Skip to main content

Accessibility menu

Skip to main content Skip to footer

Physical Education Teaching

Adventure & Outdoor Pursuits emphasis overview

Distance Learners

Check out our hybrid option!

Learn more

Physical Education Teaching with Adventure & Outdoor Pursuits emphasis (MS)

The Physical Education Teaching with Adventure & Outdoor Pursuits emphasis (MS) allows students to specialize in adventure education facilitation, outdoor leadership, and risk management skills. This is a practitioner oriented program for physical educators seeking specific expertise in adventure and outdoor pursuits.

This program focuses on adventure planning and curriculum development in public schools and private businesses.

Previous experiences have included:

  • Rock climbing - Estes Park, Colorado
  • Climbing and anchor schools - Devil's Lake State Park and Rocky Mountain National Park areas.
  • Sea kayaking - Lake Superior
  • Canoeing - Boundary waters

"If you are not on an adventure, you should be planning one." - Jeff Steffen 

Student on climbing wall


Program overview

Why choose our program?

We pride ourselves in finding innovative ways to work with our students to provide this educational opportunity while helping our students manage personal and professional needs. We are proud to offer both in person and distance learning opportunities. The Physical Education Teaching with Adventure & Outdoor Pursuits emphasis (MS) program offers unique opportunities you won't find elsewhere.

Program characteristics:

  • Strong adventure & outdoor pursuits curriculum
  • Experiential learning focus
  • Choose your culminating experience: project, thesis, comprehensive exams

Grad student and youth preparing for ropes course

Funding opportunities

There are a number of funding opportunities available to provide financial assistance for graduate students. Find out more about these options on our program's financial aid information webpage.


Student on ropes course
In person & hybrid program curriculum

Our 33-36 credit (dependent on culminating experience) program curriculum combines advanced study of general physical education with specialized adventure and outdoor pursuits course work. 

Course content includes:

  • Pedagogy of outdoor physical education
  • Adventure education for physical educators
  • Assessment and program evaluation
  • Curriculum planning and development 
  • Sociocultural issues in physical education
  • Instructional models and effective instruction
  • Research methods
Paddleboarders on Mississippi backwaters


Our hybrid (distance learning) track is now offered to practitioners who are unable to travel to UW - La Crosse for in person coursework on a weekly basis. All but three courses can be taken in an online synchronous setting in the evenings. Three courses that require in person attendance are as follows:

  1. ESS 765 - Offered summer over two weekends (UWL)
  2. ESS 745 - Offered spring over two weekends (UWL and Devil's Lake, WI)
  3. ESS 705 - Offered summer over one week (Estes Park, CO)

Please reach out with more questions about our program!

View the curriculum

Hands on experience

Hands on experiential learning is an important component of our program. Our students learn by doing!

Experiential learning:

  • Plan and coordinate field trips for K-12 students within educational settings
  • Develop challenge course management skills
  • Complete national ACCT challenge course certification training
Student preparing to rappel
Student project profiles

Our students select a thesis or non-thesis option. Thesis students complete courses in research methods and statistics along with a thesis project. Students choosing the non-thesis option complete courses in research methods and assessment in addition to completing a project. The work of a few of our students is highlighted below.


Megan Lund

Social and Emotional Learning Outcomes of K-12 Students in an Adventure Education Unit

“Every time I think about my experience with this program, I think simply of how grateful and fortunate I am to be on this journey with this staff and the with others in the program. The knowledge, insights, ideas and conversations shared between us have immediately impacted my teaching practice (and my students) positively! Best decision ever!!”


Gabrielle Strittmater

Perceptions of Resilience: An Exploration into the Impact of Perceived and Actual Risk

"The adventure emphasis provides countless experiences that enhance your education. These opportunities foster development of facilitation skills and encourage discourse. Instructors and peers are supportive, and authenticity is celebrated."

Graduate Project

Josh Thomas

Physical Educators' Practical Guide for Navigating Standards Based Grading (co-author, Amy Mandardt)

"The pedagogical instruction as well as the experiences while obtaining my master's in physical education have been phenomenally helpful to my teaching career. The professors in my program are world-class educators as well as first class people. This program has been entirely a positive experience and I would recommend it to everyone."

What our graduates are doing

Our graduates provide an important area of expertise for the school districts and businesses in which they work. Here are just a few of the contributions they are making in the professional world.

  • Providing leadership in challenge course development and management
  • Coordinating adventure trip planning
  • Adventure and outdoor pursuits curriculum development in PK-12 environments and private businesses
  • Implementing evidence-based teaching strategies
  • Coaching in school and community-based sport programs
Student on UWL ropes course
 Fort Collins, CO Whitewater Fort Collins, CO
Old Man Mountain, Estes Park, CO Big cat crew Old Man Mountain, Estes Park, CO
Old Man Mountain, Estes Park, CO View Old Man Mountain, Estes Park, CO
 Fort Collins, CO White water 2 Fort Collins, CO
Devils Lake, Baraboo, WI Anchor school Devils Lake, Baraboo, WI
UWL Outdoor Ropes Course Giant swing UWL Outdoor Ropes Course
Devils Lake, Baraboo, WI Rappelling Devils Lake, Baraboo, WI
UWL Outdoor Ropes Course Low elements UWL Outdoor Ropes Course
Devils Lake, Baraboo, WI Devils doorway Devils Lake, Baraboo, WI
UWL campus Rappelling Cowley UWL campus
UWL campus Indoor ropes UWL campus

Contact our Adventure & Outdoor Pursuits emphasis coordinator

Jenna Starck  Profile of Jenna Starck

Assistant Professor
133 Mitchell Hall

Specialty areas:

Physical Education Teaching Graduate Program Director

Adventure Education & Outdoor Pursuits Emphasis Director

Adventure Education Program Director

Research Interests: assessment literacy, adventure education, social and emotional learning, and occupational socialization theory