Our Story.

What is The Forest School?

The Forest School is a not-for-profit social enterprise providing experiential learning in a 100% natural environment.  Our outdoor learning centre is set on a beachfront property amongst stunning New Zealand native bush.  We provide an experiential learning space for primary aged children where potential is unlocked and new passions are discovered.

Founded in 2016, The Forest School was born out of love and passion for seeing every young child realise their unique place in this world.

The Forest School reconnects children to nature, enabling them to become healthier, happier and empowered. Learning is play based, authentic and purposeful which enables confidence to grow, creativity to develop and resilience to flourish. 



What do we provide?

The Forest School provides a number of nature-based educational opportunities. These vary and operate at different times of the year, for a range of ages, meeting a variety of needs.

Our One Day School is for children aged 5 - 12 years who attend once per week, every week to complement their academic curriculum. 

Into The Wild is our school holiday club for 5 - 12 year olds that operates during the school holidays.

Bespoke International Education experiences are available at multiple times throughout the year but spaces and availability is limited, so we do advise to contact us well in advance to avoid disappointment. Age range is flexible.

Adventure Therapy programmes are designed with a variety of possible outcomes, flexible time frames and ratios. The age range for this is 13 - 18 years.


PRESS PLAY TO Hear from some of our parents below



One Day School

Holiday Club

International Education

Adolescent Adventure Therapy


5 – 8 years

9 - 12 years

12 - 15 years




9am – 3pm


Learning Approach + Curriculum

The Forest School approach is to guide and facilitate children as they learn through their play and discoveries. Teachers use a student led, inquiry based approach when developing sessions which is described as an Emergent Curriculum.

An Emergent Curriculum is a learning philosophy that is based on the democratic process that allows individual needs, interests and passions to be fostered. Real-life, authentic and meaningful learning occurs naturally and teachable moments are captured.

Teachers facilitate student learning by providing a variety of tools, resources and experiences that guide students to observe, reflect and find answers to their own questions. This builds independence and independent thinking.

Woven throughout this philosophy, is our own unique curriculum that draws on the framework and concepts of several exceptional models from around the world. Including the New Zealand Curriculum, Te Whariki, The 16 Habits of Mind, Social Thinking and The Zones of Regulation.

The forest, beach and everything nature has to offer is our platform for learning. As the seasons, weather and tides change, new learning opportunities emerge. Our days are flexible, fun and spontaneous.

Children thrive at The Forest School because we teach to the child - not to the curriculum.


Meet the team.

The Forest School is a not-for-profit social enterprise committed to improving outcomes for children through nature-based play and learning. It was founded in 2016 by Tennille and Gavin Murdoch; both highly experienced educators and is supported by exceptional staff and a professional advisory board.


Founder | head of school

Tennille holds a Bachelor of Education and has taught for 18 years in Early Childhood and Primary schools in New Zealand and overseas. She is a highly experienced teacher and passionate about learning through play. Tennille has worked with many children who have learning and developmental differences- specifically Gifted learners, those with attention difficulties and children on the ASD spectrum.

“I am a mother of three incredible boys who are all SO different. It is these wonderful differences in children, not only my own, that inspired me to begin The Forest School. Learning is not a one size fits all, but an individual process that happens at different rates in a variety of ways. Life and learning are intertwined and is a mechanism for who we can become as adults. The most important thing is that it is FUN! ”


Founder | director of adventure

Gavin is a New Zealand Registered Teacher and Physiotherapist. He is a certified Outdoor Instructor and highly experienced Surf Lifeguard. He has led university undergraduate programmes in adventure based learning and leadership in New Zealand and Australia. More recently he has been PE specialist and Assistant Sports Director at an International School and High School Outdoor Education Teacher.

“I am passionate about preparing young people for the challenges of life through engaging them with the outdoors. I am driven by the idea that there is nothing quite like real learning experiences, in real places, that fully engage and grow us. The Forest School is a very special environment where this can happen in an authentic a way for our Kiwi Kids.”

  • Bachelor of Business (Sport Management)

  • Bachelor of Health Science (Physiotherapy)

  • Graduate Diploma Teaching (Secondary)

  • Outdoor Instructor (NZOIA Bush 1)

  • First Aid (PHEC)

  • gavin@theforestschool.co.nz


Hannah Kee

Hannah has recently moved from Northern Ireland where she graduated with a Masters in Psychology, specialising in Special Education needs. She has worked as an Assistant Research Psychologist, researching ways to reduce triggers for challenging behaviour in children with ASD and also in Canada as a Camp Leader for outdoor Summer camps. Hannah will soon begin her PhD.

“I have always loved working with children because at heart I'm a big kid! I adored my time in Canada teaching non-traditional skills in outdoor environments. I love to see children find potential in themselves and through that, building self confidence. I am passionate about giving kids the best educational experience they can get and I have a real heart for those who don't quite fit the mould.”


Educator | Play Specialist

James is originally from the UK where he was a specialist Play Worker for local government in England. His role was to teach school staff in the art of play as well as providing bespoke Forest Schools sessions. It was in this role that he published a book of play-based learning games. James holds a Degree in History and is a certified Level 3 Forest Schools Leader.

“Being both a skateboarder and artist outside of work, my life revolves around being individual, creative, playful and active. What I love about working with children is their pure wonder and creativity that they show when they are truly captivated by their activities and surroundings. For me, it is far more important  to be able to facilitate children to not just learn, but really ignite their passion to want to learn.”  


Tami Harris
clinical director

Tami is a mum of 3 and a Registered Social Worker and Psychotherapist. She has spent over twenty years in both the public and private sector providing psychological  assessment, play therapy, behavioral intervention, social skills treatment and interventions for children and families in schools and clinics. She specializes in complex neurodevelopmental / Autism Spectrum disorders, ADHD, anxiety and sensory processing issues.

“I was looking for a different kind of educational opportunity for my youngest son where he could feel successful and where his curiosity and quirkiness would be valued. I have been amazed by the learning that occurs at the Forest School through social collaboration, problem solving and exploration in nature. It is so fun to be part of a child’s discovery of a new skill, new interest or a new friend.”