Teacher's Guide to Activities


This Virtual Museum of Sutter's Fort was developed for the Schools of California Online Resources for Educators (SCORE) Project, funded by the California Technology Assistance Program (CTAP).

This virtual museum is to acquaint students with John Sutter and his fort and the part both played in history. California changed forever when gold was discovered near John Sutter's mill in 1848. Over 80,000 "49ers", or gold seekers, were prospecting in hopes of making their fortune. The state went from being part of Mexico to the 31st state of the union in 1850 and Sacramento it's capital.

As the students do these activities, they will consider the following questions:

Implementation Overview

These activities may be completed individually or in small groups in the fourth grade unit of California history, and relates to the California History-Social Studies Content Standards and Language Arts Standards.

Student Activity 1

Map of California

Draw a map of California. Show the interior waterways of California that were important to Sutter. (San Francisco Bay, San Joaquin River, Sacramento River, American River). Also show Sutter's Fort, Fort Ross, Hock Farm (near Yuba City), and the cities of Monterey, Yerba Buena (San Francisco), Sonora, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Student Activity 2

Write an Essay

Write a five paragraph essay. Choose one of the following topics or create one of your own:

1. A biographical sketch of John Sutter.

2. A historical sketch of Sutter's Fort.

3. The lifes of the Native Americans of the Sacramento Valley and how they were affected by the Gold Rush.

4. Describe the different Americans living in California at the time of Sutter's arrival.


Student Activity 3

Portrait of John Sutter

Locate a photograph or drawing of Sutter and make your own drawing of him. The teacher can print out several pictures from the website of John Sutter for models.

Supplies: You will need white drawing paper, pencils, colored pencils, crayons or water colors.

Student Activity 4


In small groups or individually, you can review information about Sutter's Fort in the years following the gold rush. Write a story of what happened to the fort. Why did Sutter sell it? Why was only the main building of the fort left standing? What happened to the creek that ran beside the fort? Write in paragraphs.

Student Activity 5

Create a Time line

You will gather information to create a time line about John Sutter's life and the same period of time in American history. Use the information, as well as facts gathered from the internet to write a brief history about John Sutter and his significance to the Gold Rush and the development of California as a state.

1. After reading the Biography of John Sutter and after visiting the following web sites, begin gathering information about important personal events that happened in his life, from birth through death. You will also gather information about events that occurred during the same period of time in American history.

2. You are now ready to create a time line. You must make a minimum of 10 entries about Sutter's life. Also include at least 5 events that occurred in American history during the same period of time.

Supplies:You will need a light-colored strip of construction paper, 6'' x 18'', a ruler, pencil, and dark marker. Turn the paper lengthwise and draw a horizontal line through the middle. Write the events as phrases on lines which you have drawn in their appropriate places. Be sure to write the dates of the events. You may use other reference materials if necessary and when appropriate.

Student Activity 6

Model of Sutter's Fort

This is a group activity directed by the teacher. The teacher will print out the parts of the MODEL. These include the three parts of the Plan of Sutter's Fort, the Main Building and the Roof and Gate. The plan parts can be cut out and put together and then enlarged 200 % at a copy place like "Kinkos". The other pictures of the building can be spray mounted on cardboard and then cut out and put together with glue or tape.

Supplies: You can recreate the rest of Sutter's Fort to the scale of the main building. You can use glue, tape, cardboard,, foam-core board, colored paper, colored pencils, paint and other materials that are appropriate for building model of the fort.

Student Activity 7

Postcard to a Friend

After visiting the Postcard Section of the Virtual Museum, the student will look at the picture of the classroom of long ago. The student will imagine that they are one of those children. They have just visited Sacramento and saw what was left of Sutter's Fort. They are to write a postcard to a friend of what it was like to be in Sacramento of long ago and write about what they saw at the fort site. The teacher can print the picture of the back of the postcard for the students to write on. The student can draw the postcard picture of Sutter's Fort themselves. The completed postcards can be punched and strung together with sticks and string to form "mobiles" like those made by the artist Alexander Calder.

History- Social Studies Content Standards

TheActivities at the Virtual Museum of Sutter's Fort will touch on or include these California State History and Social Studies Standards:


4.3 Students explain the economic, social, and political life of California from the establishment of the Bear Flag Republic through the Mexican-American War, the Gold Rush and California statehood, in terms of:

1. the location of Mexican settlements in California and other settlements including Ft. Ross and Sutter's Fort
2. comparisons of how and why people traveled to California and the routes they traveled
(e.g., biographies and legends of James Beckwourth, Jedediah Smith, John C. Fremont,
Juan Cabrillo)
3. the effect of the Gold Rush on settlements, daily life, politics, and the physical
environment (e.g., biographies of John Sutter, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, Phoebe
Apperson Hearst)
6. how California became a state and how its new government differed from those during
the Spanish and Mexican periods


4.4 Students explain how California became an industrial power by tracing the transformation of the California economy and its political and cultural development since the 1850's, in terms of:
1. the story and lasting influence of the Pony Express, Overland Mail Service, Western
Union, and the building of the Transcontinental Railroad
2. how the Gold Rush transformed the economy of California, including the type of
products produced and consumed, changes in towns (e.g., Sacramento, San Francisco)
and economic conflicts between diverse groups of people
3. rapid American immigration, settlement, and the growth of towns and cities.


5.7 Students trace the colonization, immigration and settlement patterns of the American people

from 1789 to the mid-1800's, with emphasis on the defining role of economic incentives and the

effects of the physical and political geography and transportation systems, in terms of:

1. the waves of immigrants from Europe between 1789 and 1850 and their modes of
transportation as they advanced into the Ohio and Mississippi Valley and through the
Cumberland Gap (e.g., overland wagons, canals, flatboats, steamboats)
2. the states and territories in 1850, their regional locations and major geographical
features (e.g., mountain ranges, principal rivers, dominant plant regions)
3. the location of the current 50 states and the names of their capitals
4. the explorations of the trans-Mississippi West following the Louisiana Purchase (e.g.,
draw from maps, biographies and journals of Lewis & Clark, Zebulon Pike, John
5. experiences on the overland trails to the West (e.g., location of the routes, purpose of
each journey; the influence of terrain, rivers, vegetation, and climate; life in the territories
at the end of these trails)
6. the continued migration of Mexican settlers into Mexican territories of the West and
7. how and when California, Texas, Oregon and other western lands became part of the
U.S., including the significance of the Texas War for Independence and the
Mexican-American War

Performance Standards

Language Arts Content Standards

(Examples from Grade 4)

Activities at the Virtual Museum of Sutter's Fort will include:

Use the Internet for research and publishing purposes [Writing Strategies Standard 1.7].

Read articles, time lines and other information at the various sites for detail [Reading Comprehension Standard 2.2].

Improve critical thinking skills by selecting and sorting information [Reading Comprehension Standard 2.4].

Practice note taking and story writing [Literary Response and Analysis Standard 3.0].

Write narratives on incidents that provide a context to enable the reader to imagine the world of the event or experience [Writing Applications Standard 2.1.2].

Write information reports that include facts and details for focus [Writing Applications Standard 2.3.2].

Performance criteria for the written report.

The criteria are of two kinds: one for writing mechanics, the other for content.

Scoring Criteria (Mechanics)

4 = the paper is easy to read and uses appropriate format. It is carefully proofread to correct spelling, capitalization,punctuation and usage errors. It is written in complete sentences and uses paragraphs correctly.

3 = the paper is generally well proofread and uses appropriate format but has occasional minor lapses.

2 = the paper may lack the appropriate format. It is proofread but may display errors in spelling, capitalization, punctuation and usage. It is written in complete sentences but may not be paragraphed correctly.

1 = The paper is poorly presented, indicating the author is unaware of the requirements of written communications. It will have a significant number of proofreading errors, sentence fragments, and/or flaws in usage.

0 = The student failed to attempt the paper.

Scoring Criteria (Content)

4 = The paper is written in a style appropriate to the genre being assessed. It is well organized, clearly written, and meets the needs of the author and reader. It will contain sufficient details, examples, descriptions and insights to engage the reader. The author will bring closure through a resolution of a problem or a summary of the topic.

3 = The paper is written in an appropriate style and format. It may appear to be well organized and clearly written but may demonstrate minor lapses in the communication to the reader. It may be missing some details and/or examples, and offer incomplete descriptions and fewer insights into the characters and/or topics. The author may not sufficiently close the piece of writing and may leave the reader "hanging" or may offer the reader an inappropriate closing or ending.

2 = The paper may demonstrate an incomplete or inadequate knowledge of the skills assessed. Significant flaws may be evident as the author fails to address the prompt in an appropriate manner, ideas may be conveyed in a random method, and very little is given in proof, details, facts, examples or descriptions. Closure is often missing.

1 = The paper will barely attempt the task. The general idea may be conveyed, but there will be a definite lack of understanding on the part of the author regarding the appropriate format or procedures.

0 = The student failed to attempt the paper.

If your students have used this Virtual Museum of Sutter's Fort, please take a minute to complete the Teacher Evaluation.

Disclaimer: The links here have been scrutinized for their grade and age appropriateness; however, contents on links on the web change continuously. It is advisable that teachers preview all links before introducing them to students.

(Table of Contents)(Teacher's Guide to Activities)(References)(SCORE))(Author)