Environ­mental Living Program

Giving Students the Experience of a Lifetime

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

For the past 43 years, ELP has influenced the lives of thousands of students. Through first-hand interaction and hands-on experiences, what they read in their history books comes to life.

During ELP, students spend a full 24-hour day at Sutter’s Fort. Students arrive in the morning and stay overnight, cooking and eating all of their meals on site. They are encouraged to develop costumes and portray characters of 1840s California during their stay.

ELP is highly flexible, giving teachers the ability to create their own unique experience by customizing the various activities through the 24-hour stay to meet the needs of their students.

ELP is held most Tuesdays and Thursdays from November to early June. Because of the popularity of ELP, more applications are usually submitted than the number of spaces available; as a result, applications are selected by a random lottery drawn in the fall.

Not interested or able to participate in the overnight program? Please refer to our Environmental Studies Program.

Program Fees

The ELP participation fee is a flat rate of $650. The program fee covers up to 65 students; each additional student is $5 (maximum of 100 students).

A nonrefundable $150 deposit is required by the time of the first workshop in order to secure your place in the program.

Please note that groups participating in ELP 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 ELP; for example, some groups may hire musicians for their evening entertainment while other schools may simply choose to do skits themselves. We find that schools spend between $2,000 and $4,000.

Parent & Teacher Involvement

In order for ELP to be a successful experience, teachers and parents need to be engaged in the program. In order to assist the teachers and parents volunteering at ELP, California State Parks holds six ELP workshops throughout the year, including one Teacher Workshop and five 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 ELP. 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 ELP date. It is MANDATORY for teachers who wish to participate in ELP 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 ELP 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 should be kept between 30 and 70.

There is also only indoor sleeping for 60 students, plus 10 adults; the remaining students and adults must sleep outside on the lawn within the fort walls.

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

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 deadline for the current 2019-20 school year was in June 2019.

The following spots, however, are still available and open for interested school groups:

  • Tuesday, June 2, 2020
  • Thursday, June 4, 2020

Please contact ELP/ESP Program Coordinator for Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, Jared Jones at (916) 323-8112 or Jared.Jones@parks.ca.gov for more information. 

ELP Grant Scholarship Program

Friends of Sutter’s Fort provides an annual grant program for schools participating in the Environmental Grant Program 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 ELP Applications are received in June. During the summer, our grant committee reviews applications and provides notifications to schools prior to selecting their ELP dates in the later summer/early fall.

If you would like to support our ELP 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 Living Program covers many components of 3rd-5th grade Social Science curriculum. Below are just some of the standards ELP 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.

For more information about ELP, please contact State Park Program Coordinator Jared Jones at Jared.Jones@parks.ca.gov.