General Information, Rules, & Expectations

General Information, Rules, & Expectations

Expectations – At Colony Ross, we feel strongly about providing you with a high quality educational program. We ask you to follow these expectations which have shown, time and time again, to be crucial to the overall success of every ELP:

It is expected you spend a minimum of six weeks reviewing the basic history of Fort Ross and prepping for this trip. This website includes a twelve-week curriculum plan (see Teacher Timeline). We are aware this may not be possible for all groups. However, we have seen that the more students know and the more preparation completed in the classroom, the more they grasp the ideas of what makes history relevant when they are at Colony Ross. They begin to understand the similarities and differences of the people of the past they are learning about.

We expect character research and role-play. It is one of the most meaningful aspects of this program. When the students take on real life characters they take ownership of their learning and practical work. It is this ownership we are looking for. Through role-play the students start to place themselves in this colony and understand where they may have fit in. The students’ ties to their characters become more personal and therefore more meaningful. It is the everyday people and the real names that make this experience worthwhile and memorable. Please note, we ask that you only assign role play characters of people who were present at Fort Ross. For example, the teacher should choose a manager who worked at Fort Ross, not Alexander Baranov whose duty was in Alaska. We understand there are historical figures who lived in California, e.g. Sutter, but truly never visited Fort Ross. Please avoid these characters. Teachers should choose a Manager character to role-play. Parents and students should choose roles from their selected role group. Teachers become the Manager of Colony Ross, parents become the “Officers”, and students become the “Employees.” All adults should have a character role to play, and must take on the responsibilities of an Officer.  This website provides characters to choose from for all Company members.

We encourage the use of primary sources. Primary sources tell a story only those who lived at that time could tell. They give us a true sense of events.

It is expected that you, your officers, and your employees, all come in costume. It adds so much — it allows for the Colony to come alive with color and differences. It is a visual experience that allows us to use our imagination even more. When we put on a different hat — or dress — we become more aware of the person we are portraying.

It is expected that you, your officers, and your employees are familiar with their role group tasks, and are able to carry out these tasks during your program. For example, the Militia are primarily responsible for starting the fires in the kitchen (for cooking and washing dishes). It is very important that at least one of the Militia officers are comfortable with starting fires. Please email any questions or concerns about this to the ELP Manager and/or ELP Instructor.

It is expected that teachers promptly reply to the Welcome Letter email that their ELP Instructor sends them. Within one to four weeks of a program, the ELP Instructor will send out an important email that provides pertinent information for the program and ask a number of questions, such as which role groups you’ll be bringing? What are your expected Officer and Employee numbers for each role group? What sample schedule will you be using? Are all the liability releases signed for all teachers, parents and students? Teachers must reply to let their Instructor know they’ve received the email and respond to all the questions. This is also an important time for teachers to let their ELP Instructor know anything relevant to the program or program participants, such as special needs, behavioral concerns, special medical needs or concerns, changes to the sample schedule, etc. A strong line of communication between teachers and ELP Instructors results in a better program for all! Please note teachers are encouraged to ask questions during their program preparations; they do not have to wait until they receive the Welcome Letter to email or call with questions and concerns.

Age limits – This program is designed to meet California Curriculum standards for 4th and 5th grade. It is not encouraged to bring students 2nd grade and younger as the program can be too demanding on them. Middle schoolers and above may be less enthusiastic about role playing in costume. If you’re interested in scheduling a program for students under 4th grade or over 5th grade, please contact us to discuss your program options.

All students are welcome. If you have a student with special needs, please just let us know so we can be aware of and sensitive to that child’s needs.

State Park Rules – All features of the park are protected – 

  • Do not remove any objects that are lying on the ground: rocks, shells, glass, bones, etc
  • If you find anything that appears to be historically or environmentally important please leave it where it was found and advise the ELP Instructor of the item’s location
  • Remember – take only pictures and leave only footprints
  • Butchering of live animals on site is not permitted. All butchered meat must be dressed before you bring it to the fort 
  • Bringing weapons is not permitted 
  • State Park rules and regulations must be observed
  • If you have any questions please email the ELP Manager

Please note the only exception to the butchering rule is for the Hunters group. When the Hunters legally catch fish on site, they can clean their catch and cook it for the whole company.

Planning Your Onsite Activities (Your ELP Schedule) – Use one of the sample schedules supplied on the website (or put together a customized schedule) that will work for your group. Communicate with ELP staff if creating a custom schedule, to get approval on any item changes. You are welcome to use your own and your students’ creative ideas to augment the onsite program. However, any significant variation from the ideas outlined MUST be discussed with the ELP Manager or ELP Instructors prior to your visit. Failure to do so can result in dismissal from the Fort Ross ELP. Don’t forget that short winter days will require a different schedule from long fall or spring days. Try not to over or under schedule activities for the day. Following the Arrival Protocol outlined here can be critical to the success of your ELP. Please read through all of this information carefully!

We encourage the walk from the Reef Campground. It is such a wonderful introduction to the Colony and the surroundings. It creates the atmosphere of walking back into time. We want that. It also allows for the unloading of the vehicles, allows for the parents to become ready as officers, and for our ELP Instructor to make contact with the officers ahead of the students’ arrival; this is critical!

As the Manager of Colony Ross, teachers will need to float from group to group helping out where needed. Your ELP Instructor will also be available to help where needed. Please do not plan to have the ELP Instructor remain with any one role group for any extended period of time.

It is really important to have activities planned for your entire visit. The time right before dinner and right after dinner can be a time when parents tend to ‘let loose’ and socialize. Employees tend to start having a new surge of energy. This is a rough combo. Please monitor this. Before dinner have journal writing time, drawing time, or structured game time with the entire class. Right after dinner is also a very good time for teachers to take the students on a walk to visit the windmill and view the sunset. This allows the parents to have some down time, time to socialize, and gives them a renewed interest as the employees come back to them.

Rotation of Groups – Rotation of individual employees through different groups is not allowed in this program. There are several reasons for this. First, having the children go from place to place does not allow them to fully experience the life routine of their chosen character.  Secondly, it is a whirlwind for students and adults alike. The teacher becomes a frantic timekeeper trying to keep the various groups going to the right place at the right time. Thirdly, the students don’t usually have sufficient time to finish any of their projects.

The intention of the program is to give each student a feel for what it might have been like to function as a member of the Colony Ross Community anywhere between 1812-1842. True to this historical template, each person had a specific function and role within the community; if one person did not perform his/her designated task/role, the entire community would have to scramble to make up for the missing piece. And that is what happens if students are encouraged to rotate between group tasks. We have found rotations to be disruptive and counterproductive to all groups. What’s the adage? Jack of all trades; Master of none.

Sleeping Arrangements – Sleeping arrangements can be a difficult issue. It is up to you, the parents, and your administration how you divide boys and girls in the buildings at night. We have never heard of problems arising from mixing boys and girls when letting role groups stay together in the sleeping areas. However, it is something that some parents might be concerned about. It is definitely important to make sure that you have more than one adult in each sleeping area. Parent Officers must sleep in the same area as their assigned role group so they can get their group off to night watch quickly and quietly.

Leaving Colony Ross – When leaving Colony Ross, we highly recommend a visit to the Fort Ross Visitor Center, Museum and Bookshop.  There is much to learn from the museum and many interpretive items, nature guides, and historical resources available to buy to continue their education.

Visitor photographs  Please note that FRC, nor your ELP Instructor, will interfere with visitors taking photographs of your group while you’re on site. Fort Ross State Historic Park is a public space and only professional, permitted photographers using the photographs commercially need permission to take photos. If you have any questions, please contact us.


From Santa Rosa: 1 ½ hours

From Petaluma: 1 ½ hours

From San Francisco: 2 ½ hours

From Sacramento: 3 ½ hours

From Fort Bragg: 2 hours

Please keep in mind that these driving times do not take account for changing road conditions. Check here for any road work and plan accordingly: http://roadconditions.sonoma-county.org/