Year 7 and 8 students from the Whanganui East Rural Schools Cluster swapped studying for cycling when they took to the Ohakune Old Coach Rd recently.

It was one of the physical activities in the Tuia Challenge, created about five years ago to teach leadership and to familiarise the students with each other.

Upokongaro School principal Warren Brown organised the cycle ride and said the 60 or so students who participated loved it.

"It was a mixture of uphill and downhill, through bush and farmland. It's quite a picturesque ride and it was well worth doing," Brown said.

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"We stopped for lunch at one point and I couldn't get the students off their bikes, they just wanted to carry on, but some of us needed a bit of a rest."

The Whanganui East Rural Schools Cluster is made up of Fordell, Okoia, Aberfeldy, Whangaehu, Kaitoke, Mangamahu and Upokongaro.

The students set off from Horopito and finished their ride three hours later when they arrived in Ohakune.

"They rose to the challenge. If riders were having trouble on the hill, they'd stop and walk to the top with them," Brown said.

"They supported each other, they were aware of what those kids that were struggling were going through and those are the sort of skills we are building and developing."

The Tuia Challenge consists of two out of school activities with the rest of the cluster schools and two in-school activities.

Mangamahu School principal Rosalie Matthews said the Tuia Challenge was an appropriate name.

"I have three girls here, they said it was very challenging. They don't ride that much and there were quite a few hills they had to walk up, but overall they really enjoyed it," she said.

"It's not just about physical challenges, the kids also have to develop or take on a new skill, last year I taught my kids how to knit and another girl started guitar lessons."

Matthews said it all started with a leadership camp near Raukawa Falls earlier in the year.

"We stayed for a two day camp there with all the other cluster schools because it's a real icebreaker for everybody to get to know each other," Matthews said.

"The social aspect is very important, especially for schools as small as mine. It's good for them to interact with everybody else."

On the camp, students completed a high ropes course and throughout the rest of the year they have competed in or will compete in athletics, cross-country and swimming.