All Forest School sessions must be led by a trained Forest School leader. That means a minimum Level 3 qualification on the UK Open College Network. To date training in Ireland has been facilitated by two Irish Organisations – Forest School Ireland working with Circle of Life Training and Down to Earth Forest School working with Huathe. Both organisations explain their approaches below. The IFSA is working towards Irish accredited training and a quality assurance scheme over the coming years. Other Forest School leaders have obtained their qualifications directly in the UK or elsewhere.
Ciara Hinksman says: Forest School Ireland is delighted that the interest in OCN Level 3 training has grown exponentially since we began offering the training in 2013. See http://www.forestschoolireland.ie for updates.
While we are all gaining invaluable experience in the field developing our practice and our programme outreach, we recognise the benefits of hosting UK trainers with considerably more experience. For example, our CPD in November 2017 with Jon Cree (the outgoing Chair of the FSA in the UK) was invaluable. His wealth of knowledge in the constructivist approach to working with young people and our experiential, scientific and theoretical exploration of ‘Working with People with Challenging Behaviour’ was eye-opening as to how we can facilitate growth and well-being for individuals and groups as Forest School Leaders. This is an OCN accredited course and an invaluable CPD for any Forest School Leader. Following that was a one-day ‘Play and the Ludic Cycle’ course which led us to understand the ‘playframe’ and how to use appropriate cues with kids in the woods, with a bit of storytelling thrown in to springboard our play too!
In 2017, Earth Force Education collaborated with Phoenix Forest School to offer adult training to Dublin County Childcare Committee practitioners and Liberties ETB Early Years Level 6 students, with further training sessions planned for 2018.
For the past number of years, GROWing Gardens and Earth Force Education have worked with the Froebel Department of NUI Maynooth and a local school. Third-year trainee teachers visit, observe and evaluate forest school sessions with a local school in action on the grounds of the college campus over a ten week period.
Adults Introduction to Forest School days for anyone interested in learning experientially what a forest school session is like have been very popular and more of these will be available in the new year via http://www.forestschoolireland.ie.
Carol Barrett and Kerry Walker, from Down to Earth Forest School, met on a Forest School Leadership training course in 2015 delivered by Huathe. Huathe comprises Carol Middleton and Elizabeth Swift, English based Forest School trainers.
Upon finishing their training with Huathe, Carol and Kerry felt fully prepared and supported to open their own Forest School in the ideal setting of Brigit’s Garden in Galway.
They have spent the past two years offering weekly parent/toddler groups, after-school groups, weekend family forest days, and the ever-popular Introduction to Forest School Days.
It was through these Introduction days that they both saw so much value in passing on nature connection tips to adults. By passing forest school onto adults, it meant that children would have more access and opportunity to explore and connect with nature.
From these courses, they felt that they would like to explore the idea of bringing their training to the next level and become Forest School trainers. In Autumn 2017, they were offered the opportunity to travel to Suffolk, England to shadow Huathe on a forest school training course. They spent five days observing, participating and learning with a new group of trainees, and able to experience being in the group from a trainer perspective.
Their training journey will continue in 2019 when Huathe will deliver their fifth Forest School training in the West of Ireland. Carol and Kerry will again be given the opportunity to shadow and assist this training. Huathe and Down to Earth then plan to work together to bring quality forest school training to the West of Ireland through continued mentorship and support. For further information, contact