Trauma Informed Approach

There are things we can all do to support our own mental wellbeing, but places like schools, work and community groups also have an important role to play. Henry Hill School in Napier are doing some amazing activities that are focused on supporting the mental wellbeing of students.


Classes at Henry Hill School also start each day with yoga, giving the students skills and strategies to help them be calm, centred, and regulate themselves across various situations and scenarios outside of school.


Connecting with nature is a simple action that anyone can do to help improve their wellbeing.

Keep up the great work Henry Hill School.'

- Ministry Of Health


Te Āhuru Mōwai


NZ's top Neuroscience/Brain Development & Child Development/Parenting Expert Nathan Wallis with some of our #CanTeam outside Te Āhuru Mōwai

Such a privilege to see and inspiring to see what I talk about put into practice! I’m always being asked for examples of where the research I talk about is put into practice - so here is one in Napier that I recently visited - Henry Hill School.

Principal Jason Williams is a pioneering, passionate and positive leader. The school's tranquility garden is named Te Āhuru Mōwai (Peaceful Paradise) but this really describes the whole school! Although recently devastated by floods, the resilience developed in a trauma informed and research based curriculum has shone through, with lots of vibrant, intelligent and articulate young people showing me proudly through their environment.

A special mihi to the leader Nikora who lead everyone through the beginning mindfulness exercise we began with. And true to form - what happens when a school focuses more on wellbeing than academic advancement?? When they did last have National Standards they were amongst the best in the region! It’s not wellbeing INSTEAD of academics, it’s understanding wellbeing is the birthplace of academics!

Thanks Henry Hill School for such a warm feeling of manaaki. Nga mihi aroha ki a Jason, ratou ko Lisa, ko Sam, me nga tamariki katoa o Te Kura Henry Hill!!

- NZ's top Neuroscience/Brain Development & Child Development/Parenting Expert - Nathan Wallis

Our Approach

For many of our #CanKidz school is the safe place in their lives and thus we’ve worked incredibly hard to provide a socio- emotional and physically safe learning environment for all! It starts with our #CanTeam. We are proud of the diversity amongst our team - people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds.


We’ve set the scene for our #CanTeam to truly be themselves and in return our #CanKidz feel comfortable to be themselves.


The connections between our #CanTeam and our #CanKidz are unmatched anywhere!

We provide an inclusive environment in which learning is set, seen, and viewed as authentic and organic, and real life issues of conflict and diversity provide opportunities to learn so that our #CanKidz can become true global citizens. This is achieved through the Hidden Elements component of our Experience Based Learning approach.

Through our #CanCommunityDays initiative we’ve opened the lid on learning and invited our whānau, aiga, and family in to take part in hands-on and digital learning experiences. Our #CanCommunity are on board and invested in their kid’s learning!

We are wanting to build and develop not only the academic and social intelligence, but also the emotional intelligence of our #CanKidz. Our #CanKidz come from a variety of homes: some with the same values as school, some with similar values as school, some with different values than we have at school.


Through self-review, visits to other schools, professional development sessions, and through discussions with experts in social and emotional learning, we decided to make some changes to the way we do things here to better support our #CanKidz and #CanCommunity.

We’ve made changes to our school’s physical environment and the culture of our school.


We removed the school bell siren to remove anxieties around this alarming noise and have instead encouraged our #CanKidz to develop their self-management skills and time-management skills, which has resulted in a more calming environment where kids move around the school calmly and quietly as opposed to when the school bell would ring, which resulted in chaotic social contagion and a herd of kids running from activity to activity, or playground to classroom.

We eat with our kids at the end of the morning tea and lunch break creating a culture of relational regulation where kids interact with each other and us in a calm and informal manner.


An outdoor learning area has been established outside Room 9, 10 & 11 which provides a calming outdoor space for #CanKidz to learn amongst native plants and gardens.


Across from this space we’ve added raised garden beds which grow vegetables and fruit and all classrooms now have both indoor and outdoor plants to care for.


This is helping to build one of our school values: Responsibility and also an understanding of empathy.


Designated quiet zones in this area have been established during morning tea and lunchtimes where #CanKidz can go to interact with other #CanKidz in a more quiet and tranquil setting, away from others who wish to indulge in more physical activities, e.g. sport, tag games, etc.

We’ve built a Sensory Space - Te Āhuru Mōwai - next to Room 1 and across from the gym. This space includes lots of sensory based elements to engage the senses in a peaceful and tranquil setting but also a sensation pathway which takes kids and adults on a barefoot journey across many different textured surfaces.


Our physical environment has also been well thought out. Classroom learning environments are conducive to quality learning with flexible seating and tables, and wall displays that scaffold and inspire learning.

Our outdoor learning environment provides opportunities for our #CanKidz to explore, build and create, plenty of space to run around and compete in through sport and games, environmentally sustainable maara kai and recycling areas.

Changes have been made to our curriculum and classroom programmes. Every class begins the day with a short session of breathing, meditation, yoga as a way to regulate our #CanKidz and #CanTeam before we start any type of school based learning at the beginning of each day.


As well as a way to regulate it also provides an opportunity reconnect for #CanKidz and their Learning Facilitator / Learning Support Facilitators.


After this we recite our school karakia. This karakia has no religious connotation to it and is instead based around being thankful for what we have in life.

But most importantly we’ve made changes to the way we think and respond to the developmental, social and emotional needs of our #CanKidz and #CanCommunity.

We have focussed on Hauora - Mental Health & Well-Being through a Trauma Informed Practice lens as a #CanTeam for Professional Development and this helped to change and mould our thinking.


We now think about our #CanKidz in a more holistic manner - in particular looking at the stage and then the state - which has helped us with class placements and in providing more timely interventions and support for our most vulnerable learners.

In some cases this has meant that some #CanKidz are not placed in classrooms with their chronological age peers, but instead with learners who better match their development, social and emotional stage and state.

A Trauma Informed Approach has been adopted and we apply our knowledge of many Neuroscience and Brain Development approaches when planning programmes of learning and supporting, scaffolding, buffering the socio-emotional needs of our #CanKidz.