Building stronger relationships and a focus on the arts and mindfulness are the key drivers in Adventure School’s whole-school approach to wellbeing.

For teacher, Carl McManaway, the disruptions resulting from COVID highlighted the need to nurture stronger relationships.

“I've always subscribed to the theory that developing relationships is the most important aspect of developing a child's ability and willingness to learn, and this epidemic has allowed me to give myself permission to dig far deeper into this aspect of my pedagogy than previously,” says Carl.


Carl says a greater focus on mindfulness has been a key part of the school’s post-Covid approach.

“My journey kicked off with a lot of research into ensuring the transition back to ‘normal’ school life could be as gentle and supportive as possible. With the full approval of our principal, our classroom programmes had a real focus on the arts and mindfulness.”

“We included a daily time slot for mindfulness in afternoons and it was the most gorgeous, relaxing time - the doors were wide open overlooking our bush setting while we listened to Harry Potter on audiobook and completed mindfulness activities such as colouring.”

Carl says his class has a real willingness to engage in mindfulness.

“Last week about half of the class told me that they really find it beneficial and for the others, I can see how calm and receptive to learning they are afterwards; so whether they know it or not, or think it or not - mindfulness definitely benefits them!”

Te Whare Tapa Whā

Te Whare Tapa Whā has also featured prominently this year in Carl’s teaching around wellness, relationships and mindfulness.

“This year we created the Sparklers’ Whare Tapa Whā display. It's the first time I've used this model and I absolutely love it. Everything we do at the beginning of the year to build relationships, set up expectations and routines fit nicely under this model.”

“For taha whānau we placed our Class Treaty and our co-constructed advice on showing respect as a listener. We've discussed and practised how to give meaningful feedback and I've placed a poster to support the students greeting each other during registration with 'Kei te pehea koe?'. We've also learned to ask and answer questions about our whānau in Te Reo Māori.”

“Under taha hinengaro, I've placed a positivity poster and we've done work on growth mindset. With taha wairua, we've been able to talk about and practise mindfulness and thinking positively; we even had a really interesting chat about what spirituality can mean to different people. Under taha tinana we have tucked our daily fitness.”

“Later on this year we will be able to add our environmental focus to our tūrangawaewae section. This model is a living, breathing part of our daily lives. It just makes so much sense!”

Carl says he feels lucky to be a part of a school where they’ve been supported by a principal that was ahead of the curve for health and wellbeing.

Prioritising health and wellbeing

“Our principal, John Wootton, prioritized health and wellbeing well before it was something that every business considered. We started about 6 or 7 years ago with optional Mindfulness PD for all staff once a week across the term and the health and wellbeing of staff and students have been written into our charter for several years. It’s really important to us.”

“Well before Covid our principal had some great directives and guidelines, such as no meeting with parents after 4:00 pm, not checking your emails after work or on the weekends, leaving the school grounds by 3:30 pm on a Friday, and only having staff or syndicate meetings if they are 100% necessary.”

Carl says it took a long time to catch up with these directives, and it wasn’t until COVID that he actually started to listen to his own wellbeing.

“To a person like me who put way too much stock in how others might perceive me unless I worked a 60 hour week and was involved in just about everything, this didn't initially sit well. However, since Covid it has not been wise to spend extra time at school - sanitise and get out became my mantra!”

He says it’s helped him evolve as a teacher as focusing on his wellbeing helps him focus on his tamariki and their wellbeing.

“I don't sweat the small stuff (as much) anymore. Putting in hours and hours to make an event 'perfect' when it might not even happen became disheartening very quickly.”

“Trusting in my instincts as an experienced teacher, relying on the tried and true and using the work produced by the class to create our next activity or point of focus means I am far more present with them than when I was forever inventing the 'best' lesson I could.”

Carl’s advice to other schools thinking about starting the whole school approach to wellbeing journey is to jump on board!

“If the staff and students feel happy, valued and safe, there is no limit to what they will be prepared to do for themselves and the greater school community.”