Fourth-grade students from Gravenstein Elementary School enjoyed -- or at least endured -- daily life in an old Russian fort Thursday when the donned period clothing and were assigned tasks at Fort Ross Historic Park.

The students, among the 3,000 who participate each year in the Environmental Living Program at the fort, became cooks, hunters, gardeners and artisans as they learned lessons provided by park interpreters.

On this day, they were joined by a representative of the Russian Consulate who lit the booming canon as the young ?militia? members held their ears and stood in rapt attention.

But this was more than just a field trip. The students also spent the night, and were required to pull two-hour shifts of guard duty.

Hank Birmbaum, one of the park?s interpreters told the children that the Russians were active in the area and maintain the outpost from 1812-1841.

According to the state parks website, Fort Ross was the southernmost settlement in the Russian colonization of the North American continent.

The park is 12 miles north of Jenner on Highway 1. For more information, see

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