The Forest School

Our Learning Approach

One Day School

Our Learning Approach


An emergent curriculum is a way of planning that focuses on being responsive to children’s interests and needs to create meaningful learning experiences. It is based on the idea that children learn best when curriculum experiences represent their curiosities and strengths. While we do not exclusively follow the Reggio Emilia approach, we are guided by the principles of this philosophy:
  • Children must have some control over the direction of their learning;
  • Children must be able to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, and observing;
  • Children have a relationship with other children and with material items in the world that they must be allowed to explore;
  • Children must have endless ways and opportunities to express themselves.


Placed-based education is an approach that takes a school’s geographic location as a context for learning. Place-based education is designed to develop in learners, a love for their environment, and a greater sense of belonging, connection and kaitiakitanga (guardianship) to the community and biodiversity that exists there.


Education for sustainability is about learning to think and act in ways that will safeguard the future wellbeing of people and our planet. Each term at The Forest School there is a different overarching theme that links to this. The theme underpins some of the play and learning choices available, and connects to the eight New Zealand Curriculum learning areas. Key competencies, values and principles of the New Zealand Curriculum, and the learning strands of Te Whāriki, are woven together to guide us.

“Mō tātou te taiao ko te atawhai, mō tātou te taiao ko te oranga”

“It is for us to care for and look after the environment to ensure its wellbeing, in doing so we ensure our own wellbeing and that of our future generations”


A Māori concept of health and wellbeing that is integrated into our curriculum; te whare tapa whā provides a holistic approach to learning and development. It is based on the premise that schooling should not only be about the intellect, but also our physical and social learning, as well as our spiritual and mental wellbeing.


Our mental health is just as important as our physical health and The Forest School is committed to supporting children to have a healthy mind. This includes how we think, feel and act. As adults, we know how important it is to integrate wellbeing into our daily lives, and this is just as important for children too. We want children to be healthy and well in all areas of their life, so The Forest School has adopted the Five Ways To Wellbeing.



Free play is the cornerstone of positive social development and foundational in our learning approach. Free play at The Forest School is unstructured, led by the child and is an opportunity where children can make their own choices, be directed by their own interests, create their own realities and use their imagination in their own way. It is spontaneous, develops from natural curiosity and allows children to explore and experience the world around them.


Teaching and learning must be relationship based. Children who have stronger connections with their teachers are likely to be more engaged and have better attitudes toward school. At The Forest School, we genuinely believe in the potential of every child and discovering what it is they ‘bring to the table’.
Students are in mixed ages because we value the tuakana-teina relationship as an integral buddy system. Tuakana-teina refers to a traditional part of Maori society where an older or more expert tuakana helps and guides a younger or less expert teina. These tuakana–teina roles may be reversed at any time. We recognise the value of ako that describes a teaching and learning relationship, where the educator is learning from the student as much as the student does from the educator.