A family that has shown kids the joy of learning in the environment, and shared the value with thousands of teachers, has made a list of the world's most innovative educators.

Long-time teachers Linda and Bruce Cheer and their daughter Sarah Aiono, run Longworth Education in rural Hawke's Bay.

It started as a three-day-a-week forest school on their 1.6ha Poraiti property four years ago, with pupils referred from nearby schools, but now hosts entire visiting classes.

Founder of The Forest School Tennille Murdoch talks about the benefits of the school. Doug Sherring

Workshops on their teaching model, which include self-chosen activities by the children such as dam building, climbing trees and making habitats for insects as well as daily literacy and numeracy instruction, are also held around the country for schools wanting to incorporate forest school learning into their curriculum.

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More than 2000 teachers attended in the past year, future workshops are booked solid until June next year and inquiries have come from Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.

created an opportunity for schools and educators to consider other types of teaching — particularly for kids lacking confidence or with challenging behaviour.

Sarah Aiono is doing a doctorate on how to help teachers incorporate play-based learning in the classroom. Photo / Supplied
Sarah Aiono is doing a doctorate on how to help teachers incorporate play-based learning in the classroom. Photo / Supplied

"We don't need a whole generation of kids who do things by the book, we need kids who can actually solve a problem from a different angle."

Cheer switched to forest-based learning after becoming disillusioned with the traditional classroom.

Skills learned were part of the curriculum, such as ecological sustainability, she said. Most schools covered this with worm farms and teaching recycling, but that did not connect pupils with the environment.