Environ­mental Studies Program

Making History Come to Life One Classroom at a Time

Friends of Sutter’s Fort is proud to be the sponsor of the Environmental Studies Program (ESP) at Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, providing critical funding for program staffing, program materials and supplies.

ESP is an alternative to the popular overnight Environmental Living Program (ELP) and is a great option for schools who are unable to participate in overnight programs. ESP is a daytime only program and runs for nine hours, from 8:00am until 5:00pm. Like ELP, students are encouraged to develop costumes and portray characters of 1840s California during their stay.

ESP is highly flexible, giving teachers the ability to create their own unique experience by customizing the various activities to meet the needs of their students. Typically, students arrive in the morning dressed in period clothing and spend the day in small groups rotating every half hour or so between various stations run by their parents and other volunteers from the school. At the stations, they learn about and participate in many of the jobs that would have been performed at Sutter’s Fort between 1839 and 1850, such as trapping, weaving, and baking.

ESP is held most Mondays from January thru early June. In the past, ESP applications were placed in the order that they came in and dates were selected on a first-come, first-served basis. However due to the popularity of this program, they will now be selected by random lottery draw, the same manner as ELP applications (additional information available).

Interested in learning more about the alternative overnight program? Please refer to our Environmental Learning Program.

Program Fees

The ESP participation fee is a flat rate of $500. The program fee covers up to 65 students; each additional student is $3 (maximum of 100 students).

A nonrefundable $100 deposit is required by the time of the first workshop in order to secure your place in the ESP program.

Please note that groups participating in ESP will incur other costs (transportation, food, project supplies, entertainment, etc.). The full amount of these additional costs depends on what you decide to do with your ESP. We find that schools typically spend between $800 and $1,300.

Parent & Teacher Involvement

In order for ESP to be a successful experience, teachers and parents need to be engaged in the program. California State Parks holds three ESP workshops throughout the year, including one Teacher Workshop and two Parent/Teacher Workshops. During these workshops, parents and teachers learn about the variety of stations available to students so that they can choose, plan and prepare for ESP. Because every station must have one properly trained parent, it is critical that parents and teachers attend at least one workshop.

Teacher Workshop

The Teacher Workshop will be held on a Saturday in August. The Teacher Workshop will give the teachers more information on the program. This is, also, the day that teachers choose their ESP date. It is mandatory for teachers who wish to participate in ESP to attend; if the teacher, or an assigned representative, is not present, their spot is forfeited.

The Parent/Teacher Workshops

The Parent/Teacher Workshops are held on Saturdays throughout the rest of the school year. Schools do not need to come to more than one of these and will be assigned a specific one depending on their chosen ESP date. Every station must have at least one trained parent.

Program Requirements & Restrictions

The program is available to public, private, and home school groups.

The program is limited to elementary school students.

The program is limited to a maximum of 100 student participants. We recommend that in order to optimize the experience of participating students, the number of students be kept between 30 and 70.

An application completed by a teacher is required to participate in ESP.

Please submit only one application per number of days you plan to participate; if you have two classes but want them to come on the same day, please only submit one application.

Application Process

The application for the 2018-19 school year was June 1, 2018, however, there may still be spots open. Please contact ELP/ESP Program Coordinator for Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, Jared Jones (916) 323-8112 or Jared.Jones@parks.ca.gov.

ESP Grant Scholarship Program

Friends of Sutter’s Fort provides an annual grant program for schools participating in ESP to help break down the financial barriers that may prevent students from being able to participate in these outstanding educational experiences. Our grant program is 100% funded through donations. California State Parks will provide grant applications to schools after ESP Applications are received in June. During the summer, our grant committee reviews applications and provides notifications to schools prior to selecting their ESP dates in the later summer/early fall.

If you would like to support our Grant Scholarship Program, please contact Linsey Fredenburg Humes, Executive Director, at linsey@suttersfort.org or 916-323-7627, or make an online donation.

California Social-Science Standards

The Environmental Studies Program covers many components of 3rd-5th grade Social Science curriculum. Below are just some of the standards ESP covers:

  • 3.2 Students describe the American Indian nations in their local region long ago and in the recent past.
  • 3.3 Students draw from historical and community resources to organize the sequence of local historical events and describe how each period of settlement left its mark on the land.
  • 4.2 Students describe the social, political, cultural, and economic life and interactions among people of California from the pre-Columbian societies to the Spanish mission and Mexican rancho periods.
  • 4.3 Students explain the economic, social, and political life in California from the establishment of the Bear Flag Republic through the Mexican-American War, the Gold Rush, and the granting of statehood.
  • 5.8 Students trace the colonization, immigration, and settlement patterns of the American people from 1789 to the mid-1800s, with emphasis on the role of economic incentives, effects of the physical and political geography, and transportation systems.