna in Qld and how to share the knowledge with children,
  • Common knots, lashing and building self-supporting structures and shelters,
  • Safe tool use, policy, practice and maintenance and woodcraft activities,
  • Fire lighting, management and safety cooking on a fire,
  • And much more…

Early years and Primary years educators and teachers attending the Forest School training come from Family Day-care, Kindis, and schools. The outdoor areas they have accessed to carry out Forest School sessions have varied from local parks with permission form Park Rangers, areas within the Kindi grounds, local bushland and beach areas. We have all learnt and implemented some brilliant risk management strategies for extreme weather, snakes and spiders, looking at how we empower children to manage risk and concentrate on risk benefits. There were a great deal of laughs, ‘wow’ moments and even (happy) tears throughout each of the 5-day course. I have been thrilled to witness the ongoing support, collaboration and team spirit amongst the ‘Forest School Tribe’ who have ongoing Facebook groups to share experiences and practice.


What does the Forest School Tribe say about the training?

What an amazing course to be a part of. I loved each day and how it was split with practical/theory. Very informative and the 4 leaders were great. Thank you so much. Feel blessed to be part of it all.

Loved, loved loved the course and learnt so much. Can go back and educate staff at my school on the risk BENEFFITS! Have lots of ideas to implement with the kids and how to involve the teachers.

Most amazing experience. Have learnt so much about myself in this completely unfamiliar environment. While I agree and promote outdoor learning, it is something that I was not comfortable doing, but now I feel as though I could do it!

Love that the nature movement is ramping up in Australia. You’ve changed the way we practice forever!

Fantastic! Loved the heart and soul that the teachers taught us with. The clarity and embracing of everyone on their individual path, with a common goal. I’m so honoured to have been a part of this.


Come join the Forest Learning Tribe!

Brisbane August  19th – 23rd 2019




Christina Dee

Chris is the Managing Director of Forest School Learning Initiative (FSLI). She trained as a Forest School Leader in 2000 during her time at Evesham Further Education College in the UK. Chris' experience is wide-ranging, having run Forest School sessions with children aged 2 years to 18 years and with children who have learning difficulties. Chris is one of FSLI's lead tutors and has extensive experience working in and developing urban Forest Schools - especially in London where she has worked to develop Forest Schools in some of the city's most deprived boroughs. Chris is absolutely passionate about Forest School because of the amazing impact she sees it have on children and young people, as well as adults with learning disabilities. Chris developed the Forest School Leader training in China , Australia and Malaysia where the FSLI team trains regularly.