Fort Ross Conservancy’s Programs

Fort Ross Conservancy is thrilled to announce we now offer both cultural and natural history environmental education programs.

We offer overnights in the Fort Ross compound during our Environmental Living Program, camping under the stars in our Marine Ecology Program, and single-day educational opportunities, all guided by our dedicated, extremely experienced staff. There is truly something for everyone!

For all ELP/ELDP and MEP questions, contact Director of Programs Song (Sondra) K Hunter at

ELP – Environmental Living Program

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The Environmental Living Program provides hands-on learning which allows children to experience the joys of history as active participants, exploring the interaction between people and their environment. Immersed for a brief time in the past, students learn about the many cultures and lifestyles present at Settlement Ross. Through performing tasks that were part of daily life at Fort Ross — such as cooking meals in an outdoor kitchen, fishing and ‘hunting’ for food, gardening, making candles, sleeping in historic buildings, collecting and stacking firewood, guarding the perimeter, trading, practicing artisanal crafts, dancing, and generally working hard for the company — children gain a better understanding of history and their relationship to it.

Students, chaperones, and teachers sleep inside the historic compound buildings.

Students, parents and teachers research and take on specific characters who lived at Fort Ross, and come in costume prepared to role play that character during their stay. Each character is part of one of the historic groups that lived and worked at Fort Ross.

Role Groups:

School Groups

The FRC ELP Manager works with the teacher from registration until the day of their ELP session and an ELP Instructor works alongside the group during the day, offering guidance and support. The curriculum is aligned with 3rd through 5th grade California state standards.

Homeschool/Other Groups
Our ELP program is available year-round, and is great fun for homeschooling families, older students, and even adults! Who wouldn’t want to sleep in an eight-sided blockhouse and make borscht in a thirty pound cast iron pot on an open fire? Call or email us to discuss.

ELP (Overnight) or ELDP (Day-Only)
We offer an ELP overnight program on Monday-Tuesday or Thursday-Friday, and a single day ELDP program on Wednesdays. Contact us if you’re interested in weekends.

Teacher Training
Teacher Training is critical to a successful program. Every teacher must attend this training every 3 years. Trainings are scheduled 3 times a year during the ELP season. Contact Sondra Hunter for more information.


ELP/ELDP Reservations

Open Enrollment for the Fort Ross Environmental Living Program (ELP/ELDP) start April 1st.  Applications submitted before April 1st for the following school year will not be considered.  

All applications are accepted on a first come first serve basis according to space availability.

Fill out our online ELP/ELDP Reservation Form here.


ELP per person – $40 – all participants (including chaperones), there is no charge for the teacher
ELDP per person – $20 – all participants (including chaperones), there is no charge for the teacher
Teacher Training – $30 without food, $45 with food


MEP – Marine Ecology Program

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Fort Ross Conservancy offers a one-day or overnight Marine Ecology Program for middle and high school students.

Fort Ross State Historic Park, situated on a pristine stretch of Sonoma County coastline, boasts abundant marine mammals, rocky intertidal zones, sandy beaches and waters now protected by the expanded Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Fort Ross also has significant cultural history, with its historic buildings and exhibits telling the story of 19th century seafaring and fur trading. At Fort Ross we witness the human impact of resource exploitation and its subsequent but slow recovery. This intersection of natural and cultural history helps to teach ocean stewardship and resource management through the long lens of history.

FRC’s Marine Ecology Program (MEP) provides an exciting and academically rigorous outdoor educational field trip for students, including

  • On-site marine mammal observation, identification and survey, learning the significance of being a citizen scientist
  • Exploring the diverse and fragile life of the intertidal zone
  • Understanding current and historic ecological interconnections
  • Learning about the importance of biodiversity and marine conservation
  • Outdoor experience and team building

Marine Mammal Monitoring
During MEP, students learn about the different species of marine mammals along our coast and practice identifying them. After an introduction to citizen science and our monitoring methods, students survey our resident pinnipeds using spotting scopes and binoculars to further hone their observation skills. We then record and compare our findings, adding the data to our online database.

Human Impacts & Biodiversity
Learning from our pinniped survey and recent trends, we ask questions and discuss factors contributing to what we are witnessing, covering topics such as threatened and recovering populations and how the interdependence of species affect the wider marine food chain.

Rocky Intertidal Zone
For those programs that include a foray into the Rocky Intertidal Zone, we “go small and up close” by studying the invertebrates found during low & high tides. We learn to observe these creatures in their natural habitat and discuss our findings in a scientific manner.

Culture & History
Stepping back in time, together we explore the 19th century Russian-American Company outpost of Fort Ross. Reading excerpts from primary documents and visiting historic and recreated structures such as our Fur Warehouse, we learn about the skilled Alaska Native hunters along our coast, the fur trade with China and the beginnings of world trade in what would become California.
Overnights will be spent camping among the redwoods at beautiful Reef campground.


Service Projects & Scouts

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There are many Service Project opportunities available at Fort Ross. We regularly welcome both Girl and Boy Scouts of all ages for projects within the park and during our festivals. We are also a 501(c)(3) and we can sign off on necessary community service requirements.
Contact Hank Birnbaum at for more information.


Other Educational Opportunities

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For those groups or families that cannot sign up for a whole MEP or ELP, we offer Educational Tours that can run for one to four hours, delving into the natural marine ecology or cultural history of Fort Ross. Please contact Sondra Hunter for more information.