Forest School



Forest Schools originated in Scandinavia and expanded to other countries in the past two decades. Simply put, forest school provides an outdoor learning space focused on child led play and holistic development. 

Forest Friends School at Pocono Plateau offers a unique, immersive learning environment that fosters development socially, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and physically. We believe being outdoors in a safe, nurturing environment helps children and youth create meaningful connections with our natural world and with each other.

Through unplugged play, learners develop resilience, resourcefulness, self confidence, and creative problem solving skills. Our leaders facilitate a space where children and youth can explore and imagine without the bounds or constructs of a conventional setting. We love seeing learners experience joy in exploration of their natural curiosities and gain appreciation for the wonder of our amazing environment!

Our learners will get dirty, soak in the vitamin D of the sunshine, splash in puddles, dig in the soil, wade in the lake, observe animals, and awaken all their senses while outdoors. Forest Friends School at Pocono Plateau is situated on 750 acres of northern hardwood forest in the Pocono Mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania. There are two beautiful freshwater lakes, an active beaver dam, and eight miles of hiking trails. 

“Nature-deficit disorder describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses. The disorder can be detected in individuals, families, and communities.” ~ Richard Louv, The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder 

Pocono Plateau Camp & Retreat Center is a sustaining member of the Eastern Regional Association of Forest and Nature Schools. The Forest Friends School Program Director will have completed level 1 certification for teacher training by the start of the fall 2024 trimester and Level 2 complete by the end of the winter trimester.

Core Values

At Forest Friends School, we strive to:

  1. Provide unplugged spaces for child/youth-led creative play and exploration.
  2. Create an inclusive, welcoming, and safe place for curious learners to take risks and practice decision making.
  3. Develop valuing the process of learning over the outcome.
  4. Hold sacred the land, ecosystems, animals, and environment as part of God’s creation. 
  5. Educate learners about the indigenous culture of the land we inhabit.
  6. Teach creation care and lifelong stewardship for all living things.
  7. Inspire curiosity and instill a sense of wonder at the beauty of our natural world.
  8. Awaken all the senses in the learning process.
  9. Foster lifelong skills through connection to nature.
  10. Encourage love and acceptance for every child, honoring their unique gifts and abilities.

Program Details

The Forest Friends School at Pocono Plateau is a once a week, drop off program designed for children and youth. We will break up by age group with at least two trained and vetted adults for every 10 children. Our time will be primarily outdoors in all climates unless the weather is unsafe. We have indoor gathering spaces, including a craft room and nature center.

Forest School is broken into three trimesters consisting of 11 sessions each. Families sign up for either a full trimester or can sign up for all three at once and receive a discount. Because we believe the program is best when it builds off each week as learners grow and explore together, we will not have an option to only pick specific days during a trimester. Families have options for signing up:

    • Option 1: Register for a single trimester at a time. For the first child, the base cost for one trimester is $275 ($25 per session).
    • Option 2: Register for two trimesters upfront to get 10% off. For the first child, the base cost for two trimesters upfront is $495, which is a $55 savings over registering for each trimester separately.
    • Option 3: Register for all three Trimesters (Fall, Winter, Spring) to get 20% off. For the first child, the base cost for two trimesters upfront is $660, which is a $165 savings over registering for each trimester separately.

Deposit of $50 required for all registrations. Full balance due prior to start date of the session (Ex. If you register for all three trimesters with the upfront discount, full payment is due at the start of the fall trimester).

We never want finances to be a barrier for learning and experiencing the splendors of nature. In addition to the multiple trimester discounts above, we are also offering four other ways to help subsidize costs:

  • Early bird discount – we will open registration for the fall on May 1st. The early bird discount is $15 off per child for one trimester, $30 if registering for two trimesters upfront, and $45 if registering for three trimesters upfront.
  • Sibling discount – we are offering discount for the second child at $25 off per child, per trimester. This grows to $50 off for the 3rd child and $75 off for the 4th or more children.
  • Parent Volunteers can receive additional discounts for their children to participate. See the schedule below with details.
  • We can offer a $50 scholarship per child, per trimester for families in need. Please email our camp office at or call the office at 570-676-3665 to get more information on financial need applications. The application will remain confidential and is not meant to judge, but rather to help us best allocate the funds we have available to support as many families as possible.


Registration for the 2024-2025 season are now open!

Safety at Forest Friends School at Pocono Plateau

As camp professionals, we understand that your biggest concern is for the safety of your child.  We also know you have goals for your child’s development related to the powerful lessons the forest school experience provides in community, character-building, skill development, and healthy living.  We share those same goals, which is why we have taken the added step of becoming an accredited camp through the American Camp Association (ACA).

  • All Forest Friends and Pocono Plateau staff and volunteers will have an active criminal background check and child abuse clearance on file. 
  • Children and Youth will always be supervised with at least two adults present at all times with each cohort of 10 learners. 
  • Different from our summer camp program, we will not have a nurse on site during the forest school program. All full time staff are CPR/First Aid certified as well as having certifications through the Stop the Bleed training program. We have a relationship with Pocono Mountain Regional EMS and ambulance response times are generally 15-20 minutes. 

ACA accreditation means that Pocono Plateau Camp & Retreat Center submitted to a thorough review of over 200 standards of its operation by the American Camp Association (ACA) — from staff qualifications and training to emergency management. American Camp Association collaborates with experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross, and other youth-serving agencies to assure that current practices at the camp reflect the most up-to-date, research-based standards in camp operation. Pocono Plateau Camp & Retreat Center and ACA form a partnership that promotes summers of growth and fun in an environment committed to safety.

ACA helps all accredited camps provide:

  • Healthy, developmentally appropriate activities and learning experiences
  • Discovery through experiential education
  • Caring, competent role models
  • Service to the community and the environment

Why Is ACA Accreditation Important?

As the only recognized accrediting body for the camp experience in the United States, ACA accredits approximately 2,400+ diverse camps nationally.  However, that number represents only 25 percent of the camps that operate in this country.  ACA’s goal is to continue to grow the number of accredited camps to ensure a safe and positive camp experience for more children.  ACA-accredited camps meet up to 266 health and safety standards. Accreditation is a family’s best evidence that their camp is committed to the health, safety, and overall well-being of their child. 

Other camps like to say they follow industry standards and best practices. Some even say they use the ACA guidelines, but the fact remains that camps that do not hold themselves up to a transparent, complete peer review of their operations are not acting in the best interests of their staff, campers, families, and the public at large. If your camp is not accredited, ask the owner or director why. ACA accreditation matters. 

What Are the Standards of Accreditation?

The ACA accreditation standards focus on health, safety, and risk management. They are widely used as operational benchmarks for the camp industry by local, state, and federal government entities, insurance companies, and courts of law.  Our camp and program completed the peer-review process, which includes a visit by an ACA-trained team of standards volunteers, signifying that we meet the standards applicable to our program.  ACA collaborates with experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross, and other youth-serving agencies to ensure that current practices at our camp reflect the highest and most up-to-date, research-based standards in camp operation.

We Set Our Standards High

Earning and maintaining ACA accreditation takes time and commitment.  We set our standards high, to provide your child with an environment where he or she is having fun and is unaware of all of the work related to safety and learning, which has been carefully incorporated into the daily routine.

To be accredited by ACA, we had to demonstrate sound practices in every aspect of camp management and operation, including:

  • Site: Fire protection, food service, sleeping quarters, utility, and maintenance systems.
  • Transportation: Procedures concerning drivers, vehicles, and traffic on site.
  • Health and Wellness: Staff qualifications, facilities requirements, recordkeeping, storage and administration medicines, health forms.
  • Operational Management: Safety regulations, emergency communication systems, procedures for intruders, personal property regulations.
  • Human Resources: Staff qualifications, screening and training, supervision ratios, and procedures.
  • Program Activities: Aquatics, adventure/challenge, trips, horseback riding, and staff qualifications for special programs.

Mandatory standards also include requirements for staff screening, emergency exits, first aid, aquatic-certified personnel, storage and use of flammables and firearms, emergency transportation, obtaining appropriate health information, among others.

Frequently Asked Questions about Camp Accreditation

What’s the difference between state licensing of camps and accreditation by ACA?

Accreditation is voluntary, and ACA accreditation assures families that camps have committed to a safe, nurturing environment for their children. If a state requires licensing, it is mandatory; licensing requirements vary from state to state. Courts of law and government regulators recognize ACA standards as the standards of the camp community.


How do ACA standards exceed state licensing requirements?

ACA goes beyond basic requirements for health, cleanliness, and food service into specific areas of programming, including camp staff from director through counselors, emergency management plans, health care, and management. ACA applies separate standards for activities such as waterfront, horseback riding, and adventure, and travel.

What are some of the ACA standards for camps?

  • Staff-to-camper ratios that are appropriate for different age groups
  • Goals for camp activities that are developmentally based
  • Emergency transportation available at all times
  • First-aid facilities and trained staff available when campers are present


Does ACA accreditation require criminal background checks?

ACA accreditation standards require an annual criminal background check on all seasonal staff and a criminal background check at least once every five years for year-round staff.  They also require an annual check of the National Sex Offender Public website and an annual disclosure statement that attests to the non-conviction of violent crimes again children. When talking to a camp director as you consider enrolling your child, ask what the screening process for that camp includes.


What the ACA Accreditation Standards Mean to You and Your Child

ACA accreditation serves as an assurance to families that our camp cares enough to submit to a transparent, thorough review of our entire operation.  Our goal is to provide parents with as much information about our camp, to reassure you about your camp choice.  Our voluntary participation in the professional development and accreditation process of the American Camp Association demonstrates our commitment to providing you and your child with the best possible camp experience.


For more information about ACA accreditation, contact our camp director or visit the American Camp Association website at


Still have questions? Contact us!

Pocono Plateau Camp and Retreat Center has been around for over 75 years. If you have a question, we have an answer!

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