Environmental Living Program at Sutter's Fort

Environ­mental Living Program

Giving Students the Experience of a Lifetime

The Environmental Living Program (ELP) at Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park has influenced the lives of tens of thousands of students since it began more than 40 years ago.

Discover the transformative power of history and education through the Environmental Living Program (ELP) at Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park. For over four decades, ELP has left an indelible mark on the lives of countless students, offering an immersive field trip experience like no other in Sacramento.

As the nonprofit cooperating association for Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, Friends of Sutter’s Fort is proud of our long-standing support for this program. In prior years we have helped with administration and have funded staff, supplies and volunteer efforts that have made this program possible.

A 24-Hour Adventure

ELP provides an immersive 24-hour experience. Students arrive at approximately 9:30 am, ready to dive into a day filled with enriching activities. Students and chaperones also cook all their own meals and spend the night at Sutter’s Fort. Schools have the option of having students sleep in tents in the gated yard, or utilizing indoor sleeping space.

Dynamic Learning Stations

The program is an excellent teaching tool based on students learning through first-hand interaction and hands-on experiences. Throughout the day, students explore small group rotations, spending around half an hour at each chaperone-led stations. These stations help students better understand various activities, trades, and entertainment of the mid-19th Century. Students and chaperones also work together to cook meals. These experiences help foster teamwork and self-sufficiency. 

Historical Insights

California State Park staff enhance the experience with engaging interpretive presentations, helping to explain the complex history of Sutter’s Fort.

ELP is managed by our partners at California State Parks. For more information about ELP, please contact State Park Program Coordinator Jared Jones at Jared.Jones@parks.ca.gov.

Not interested or able to participate in the overnight program? Please refer to the Environmental Studies Program to learn more about the alternate daytime program. 

2024 Program Schedule

Program Dates Begin: Most Tuesdays and Thursdays starting in January 2024 and running thru June, 2024

ELP Fees

An program fee is collected by California State Parks. The program fee covers up to 65 students. There is no charge for adult chaperones and teachers.  The program fee now includes some station supplies such as firewood and candle wax.

Friends of Sutter’s Fort is pleased to donate leather rounds (1 per student) for the vaquero station and twine for the rope making station. 

Each additional student is $5 (maximum of 100 students) 

Your group will incur other costs (food, transportation, project supplies, etc.). Although the total cost can vary greatly depending on group size, most schools end up budgeting between $2,000 and $4,000 for a full 24-hour program.

RECENT Program Updates

ELP was modified in 2022 to incorporate the interpretive changes underway at Sutter’s Fort SHP. Wearing 1840s period attire, portraying historical characters, and black powder demonstrations (firing the cannon) are not included in the current program.

California State Park staff now provide interpretive presentations to participating throughout the day. The students still participate in hands-on activities at the stations such as dipping candles, making rope, weaving on a loom, and baking bread in our outdoor bake oven. 

California State Parks has also made the program more accessible to school groups by having training videos available on YouTube. and more staff led interpretive presentations throughout the day. 

ELP Grant Scholarship Program

Friends of Sutter’s Fort provides an annual grant program for schools participating in the Environmental Living Program to help break down the financial barriers that may prevent students from being able to participate in these outstanding educational experiences. We encourage all teachers interested in bringing classrooms to Sutter’s Fort for ELP or ESP to apply. 

Our grant program is 100% funded through donations. If you would like to support our ELP Grant Scholarship Program, please make an online donation

Funding for the 2023-24 school year has already been allocated. Our next grant round is anticipated to open in Fall of 2024. 

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.