Te Totara Primary School - Growing and Learning Together

 Pause, Breathe, Smile Programme


We all want our children to thrive at school - to learn well, pay attention, make friends and develop the skills they'll need to navigate life and grow to be thriving, happy adults. As we know, modern childhood comes with increasing pressures on children to perform and achieve, while at the same time new technologies, games, advertising and the pace of modern life all compete for their attention. 

Pause, Breathe, Smile programme is New Zealand's only locally developed and researched eight-week mindfulness in schools course designed in 2013 for Year 2-8 learners. It aligns with the New Zealand Education Curriculum and was developed by the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand. We have had Sally Mowbray trained as a Pause, Breathe, Smile Educator and she has gained certification to teach this programme across the school.

Pause, Breather Smile, Programme aligns with the New Zealand Curriculum in the following ways:

1. Key Competencies: Mindfulness brings an experiential element to learning which foster the key competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum as outlines below:

  • Independent Thinking

Mindfulness has been shown to increase creativity and independent thinking, and leads to improved knowledge retention.

  • Using language, Symbols & Texts

Mindfulness helps students learn how to use language to improve their wellbeing and their relationships with others. It promotes self-reflection, helps students to learn new ways of describing experiences and improves emotional literacy.

  • Relating to Others

Mindfulness helps students learn to be less judgmental toward themselves and others, and fosters positive relationships. 

  • Managing Self

Mindfulness cultivates self-awareness and self-regulation. This allows students to manage themselves better by choosing their behaviours based on mindful attentiveness rather than reacting impulsively.

  • Participating & Contributing

Mindfulness develops empathy and compassion, making it easier for students to connect with others.

2. Learning Areas: The Health and Physical Education, Social Sciences and Science learning areas are clearly linked with each lesson of Pause, Breathe, Smile.

3.Te Whare Tapa Wha: An eloquent model of Hauora (holistic wellbeing) from a Maori Perspective is incorporated within Pause, Breath, Smile.


Pause, Breathe, Smile is a programme run by the Mindfulness Education Group to teach young New Zealanders mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practise of bringing our full attention to what is occuring in each moment with kindness and curiosity, and then learning to choose our behaviours more consciously. It is proven to be effective for reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, and is actively promoted by major institutions including Harvard School of Medicine and Oxford University.  

Mindfulness has been shown to provide children with the opportunity to develop focused attention and build awareness, which in turn enhances their academic potential. A review of research shows that when taught to children mindfulness boosts cognitive performance and builds resilience. Some studies have shown that mindfulness contibutes to positive brain changes which support the many well-being benefits observed.

Teaching mindfulness to children improves focus for better learning outcomes, increases kindness and empathy and helps create a calmer classroom. It's really valuable to be able to teach our children and young people how to manage stress, pay attention, and be resilient in the face of some of the tougher challenges life throws at them. Mindfulness gives children skills that will help them thrive now and in the future. Being able to do something as simple as Pause, Breathe and Smile, when we are under stress or needing to make a decision, is a great life skill. 

Across eight lessons, students will learn a range of topics and mindfulness practises such as mindful breathing, mindful eating and mindful moving, and all lessons cover themes underpinned by the latest wellbeing science.

The Mindfulness Education Group wants to see a reduction in mental distress and an increase in mental wellbeing of all New Zealanders. By teaching children how to pay attention, instead of simply asking them to do so, we enable children to take greater notice of the world around them, to be kinder to themselves and to others, to learn better, and to notice how their actions impact on their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. By introducing simple mindfulness skills to children, we can work to prevent depression and anxiety for our young people, and invest in their potential for a future as healthy, happy adults. 

These Pause, Breathe, Smile lessons have been taught to our year 2 - 6 Students over 2018. The impact of these lessons on our students has been amazing. Not only have our teachers and students strengthened their ability to enjoy the present and use mindful breathing during times of anxiety, they have adapted mindful breathing, walking and eating into their day to day life. One big impact mindfulness has had has been in terms of individual learning. Many children have shared with us that they use mindful breathing prior to tests and assessments and their results have showed outstanding improvements. 


 Parental Feedback

"I just wanted to say how pleased I was to receive a letter regarding the 'Pause Breathe Smile' programme and wanted to congratulate the school on taking proactive and positive steps to address mental wellbeing for our children. I also really appreciated the discussion around holistic benefits of cross country in the newsletter (linking in the physical, mental and social wellbeing advantages of the activities our children participate in). I am really encouraged to see the well rounded approach to learning and wellbeing at Te Totara and the positive impact it will, no doubt, have for our children as they grow. Keep up the good work and please pass on my thanks to Sally Mowbray and all the others involved in the work" 


"I am so grateful that the school is teaching Mindfulness because both my girls are very anxious and one of my daughters has talked about the programme at home which has opened up a lot of discussion around around this and what to do. I have noticed a huge improvement with coping with stressful situations and I can't thank you enough."


"My daughter has for the first time ever gone off to friends house for a sleepover which is huge for her (High Anxiety). So whatever you are doing it has worked for her"


"I am so thrilled with my daughters progress. The programme has been absolutely amazing for my daughter who has been a very anxious child. She has said to me that she is no longer going to say she is no good at soccer that instead she is going to say she is learning new skills in soccer and that she was going to create a new neural pathway. I can't thank you enough for what the programme has done for my child, she practices the breathing at home and it has helped her cope better."


"When my daughter started showing signs of anxiety at the age of 10, I wished I could stop the overwhelming feelings she was experiencing. Thankfully her school had recently implemented the PBSmile Program and I had somewhere to turn. Sally's teachings have given my daughter easy, fun coping mechanisms and strategies which she now implements when feelings of anxiety start. She is more confident in her ability to control her mind and her positivity towards life and herself has increased. I am so grateful that she had the opportunity to take part in the program and for the extra help she received from Sally outside of the classroom"

Student Feedback 

Enjoy this video from Room 22 sharing their experience of the Pause, Breathe, Smile programme at a school assembly.