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Apr 102014

Kuranui College Year 13 students were given a unique opportunity to sample one of New Zealand’s most significant walks, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, as part of the college’s annual field trip to the Central Plateau.

“The aim of the trip is to supply background information, as well as complete field work for two internal and two external standards, worth a total of 14 credits at Level 3,” explained Team Leader of Kuranui Social Sciences, Vern Grant.

“During the first part of the trip, the students were exposed to tourism in Rotorua where ‘culture, the Kiwi and thermal activity’ are the draw cards for the myriad of tourists who descend upon the area every year. The students visited the Rotorua Museum, Te Puia, the gondola and luge and also spent some time relaxing at the Polynesian Spa.

“After being a ‘tourist’ and experiencing the infrastructure which envelops that facet of the economy, we travelled to Mt. Tongariro to complete the research and field work associated with the twin tasks of managing the Tongariro Track and vegetation succession on three different aged lava flows.

Kuranui Social Science Geo Trip

Kuranui Social Science Team Leader Vern Grant oversees student lava flow research

“It was an early start and with not too much moaning the team started the ascent at 7.30am: they climbed up the Devil’s Staircase and clambered (or staggered) to the Red Crater. On the return journey, we encountered approximately 500 tourists, all eager to take photos of Mt Doom (Mt Ngauruhoe) made famous by Sir Peter Jackson,” he said.

“It was a great trip, tourists were canvassed for opinions, lava flows were climbed, plant species were measured and recorded, Aeolian, glacial and hydrological erosion were explained as was the formation of the andesitic, scoria and rhyolitic landscape features in the vicinity,” added Grant.

Stephanie Wright was one of the 14 students who took part: “The most challenging aspect of the trip was climbing up the mountain, because we went as a group, so it was hard to go at our own pace. We had to adapt to other people’s abilities and pace, which was a lot slower and a lot more tiring,” she admitted. “The Devil’s Staircase was so hard and so hot, it was like 45 minutes of pain!

“It was really fascinating to discover and appreciate just how the tourists find our culture so interesting. We talked to people from all around the world who were visiting the Rotorua Museum and they really loved our culture.

“I personally found learning about the volcanoes in New Zealand fascinating and even more fascinating to discover that lots of them are still active, even the ones that are deemed inactive – they could actually blow at any time. I think it’s kind of crazy that even though people say they’re inactive, we’re not certain that they are!

“Since we’ve returned, I’ve handed in a massive paper on the vegetation succession on the mountain, explaining what types of grasses and plants grow on the different lava flow areas. We learnt that on a young lava flow there is much more vegetation then compared to an older flow, where the lava has had more time to decay and produce small plant matter.

“It’s a great experience for students to have a go and to get outside their comfort zone and to like challenge themselves physically and mentally – that was real cool,” she concluded.