Dulwich College (Singapore) is the first and only international school in Singapore to introduce Forest School, accredited by the UK's Forest School Learning Initiative (FSLI). By deeply integrating Forest School into our DUCKS early years programme, we are proud to pioneer real-world learning and problem-solving opportunities for young children that utilise the natural environment as a stimulus to generate positive effects for children’s physical and mental wellbeing.
What is Forest School?
Forest School is innovative educational approach that engages children in learning through direct experiences in nature, embodying the Scandinavian concept of 'Friluftsliv' or 'open-air living.' This approach to education prioritises a hands-on connection with nature, nurturing a child’s curiosity, creativity and environmental stewardship. Unlike traditional classroom environments, Forest School is set in forests or woodlands and offers children the freedom to explore, experience and learn from the rich diversity of the natural environment around them. The Forest School pedagogy values the learning process over specific outcomes, focusing on developing a child’s resilience, self-esteem and independence through outdoor play and learning.
The uniqueness of Forest School lies in its emphasis on outdoor learning as a lifelong process. Children engage in activities that range from the practical and physical—such as building shelters and identifying plant species—to the imaginative and social, fostering a sense of wonder and respect for the natural world. Through these experiences, children develop key life skills such as problem-solving, teamwork and risk assessment, equipping them with the tools to navigate both their environment and personal challenges.
How is Forest School Taught at Dulwich College (Singapore)?
At Dulwich College (Singapore), we have embraced the foundational ideologies of Forest School and enhanced them with advanced educational research and practices. Our aim is to cultivate within our students a blend of tenacity, ethical understanding, self-reflection, critical thinking, and practical skills such as risk management and personal well-being. Instruction at our Forest School is highly individualised, offering students the freedom to follow their own interests within the context of the natural world. Our educators act as facilitators rather than directors, guiding the learning process through coaching and by subtly modifying environmental factors to challenge and support students in their self-directed exploration.
The Forest School experience at Dulwich College (Singapore) features a progressive 'skills ladder' focused on specific developmental goals for different age groups, aiming to nurture voracious learners, capable leaders and compassionate individuals.
- Toddlers focus on Personal Safety in Exploration, establishing a foundation for mindful engagement with their surroundings.
- Nursery students focus on the Morality of Environmental Stewardship, learning to care for and coexist with nature.
- Reception students focus on the Ethics of Enquiry, cultivating a respectful and inquisitive approach to learning.
- Year 1 students focus on Risk Ownership and Mitigation, developing the ability to assess and manage potential dangers.
- Year 2 students focus on Personal Tenacity and Interpersonal Effectiveness, ensuring they grow into individuals capable of perseverance and collaboration.
These stages are designed not only to instil academic knowledge but also to develop empathetic, environmentally conscious and socially responsible leaders of tomorrow.
Pioneering Pedagogical Innovation through Forest School
At Dulwich College (Singapore), our commitment to educational excellence is rooted in a pioneering spirit, where we continually seek to refine and advance our pedagogical approaches. This is clearly demonstrated through how we are leading the way in integrating ground-breaking educational concepts into our Forest School.
Firstly, we have integrated the Compassionate Systems Framework, a mental architecture that fosters holistic understanding and mindfulness at both intellectual and personal levels. Through this framework, students employ Systems Thinking Tools to approach problems comprehensively and act with reasoned compassion to enact positive change. This ground-breaking initiative allows even our youngest learners, starting at the tender age of two, to authentically engage with complex systems and cultivate their compassionate integrity.
The Compassionate Systems Framework is coupled with a curated selection of regenerative landscape management and carbon sequestration strategies from the fields of Permaculture, Syntropic Agriculture and Regenerative Agriculture. These disciplines offer a suite of apolitical skills essential for the guardianship of our planet. Permaculture, as defined by the Permaculture Research Institute, is a harmonious integration of landscape and people — providing a symbiotic relationship between the land, resources, community and the environment. It encompasses a spectrum of disciplines, from agriculture and water management to energy, forestry, and community building, all designed to create productive ecosystems that mimic the efficiency of nature.
By weaving the principles of Compassionate Systems and Permaculture with our established Forest School methodology, we equip our students with the cognitive tools to tackle significant global issues confidently and effectively. This synergy of concepts prepares them to think globally and act locally, helping them to Live Worldwise: equipped with the knowledge, skills and motivation to make a positive impact on the world.
Why Forest School?
- Forest School at Dulwich College (Singapore) is in essence using the outdoor environment to deliver exceptionally high-quality memorable learning experiences.
- Students are taught how to assess, mitigate and embrace risk to drive their learning through meaningful and personal child-led experiences.
- All subject areas of the curriculum are covered in a way that is real, tangible and exciting to each individual student.
- Forest School is incredibly effective for all styles of learners.
- Children who have found it challenging to operate to their best potential within the confines of a traditional classroom often excel at Forest School, where they are able to engage in learning with a new level of freedom and trust.
- Seeing a child, who on their first session was afraid to sit in the grass for fear of ants, later go searching for local animals in the bushes with an ID kit in hand and a smile on their face is priceless.
- Students are furnished with real-world skills and the mental apparatus required to keep themselves safe. Through applying these skills to their own areas of interest, students are empowered with a vehicle to drive forward their own learning.
- Rather than isolating a skill and discretely teaching it in the sterile environment of a classroom, Forest School takes the student back to real challenges where the skill acquisition is a necessity to fulfil their own fascinations.
- Students are provided with the opportunity to observe and interact with a wide range of Singapore’s diverse flora and fauna, becoming confident in how to keep themselves and those they care about safe in a tropical environment.
- At Dulwich College (Singapore) our teaching philosophy of child-led learning enriched with meaningful opportunities to apply new knowledge is already in alignment with the tenets of Forest School.
- The Forest School site is carefully monitored to minimise our environmental impact on it and the biodiversity it contains.
- A dynamic risk assessment is conducted formally to the commencement of each session.
- We have never had a serious injury at Dulwich College (Singapore)’s Forest School of any sort, even though the students are able to use sharp knives, bow and arborist saws, axes and various digging implements. Compared to a classroom where we see injuries on a daily (if not hourly) basis, this is a strong indicator of how students take ownership of their own wellbeing at Forest School and learn to manage risk.