Climbing out of the classroom |

Climbing out of the classroom

Unconventional class takes students to explore the outdoors

David Pressgrove

The P.E. 3 class at Moffat County High School is driving teacher Craig Mortensen up a wall as well as up a mountain, in a cave and through a canyon.

The unique class available for MCHS juniors and seniors who have completed their other P.E. requirements focuses on the outdoors instead of eight-base kickball or dodgeball.

“The class gives students the opportunity to do non-traditional classroom activities,” Mortensen said, who is in his 11th year of teaching the course. “Students complain that there isn’t anything to do in Craig, so we take them to places relatively close in the area and give them an appreciation of the outdoor activities around here.”

This fall the class has hiked a 14,000 foot high mountain near Buena Vista, mountain biked in Moab, explored the Spring Caves near Meeker, and went backpacking and hiking in Dinosaur. On Monday they took their shortest trip of the semester to Vertical Grip Climbing in Steamboat Springs for some wall climbing. The final trip of the season will likely be snow cave exploring in December.

“This is the coolest class in high school,” said senior Kenny Stacy. “You get to do so many things that you wouldn’t get the chance to in other places in the country.”

In between the six trips during the semester the class climbs on a climbing wall in the wrestling room that Mortensen said his first P.E. 3 class helped build. Other times they’ll mountain bike or hike to prepare for the upcoming trip. They also repel from the third floor in the school during lunch.

“It was pretty scary up on the third floor,” said senior Danielle Brown. “They practically pushed me off so I would go.”

Not everyone in the class has repelled in the school.

“Shawn (Hadley) still hasn’t repelled down,” senior Evan Pressley said.

“Dude, it is high,” Hadley said in retaliation.

Over the 11 years of the class, Mortensen said he has tried a wide range of activities including kayaking and canoeing.

“Over the years we’ve narrowed it down to the activities that most of the students are interested in,” Mortensen said. “Community members have introduced us to a number of different activities.”

One activity that the students hope Mortensen will stay away from is making up his own recipes on trips.

“When we were camping he mixed beef stroganoff with fresh salmon,” Brown said. “It was just nasty.”

Mortensen said the class provided more than an opportunity to be outside of the school.

“There is risk involved in the class and most of the activities are challenging,” he said. “It teaches self-reliance and the importance of preparation.”

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or

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