New School Opening With Its Own Forest has received site plans for GEMS Metropole Al Waha, due to open for the 2023-24 school year. The school is due to house a large forest school site on its campus and will have dedicated specialists providing regular forest school sessions for children as part of the curriculum.
New School Opening With Its Own Forest
By Susan Roberts
Do your children attend a UAE school? Take our survey and help other parents.
WhichSchoolAdvisor's annual school survey.

Due to open for the 2023-24 academic year, GEMS Metropole Al Waha is set to be a school that stands out. met with Founding Principal Mr Jeremy Hallum, who shared the school's plans to integrate forest school practice into the Foundation Stage and early primary curriculum.

For Mr Hallum, currently Vice Principal at GEMS Founders School Al Mizhar, and a UK school head teacher for twelve years prior, integrating a forest practice just feels natural:

"In the schools I previously lead in the UK, we always had forest schools. I was lucky to have huge natural forest areas on our doorstep and experienced the significant positive impact this can have on children. 

In total 3,000sqm of land at GEMS Metropole Al Waha will be given over to a forest. For the spatially challenged among us, that's around two and a half Olympic swimming pools. Ok, so this is not the vast forest land of the English countryside Mr Hallum will have been used to, but it is a significant amount of land for Dubai, and demonstrates just how much GEMS Education values this hands-on pedagogical approach.

The space will include land dedicated to UAE-native plants and trees, a stream with bridge, children's construction spaces, as well as a  large bio dome and a farm with live animals (of the clucking and bleating variety) and opportunities for children to develop their green fingers. The resources will be utilised across age ranges with older students running the farm as an entrepreneurial venture, harvesting and selling its produce.

Site plan for GEMS Metropole Al Waha's Early Years and Primary section, outlining forest school spaces

What, exactly, is a 'forest school'?

Forest School practice is not simply the use of forest land in educating children, and in the case of this school, not only the creation of a man-made mini-forest within a school campus. Forest school is a pedagogy with fairly specific elements involved, an approach to supporting vital areas of childhood development through hands-on practical experiences, in a natural environment.

As well as being nature-based, Forest School activities often involve an element of age-appropriate risk and challenge, and may include mastering the use of various tools. Examples of such activities include whittling pieces of wood (or carrots with a vegetable peeler, initially), constructing dens and shelters, and even building campfires. It may also include less physical activities, such as identifying flora and fauna and creating artwork using natural materials. 

This is not a practice with which untrained educators can 'have-a-go', but rather requires skilled Forest School practitioners to lead sessions with children. Indeed this is something that this new school's leadership clearly recognises, as their search earlier this year for an experienced specialist Forest School Teacher demonstrates. will be eager to observe these sessions at GEMS Metropole Al Waha when it opens. 

Is this something new for the UAE?

There are other schools offering Forest School-style provision in the UAE, and the trend is growing. GEMS Metropole Al Waha follows in the footsteps of the original GEMS Metropole School, which opened a (somewhat less expansive but still impressive) Forest School space in 2021.

There are UAE schools (and even nurseries) doing this notably well; e.g. Sunmarke School, which is daring to implement impressively challenging and authentic forest school practices in its provision, and Brighton College Al Ain, which implemented the region's first Desert School. Arbor School has also recently launches the region's first Sea School, providing an alternative hands-on nature-based experience for young learners. 

GEMS Metropole Al Waha's Forest School, however, is remarkable, for the UAE, in terms of the scale of its ambition and the amount of resources invested in it.  If its plans are fully realised it will taking the movement and practice to another level.

What are the benefits?

Undoubtedly, the benefits of hands-on practical experiences in nature are many for young children. We asked UAE-based outdoor education consultant and trainer, Clair Watson, to share her thoughts:

“For young children, connecting with nature and learning in the outdoors enables them to learn though authentic life experiences in the real world, engaging their senses and heightening their observation skills.
The forest school approach supports young children in learning the consequences of their actions as they help each other to overcome obstacles, building confidence in the shyest of children. "
Founding Principal of GEMS Metropole Al Waha, Mr Jeremy Hallum asked Mr Hallum how this will be integrated into the school's wider curriculum. He explained:

"The whole concept of our early years curriculum is learning through doing.  We will still follow the EYFS, we still have continuous provision, synthetic phonics, as with any school following the English National curriculum, but we will also have this incredible resource and approach that they'll have access to, that will enhance learning, and develop communication and collaboration.

As children progress from FS2 through to year one and year two, the format of this gradually changes and becomes a little bit more structured, so that they're ready for the next part of the journey."

He continued:

In my view, schools too often focus on curriculum, curriculum curriculum. And that's important, obviously, but we also need to be building children's foundational skills, the building blocks of communication, we well as their social and emotional development. Forest schooling can be an integral part of those wider, bigger goals."

Read about other Forest School style provision in UAE schools here

Latest UAE articles

Inspiring Women in Education, Mary Donnelly

At, we actively seek out those in the education sector driving posi…

Choosing A School

Inside Brighton College Dubai's Foundation Stage Senior Editor, Susan Roberts, spent a morning in the Early Years se…

School Performance

Sharjah School Inspection Results - Complete List

Earlier in the week we were able to provide details of the outcomes of the first published…


Have US Universities Lost Their Appeal in the UAE?

As the world has returned to a post-pandemic 'normal' , so too have many university destin…

School Performance

SPEA Announces School Inspection Results

Sharjah Private Education Authority (SPEA) has published details of the Itqan inspection r…

School Performance

PIRLS: Dubai's Schools Make the Top 10 Globally

The KHDA announced today that Grade 5/Year 6 students at private schools in Dubai have ran…

School Performance

UAE CBSE Grade 10 Exam Results Live

The day Grade 10 CBSE students have been waiting for has arrived. a…

School Performance

UAE CBSE Grade 12 Exam Results Live

The day Grade 12 CBSE students have been waiting for has arrived. h…

0 Schools Selected
keyboard_arrow_down keyboard_arrow_up
Your selection Clear All