The Kolbe Special School

Before the clear out for the Forest School

Before the clear out for the Forest School

The Kolbe Special School caters for forty-four students who have severe to profound disabilities. The school became a DCU Changemaker School in 2022. The school is proud to be a DCU Changemaker School

‘’This initiative has allowed us to lead a project of positive change in our school which will benefit our students, their families, and the wider community’’ Change Leader, The Kolbe Special School.

2023 has seen a massive surge in the school’s engagement with sustainable development goals. Their focus for the current year is environmental protection, social inclusion, and good health and well-being. The school has been campaigning for a new school building and for their students and have been successful in their work and the building of their new school is due to commence soon.

 The school has a strong vision as a DCU Changemaker School in which they plan to ensure that their forest school becomes an integral part of the school to foster a connection to nature, student health & wellness, academic engagement, and achievement, along with environmental and community stewardship. They also wish to: 

  1. Enrich student teaching and learning by using onsite forest area to teach academic subjects through hands on lessons
  2. Deepen engagement in forest area through the four pillars of a DCU Changemaker School
  3. Build community by engaging schools’ programmes and more volunteer opportunities for youth and families.
  4. Address environmental issues through twenty-first century learning skills
  5. Develop a robust relevant curriculum for use by the whole school to enable all students and school community develop the skills of teamwork, creativity, leadership, and empathy
  6. Empower students, their families and staff with the skills and confidence to lead positive change in the school, home, and community


Preparation for the Forest School began in 2022 with an idea to reclaim a forest area to the side of their school. This land was unused and full of potential. They wanted to focus on environmental protection and biodiversity with an element of exploration and investigation for their students. Meetings and surveys took place, and everyone was given a voice. Of course, the plan changed many times, and it is still being negotiated to a finished product.

They have worked in teams to create a mural to add colour to a dead and dreary part of the forest. Parental partnerships have been built and utilised for the good of others and in particular our school environment. The mural was done in conjunction with a local artist. All students were assisted by staff to add their own paint and create a wonderful interpretation of the four seasons. This project is ongoing and creates many opportunities for us to utilise the four pillars of Changemakers. Teamwork has automatically and fluidly evolved throughout the school as various roles and tasks develop, along with the projects vision.

The school community are very excited about this project and the potential it has to become a space for their students to address environmental issues and stewardship, further develop the four pillars of changemaker schools, connect with nature, develop self-regulation skills, develop resilience and coping strategies, emotional and physical health, and wellbeing. It is envisioned that the end product will give their students back their freedom by igniting their natural curiosity and enable us to develop a robust relevant curriculum for use by the whole school to enable all students and the school community develop skills of creativity, empathy, teamwork, and leadership

The school has a strong focus on student agency, participation, and voice. They have tabulated their work at such:


Teacher - centred

Student -centred

Student- Driven


Teachers set learning goals with parents, based on student profiles.

Students are made aware of action steps to meet learning goals. 

Identifies problems, generates solutions, guides group as leader of change.


Has choice of learning activities, resources, and tools. 

Chooses topic based on interests.

Self-directs learning based on passion and chooses people and resources.


Builds relationships with teacher and SNAs and investigates topics with more choice in how he/she engages with content.

Explores interests and enjoys learning from others.

Is intrinsically motivated and is in control and responsible for learning.


Seeks approval from teacher and is given opportunities to develop strategies that motivate him/her to learn.

Desires to succeed and persevere with evidence of learning.

Is involved in learning for the love of learning and derives satisfaction from understanding, learning a skill, attaining knowledge, or creating something.


Works with teacher on learning goals to develop and gain independent learning skills.

Develops skills to work independently.

Self-monitors progress.


Identifies purpose for learning so he or she realizes who they are as a learner.

Realizes dreams and takes actions around their passion about what matters for their growth.

Desires a sense of purpose in the world by choosing a challenge to tackle in seeking a meaningful life.


Is motivated behind choices and persistent in meeting learning goals.

Focuses on task at hand and believes in his/her ability to develop skills to support learning.

Develops resilience to embrace challenges.

Last March, they took part in empathy week, and extended it for a four-week period. The students were provided with opportunities to demonstrate their commitment to developing the skill of empathy and to inspire others to take social action in their own communities. During this month, the school participated in mental health activities, adding meditation and teaching all about emotions.