Environ­mental Studies Program at Sutter's Fort

Environ­mental Studies Program

Making History Come to Life One Classroom at a Time

Are you an elementary school teacher looking to provide your students with an unforgettable field trip? Look no further than the Environmental Studies Program (ESP) at Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park – the perfect day-time alternative to the popular overnight Environmental Living Program (ELP).

Immerse your students in the captivating world of California’s rich history, the Gold Rush era, and the complex history Sutter’s Fort between 1839 and 1850. ESP is thoughtfully designed to align with 3rd-5th grade Social Science objectives, making it an ideal choice for teachers seeking to enhance their history lessons. 

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.

Daytime Program

The ESP program runs from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, allowing for a comprehensive exploration of history without the overnight program.

Interactive Learning

Students will engage in a full day of hands-on, immersive activities, rotating between various parent/chaperone-led stations every half hour. These stations offer a dynamic experience where students participate in activities representative of the diverse jobs many of the jobs that would have been performed at the Fort between 1839 and 1850.

Historical Insights

California State Park staff lead interpretive presentations that delve into the complex history of Sutter’s Fort, ensuring a high-quality educational experience that aligns with state curriculum standards.

Open to all

ESP is managed by California State Parks and is open to public, private, and home school groups.

For more information about ESP, please contact Jared Jones at Jared.Jones@parks.ca.gov.

2024 Program Schedule

Program Dates Begin: Mondays from January 2024 to early June, 2024

Program Fees

  • A 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. This fee now includes some station supplies including 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.). The full amount of these additional costs depends on size of the group and typically runs between $900 and $1,500.
  • To reduce program fees for your school, multiple classrooms from the same school are encouraged to sign up for the same day (using one application).

Recent Program Updates

ESP 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 including in the current program. California State Park staff 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.

Interested in having your students participate in the overnight program? Please refer to the Environmental Living Program.

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. All grant funding for the 2023-24 school year has been allocated. The next round of funding is expected to open in Fall of 2024. 

Our grant program is 100% funded through donations. If you would like to support our School Grant Scholarship Program, please 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.