Pedagogical Design

The Rich Child

At the Story Forest, we believe that all children are rich, whatever their culture or economic status. They are better equipped, more talented, stronger and more intelligent than we suppose.

Children are born with a hundred languages (ways of expressing themselves). Not only complex and holistic beings, but competent and determined from birth to make sense of the world. They are protagonists, not bottles to be filled but active in constructing ‘the self’ and knowledge, through social interactions and interdependencies. Not bearers of needs but of rights, values and competencies.

The Rich Teacher

Rich children request a teacher rich in intelligence and curiosity, with an advanced capacity for fantasy, imagination, learning and culture in others. A co-constructor of knowledge, but also a researcher, experimenter and a ‘new type of intellectual, a producer of knowledge connected with the demands of society’. 

Rich schools are living centres of culture, enriched and informed by social encounters that let them go beyond their ambiguous and false autonomy and centuries old detachment, which let them abandon the prejudice of ideological imprinting and authoritarian indoctrination.

A rich school is not only socially responsible but also responsible to the whole society, offering to participate in building an educated society in which it’s contents and purposes can be debated and integrated dialectically. A rich school is open not only to families but also to it’s local community.

It is able to live out processes and issues of participation/accountability and interpersonal relations, in the procedures of its projects and curriculum design, in the conceptions and examination of its work plans and in operations of organisational updating.

Non-Prophetic Pedagogy

A prophetic pedagogy knows everything beforehand, knows everything that will happen, does not have one uncertainty, is absolutely imperturbable.

It contemplates everything and prophecises everything; minute by minute, hour by hour, objective by objective, five minutes by five minutes; limiting ingenuity on the part of the teacher and child. A non-prophetic pedagogy is one of relations, listening and liberation.

This is a pedagogy of children and adults working together to construct knowledge (and values and identities); meaning making through processes of building, sharing, testing and revising theories, always in dialogic relationship with others, working in particular through the media of open-ended project work. It welcomes the unexpected and the unpredicted, that values wonder and surprise. At the Story Forest we use Natural Learning to facilitate a non-prophetic pedagogy.

Natural Learning

Natural Learning is a range of educational philosophies and practices centred on allowing children to learn through natural life experiences, including: child-directed play, game play, household-responsibilities, work experience and social interaction.

A fundamental premise of this is that curiosity is innate and that children want to learn. Natural learning promotes opportunities for valuable hands-on, community based, real world experiences. When given the proper supportive environment that encourages pursuit of their own interests, they will:

  • Begin to seek knowledge independently.

  • Become more open to learning about any and all subjects.

  • Acquire greater interpersonal skills through effective communication by negotiation, respecting differences, and peer collaboration

  • Experience self-realisation and exploration of their personality—who they are, what interests them, nurturing their natural talents and aptitudes.

    Reggio Emilia approach

In EYFS (3-5 years) at the Story Forest, Natural Learning opportunities are provided through child-directed play, game play, household responsibilities and social interaction.

As children enter KS1 (5-7 years), key life skills, linked to the objectives from the Curriculum for England are introduced including (cooking, growing, building, communication & creativity), to support themes and prepare children for later work experience.

Overarching each term is a child-directed theme and opportunity at the beginning for the children to decide what they would like to learn within it. Children may also post questions to be answered throughout the topic on their class Wonder-Wall, providing the teacher with both the opportunity to plan learning activities and act spontaneously using their own and the children’s ingenuity, not afraid to go off theme if a current event, captures the children’s imagination, provokes questions and inspires wonder and awe (e.g. natural disaster, celebration, unforeseen local/national/global occurrence). Teachers act as co-constructors and researchers to support the children’s natural thirst for knowledge.

In KS2 (7-11 years), child-directed thematic learning continues to drive the curriculum linked to the objectives of the Curriculum for England.

In addition, at this age children are taught to use project management design philosophy Dragon Dreaming to orchestrate their own mini-projects, according to their collective dreams.

Opportunities for service learning also begin at this age, where the children spend one day per week working within the local community, with the main language for instruction throughout the duration of this day being Portuguese, providing natural learning opportunities for language development, cross-cultural and generational relationships, work experience and developing social skills. The emphasis of this day is service to the community.

Arts, music and movement are celebrated across the whole school every week on Fun Fridays. During this day, all age groups learn together, as they choose between a variety of learning opportunities including (music, dance, art, sport and forest school activities).


KS2 Dragon Dreaming

Dragon Dreaming is a living systems way of making our dreams come true by running outrageously successful and transformative projects and organisations. 

With Dragon Dreaming we experience a deepening identification with the Earth, and a renewal of energy to work for our individual and collective healing. Dragon Dreaming draws on the long experience of the Australian Gaia Foundation, and the deep understanding of indigenous Australian Aboriginal and other ecological wisdom.

We start by liberating our creativity opening our sensory and extra-sensory perception, re-inhabiting our body, feeling our heart, and by harvesting our memories we come to value our intuition. From there our entire being we can then hear the Dream of the Earth itself calling us forth to explore the strength and ingenuity that it wants to flow through us.

“Dragon Dreaming” shows how such holistic living systems-theory can be applied to any project we wish to undertake.

Dragon Dreaming uses four steps, as its overarching framework – Dreaming, Planning, Doing and Celebrating. These four steps reflect four different ways of thinking, four different ways of speaking, four different personality types and helps us to better understand the importance of the different members of our team. We engage in Dragon Dreaming as a whole school to inform our yearly curriculum and action planning to ensure that we teach to our children’s interests, shared via Dream Circles.

KS2 children are also trained to implement the full Dragon Dreaming procedure, in order to orchestrate their own projects.

Generally, projects are aligned with items that can be made (cooking, growing, building, art skills) and sold by the children at local markets.

KS2 children have two double Dragon Dreaming sessions per week, consolidating all areas of the curriculum. Including:

  • English: advertising, correspondence

  • Maths: budgeting, finances, distribution

  • Science: key life skills – building, growing cooking

  • Portuguese: communication

  • ICT: research, advertising, design, communication

  • History/Geography: cultural items

  • Art/DT: items produced

  • PE: teamwork

  • Music: Dragon Dreaming drumming & celebration

  • Soul: dreams come true