The development of inquiring minds beyond the classroom is one of the focuses of summer field trips for Wairarapa College geography students.

Geography head Charmaine Nelson said Year 11 students had, during the "summery" first term, completed testing along the Ruamahanga River, while Year 12 students investigated the volcanic environment of Tongariro National Park.

Year 13 students remained a little closer to home and surveyed the coastal environment at Castlepoint.

Mrs Nelson said all of the research completed over each year level began with students developing a hypothesis and making an intelligent guess of what they would find.

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"We take them out to the environment and they come back to college and through their own data and research accept or reject their hypothesis," she said.

"The field trips are about them developing inquiring minds and it is something that can't be done in the classroom."

The Year 11 geographers tested the water quality of the Ruamahanga River at a number of sites starting at Kiriwhakapapa and finishing at the Gladstone Bridge, Mrs Nelson said.

The research will go towards completing an internal assessment on sustainable river use.

Mrs Nelson said the students found the water quality at Wardell's Bridge had improved since student tests were done at the site last year but they were "still concerned about future sustainable use of the river for everyone".

Year 12 students ventured into the volcanic environment of the Central Plateau at Tongariro and walked into the Mangetepopo Valley to Soda Springs and beyond, Mrs Nelson said.

"The research assignment for this looks at vegetation succession and how it changes in relation to the age of the lava flow up the valley."

She said Castlepoint provided many different coastal features in a small area and some of the areas on which Year 13 geographers had focused were the different gradients of the beach profile.

The students had used an Abney level to assist in their surveying, she said.

"These sorts of studies, particularly in their own environment, give students a new awareness of where they live and an understanding and appreciation of the environment."