Humble school field trips are becoming major world tours.
Secondary schools are sending students to global destinations as traditional class field trips take on an increasingly exotic - and expensive - flavour.
School parties are boarding planes to all ends of the Earth as teachers and pupils cast books aside to see foreign sites of signficance firsthand.
Tours, once the preserve of sports teams and language departments, now cater to subjects such as classical studies, geography, music and science.
A group of 27 from Massey High School in West Auckland have just returned from a month-long tour of Europe, visiting concert halls where Mozart performed, at a cost of around $10,000 per student.
Mt Albert Grammar School will this year send Year 12 physics students to Nasa. That will cost about $6000.
A company specialising in school tours said there had been signficant growth over the past two decades in schools sending students abroad.
Tour Time managing director Brent Imrie said his company would handle 40 international tours this year.
"It's not cheap but it is accessible," said Imrie. "It's a classroom of the world."
Massey High principal Bruce Ritchie said any overseas tour provided teenagers with experiences and opportunities that were often life-changing.
The school had also sent sports tours to Europe, South Africa, North and South America and a Spanish language trip to Chile.
Touring groups often returned to school as a stronger unit and highly motivated.
"It's a great motivation for the students and exposes students to another world they've never seen," said Ritchie.
Last month, music pupils retraced the footsteps of classical composer Mozart through Italy, Germany and Austria.
They gave public performances at historic venues, including the famous Vienna Opera House.
Cost was an issue, but the school did a year of fundraising to offset the expense for pupils and their parents.
This meant the students gained a greater appreciation of the trip as they had worked hard to pay for it, said Ritchie.
Mt Albert Grammar School principal Dale Burden said any subject-related tour had to have educational value and minimal impact on classroom time.
"It's got to be something that's going to really be of direct benefit to the students, not just a holiday," he said.
This would be the second time the school had taken a group of senior science students to Nasa.
Last year the classical department went to Italy and Greece and language students took trips to Germany and New Caledonia.By Lynley Bilby