A classroom 152km long is hard to picture but the Otago Central Rail Trail Trust has managed to create one.
Trust manager Tania Murphy said thousands of people, including school groups, rode the trail every year and the trust was keen to expand the opportunity for schools to integrate the trail into their curriculum studies by launching the website Rail Tales.
The initial idea for the website came from Anthony Breese, of Museograph Ltd, who was contracted to design and create new interpretation information along the trail, she said.
Mr Breese saw the website as a way of using the history and stories of the area as a teaching resource for schools.
‘‘Once the trust understood the concept and got a glimpse of the website in its early stages, we were all in,’’ Mrs Murphy said.
Trust chairwoman Kate Wilson said Rail Tales was an integrated education resource for teachers and pupils from primary through to NCEA level 3.
‘‘The trail is more than just a bike ride. The 152km outdoor classroom has so many learning opportunities.’’
Free for schools and educators, the Rail Tales website would enhance pupils’ learning before, during and after their Rail Trail experience.
All lessons and activities were based onthe New Zealand curriculum and created by qualified New Zealand educators.
Topics included Aotearoa New Zealand history, conservation, health and fitness, social studies, the solar system and geology, she said.
The trust hoped schools across the country would see the value in riding the trail and that pupils would find a lifelong connection with the outdoors, Mrs Murphy said.
However, it was not just schools that could use, and learn from, the website.
There was information for those wanting to know more about the area and it would hopefully broaden the range of trail users, Mrs Wilson said.
Trustee and trail-side business owner Colleen Hurd said the website would help increase the knowledge base of their staff which they could share with guests who loved to hear more about the area.
The project was funded by Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Pub Charity and the trust, Mrs Wilson said.