Our Children Summer 2022

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Halifax’s Family Magazine ourchildrenmagazine.ca Summer 2022

The party is back! The pandemic changed the way kids celebrate birthdays, but it’s still all about having fun

Healthy party snacks

Funny Pages book festival

Understanding pronouns


Summer 2022



A gateway to reading


Funny Pages book festival at the Halifax Central Library

DEPARTMENTS Editor’s note

5 Finding the right book

First Bell


7 What to see and do in Halifax

Family 12 It’s a pandemic and I’ll party if I want to (safely, of course)

Nutrition 15 Birthday party snacks can be awesome, and healthy

A Different Rooute Trail Tales 18 The Big Water Hike


17 Let’s play outside

Understanding pronouns Helping the 2SLGBTQIA+teen community better express its identity


On our cover Claire Mulford and her friends celebrate at the Discovery Centre in Halifax. Photo by Steve Smith, VisionFire Publisher

Fred Fiander

Editor in Chief

Crystal Murray

Senior Editors

Trevor J. Adams

Lori McKay Contributing Editors

Jodi DeLong

Janet Whitman Senior Director Creative Design and Production Designers

Shawn Dalton Roxanna Boers

Rachel Lloyd Andrezza Nascimento Production Coordinator Nicole McNeil Production and Design Assistant

Kathleen Hoang

Printing Advocate Printing & Publishing Contributors Lindsey Bunin, Andrew Farrell, Trish Joudrey, Karen Kerr, Fawn Logan-Young, Bruce Murray, Steve Smith, Ameeta Vohra

For advertising and editorial enquiries: Tel. 902-420-9943 / Fax 902-429-9058 publishers@metroguide.ca 2882 Gottingen St. Halifax, Nova Scotia B3K 3E2 metroguidepublishing.ca ourchildrenmagazine.ca Subscriptions 1-833-600-2870 circulation@metroguide.ca No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the publisher. Return undeliverable addresses to Metro Guide Publishing at the address above.

Our Children is a Metro Guide publication.




Finding the right book A love of reading doesn’t always come naturally; sometimes kids need a little help

Lori McKay, Editor

Our Children Magazine

@OurChildrenMag www




Books are more than entertainment. In this issue, we look at titles that focus on helping www

the 2SLGBTQIA+ teen community www better express its identity.


s a parent and book lover, I find it frustrating that my 17-year-old son refuses to read. When he and his sister were little, my husband or I would read them a bedtime story every night, as many parents do. Both kids loved it, but they had different interests. She enjoyed books about princesses, but also stuff that was a bit dark. Coraline by Neil Gaiman was her absolute favourite around age 9. He liked stories that made him laugh. We would read the Sandra Boynton books repeatedly. When he was 10, we read the Bone graphic novels and we both loved author Jeff Smith’s strange, funny world. When the kids reached the tween years, the time when they would normally be starting to read on their own, both lost interest. My daughter, now 19, found her love of reading again in an unexpected way. Due to a zip-lining mishap in Grade 6, she ended up with a concussion and unable to have screen time for a week. I took the opportunity to introduce her to audiobooks. With nothing to do but rest, she listened to audiobook after audiobook. First, there was Cinder by Marissa Meyer and then Graceling by Kristin Cashore. She wanted more. Once she was better, she started picking up books and devoured the Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare. She’s still an avid reader. My son has yet to find his hook. I’m a firm believer in the J.K. Rowling quote: “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” So, I keep trying. Spy books. Mysteries. Fantasy. Nothing grabs his attention. When he

was forced to read a book in Grade 8 for class, I gave him my copy of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. He loved it and talked about it for days. I heard him laughing in his room on countless occasions. Although he says he’s read other books for school, I suspect Alexie’s might be the only novel he has read cover to cover. Perhaps funny books are the key. This is why I love the idea of the Funny Pages Festival. As event organizer Vicki Grant says, “Not all kids love books, but all kids love to laugh.” Held at the Halifax Central Library in April, the festival offered an opportunity for kids to find stories that appealed to them. They were also introduced to some fabulous local authors. See Ameeta Vohra’s story “A gateway to reading” on page 8. Books are more than entertainment. In this issue, we look at titles that focus on helping the 2SLGBTQIA+ teen community better express its identity. See Lindsey Bunin’s story “Understanding pronouns” on page 20. This is my first issue as editor of this wonderful parenting magazine, and I hope you enjoy it. Please reach out if you have story or column ideas for future issues. Enjoy!

Lori McKay

Halifax County Exhibition “IT’S A FAMILY TRADITION” 190 Exhibition Grounds Road

August 17th – 20th , 2022

Summer Ever After Join the TD Summer Reading Club at Halifax Public Libraries and set off on an epic adventure, fairytale, or mystery of your own design. This free Club is all about moving at your own pace, setting goals, and winning fun prizes along the way! And, it’s about more than just books—kids earn points for any activity that exercises their minds.

Want to have a family fun experience this summer? Come visit us in Middle Musquodoboit for 4 fun-filled days of excitement and great entertainment. Learn about farming through our Agricultural Awareness activities, take part in our children’s games, check out the Midway for some exciting rides, and see the many horse and cattle competitions and displays. Enjoy tasty treats and make new friends. There is lots to see and do at the Halifax County Exhibition. Wednesday is Children’s Day, age 12 and under are free.

www.halifaxcountyex.com 902 384-2894

Registration opens in mid-June at all branches and online. Learn more about points and prizes at halifaxpubliclibraries.ca/src or by visiting your local branch. Scan the QR code below for more info!

Also coming up this summer…

At the Museum of Natural History

Halifax Pride Festival

Halifax Busker Festival With hundreds of shows over six days, the festival highlights performances on multiple stages. July 27 – Aug. 1, Halifax Waterfront buskers.ca


June Nature Zone


An annual 11-day gathering for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, the Halifax Pride Festival features more than 150 community and Pride-organized events celebrating the history, culture, activism and perseverance of the queer community. July 14 – July 24, Garrison Grounds halifaxpride.com

Learn what unique specimens have been found throughout Nova Scotia. Check out how fossils and sink holes form, and the difference between a mastodon and a mammoth. Nature Zone 2022 will run weekday mornings from June 6 to 17. Schools must prebook their visit.

Gus celebrates 100 years The Museum of Natural History’s famous Gopher Tortoise, Gus, will be turning 100 this year. Gus was born in Florida and raised at the Ross Allen Reptile Institute in Silver Springs. He was purchased by the director of the Nova Scotia Provincial Museum for $5 in 1942. The museum will pay tribute to Gus’s milestone birthday throughout the year with a special celebratory event in August. naturalhistory.novascotia.ca

June 25-July 2, 2022 nstattoo.ca


FREE! . ns apply Conditio

Scan for tickets and more info!



Our Children | Summer 2022




Our Children | Summer 2022

A gateway to

READING ‘Not all kids love to read, but all kids love to laugh’ By Ameeta Vohra Photos by Steve Smith/VisionFire


aughter filled the air at the Halifax Central Library this spring, and it was long overdue. Initially slated for 2020, the two-day Funny Pages Book Festival was held April 22 and 23, with hundreds of kids enjoying author presentations, comedy workshops and book-signings. Festival organizer Vicki Grant says the idea for the event came to her while attending a book-related event in Ontario. She realized that while many books are wonderful, some are too serious. Plus, children often face reading challenges such as dyslexia, or they simply don’t have the opportunity to read much at home and therefore can’t read at their grade level. “I had this idea that not all kids love to read, but all kids love to laugh,” says Grant, who is also the author of a number of awardwinning novels for kids and teens.

“ Our goal was for teachers and students to have a great time at the festival and leave thinking, ‘I want to read more books.’” – Vicki Grant

“I thought there really should be a festival about funny books because they will appeal to the really good readers, plus those who maybe aren’t readers at all. A funny book could be the gateway to reading for them.” The event was a huge success, with participating authors such as Angela Misri, Richard Scrimger, Wade Albert White, Odette Barr, Natasha Dean, Kate Beaton, Sheree Fitch, James Leck and Steve Vernon. “Our goal was for teachers and students to have a great time at the festival and leave thinking, ‘I want to read more books,’” says Grant. “The other thing we wanted to do was promote Canadian authors. We have a lot of fabulous authors who write very funny books. We wanted this festival to be a place where they could showcase their talents and reach a wider audience.” Getting children to read and engage with books can be hard. Grant says parents can approach it by ensuring the book topic is relevant, yet interesting, and eliminating obstacles to reading. “Twenty, 30, 40 years ago, if you had a kid who was a reluctant or a struggling reader, they would be given a book that was at their reading level, but not their interest level,” says Grant. “That could be humiliating for the kids. Now, I think there’s an understanding that kids learn to read at different times and are reading at different levels. It’s important to focus the reading material on their age level and interests. If you’re a struggling reader and given a book full of paragraph-long sentences, big words that you’ve never heard before and long chapters, it makes reading seem harder than it has to be.” Heather Doepner, the Central Library’s programming and community engagement lead, encourages parents to experiment with various books.



FUNNY BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS • Pickles vs. the Zombies, Trip of the Dead and ValHamster by Angela Misri • Zomboy, Irresistible, and Into the Ravine by Richard Scrimger • The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes, The Adventurer’s Guide to Dragons (and Why They Keep Biting Me), and The Adventurer’s Guide to Treasure (and How to Steal It) by Wade Albert White • Follow the Goose Butt, Camelia Airheart, Follow the Goose Butt to Nova Scotia, and Take Off to Tantramar by Odette Barr • Lark Holds the Key, Across the Floor, and In the Key of Nira Ghani by Natasha Deen • The Princess and the Pony, King Baby by Kate Beaton • Sing in the Spring, If You Could Wear My Sneakers, and Toes in My Nose by Sheree Fitch • Where the Ghosts Are: A Guide to Nova Scotia’s Spookiest Places, Maritime Monsters: A Field Guide, Sinking Deeper: Or, My Questionable (Possibly Heroic) Decision to Invent a Sea Monster, by Steve Vernon

READ-ALONG BOOKS The library has a new book format called ReadAlong Book with Audio Player with two brand names, Wonderbook and Fox Books. “The cool thing about this kind of book is that it has a player built into the book’s cover,” says Heather Doepner of the Halifax Central Library. “It has a little MP3 player glued in there; it never comes out. The library charges the book once in a while, but it plays a 100 times before it needs recharging.” She says it is becoming popular because it offers children of all ages some independence. If a child is a pre-reader or struggling, they can be independent and choose a story without having to wait for someone to pick it out and read to them.



Our Children | Summer 2022

“Try a little nonfiction, something super easy,” says Doepner. “Also, try to have a little time set aside each day to read together. Many families do it at bedtime, but any time of day when you want to slow down for a few minutes is great. That works especially well for little kids, and it builds a good reading habit for the family to keep reading together through the years.” With older children, Doepner suggests parents bring them to the library so they can pick out books they are interested in, as the library has an extensive collection in all topics. She also recommends they pick up a few magazines, as they might spark some interest with older kids and teens. “That’s something I do in my own family; I have a little stack of magazines on the breakfast table,” she says. “Sometimes they reach over and grab something. Or, if I comment on it, then they might pick it up. In the summer, I borrow novels and leave them propped up on the steps going upstairs to the bedroom.” Now that government has ended COVID-19 restrictions, Doepner says the library is ramping up programming. The branch hopes it will engage more young readers to enjoy books of all kinds. “We encourage people to get to know what the Halifax Public Libraries offers for kids, and come to visit, play and try out a program,” she says. “It’s a great way to get involved in reading for the summer. We have nice things to play with when families visit, and lots of new books.”

SUMMER READING CLUB The popular Summer Reading Club will return to the Halifax Public Libraries at the end of June. Parents can visit one of the library branches to sign up their children for this free club. When registered, kids make a goal of how many points they’d like to accumulate through the summer. There are several ways to earn points, including visiting or attending a library program, reading a book, reading to someone else or having someone read to them. Even going to a museum or writing a story will earn points. There’s an option for every reader and pre-reader.


One Summer in Whitney Pier

Wild Ghost Chase

Spirit of Summerwood

Words by Theresa Meuse; Art by Jessica Jerome Indigenous Knowledge Series

The Honourable Mayann Francis Art by Tamara Thiebaux-Heikalo

Deborah Toogood

Vivien Gorham

Picture book | Ages 4–7

Picture book | Ages 4–9

Middle grade fiction | Ages 8–12

Middle-grade fiction | Ages 8–12

“I’m impressed that this camp offers something that presumes the natural inquisitiveness of kids and empowers them” “A transformative week - especially for a beginner” “Our son came home every day excited to explain what he had learned” “A venue where their intelligence is encouraged in a fun way”


8 - 12 / 15 - 19 ARMBRAE ACADEMY




Our Children | Summer 2022

It’s a pandemic and I’ll party if I want to (safely, of course) Families find a new normal in all routines, including birthdays By Lindsey Bunin Photography by Steve Smith/VisionFire


lowing out the candles atop the cake is just one of many birthday party traditions that went by the wayside over the past two years. As the pandemic evolved, so did creative ways of celebrating birthdays. Drive-by parades of honking friends and family turned into small gatherings outdoors. Eventually, as government relaxed public health protections, outings like hotel stays and trips to the movie theatre resumed. But will we ever get back to the days of inviting the entire Primary class over for

cake and pin the tail on the donkey? Some parents lamented having to plan COVID-19 birthdays while others breathed a huge sigh of relief. Dartmouth mom Jodie Mulford has done her best to take the changes in stride. “I loved the traditional parties,” says Mulford. “The ones at home are more personal. You get to invite your friends to your home, and they get to see where you live, your room and meet your family. Those parties also include more one-onone time, as opposed to, say, at a pool or

indoor playground. When you have a party in a public place, you are surrounded by other people who aren’t at your party.” Mulford thinks the loss of traditional parties will affect kids in many ways. “I think the biggest impact is losing their basic social skills, like the ability to walk onto a playground and just begin to play with another kid they’ve just met,” she says. The blended family of four (Mulford, husband Alex, 17-year-old Jacqueline and seven-year-old Claire) kept the good times

13 going throughout the pandemic with parties tailored to each stage of restriction. “Last year, Claire wanted to have a glow-in-the-dark dance party,” she recalls. “We let her invite 11 guests in total. Then there was a spike in cases and new restrictions were put into place, which meant she couldn’t invite everyone, so we decided to divide her party into two separate weekends. She had friends from her school bubble and then friends from her social bubble. “I miss how much easier it was to coordinate having people come over. Your RSVPs are never 100 per cent anymore because as soon as someone has a sniffle, that’s it, they are most likely not coming to your party.”

COVID also affected popular party venues. Jennifer Punch is director of marketing and sales at the Discovery Centre in Halifax. Once a popular birthday party destination, the venue had to put celebrations on hold. Given the target audience for Discovery Centre — primarily families with young children — they took a very cautious approach to reopening the facility, including adjusting hours for extra cleaning, limiting capacity, instituting online ticketing and delaying restarting special events, which includes birthday parties. They plan to be open again for parties in the summer. “Since we are a science centre, we took the opportunity to create demos

to educate children on germs and virus transmission and what they can do to protect themselves during a pandemic or a regular flu season,” says Punch. She adds it will take time for birthday parties to reach the pre-pandemic popularity, but once the weather shifts in the fall, she hopes for a return to normal. Despite the challenges, Mulford, like most parents, aims to keep her celebrations joyful. “I always felt the cake was the centrepiece of any birthday, when the lights went out and everyone would begin singing … the excitement of trying to blow out all the candles and seeing what kind of cake was inside,” Mulford says. That special moment has not been lost in her household. To make the cake feel special, even though blowing out candles became a pandemic no-no, Mulford now opts for sparklers to adorn the top instead. While parents may exercise a new level of caution, one special tradition remains: families will do all they can to ensure their kids’ birthday wishes come true.

Open Daily at 10am Aylesford, NS Birthday party destinations such as the Discovery Centre are opening again for celebrations.

902-341-2001 oaklawnfarmzoo.ca



Our Children | Summer 2022

Recipes by Halifax chef Andrew Farrell

Chocolate Zucchini Cake INGREDIENTS 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 cup cocoa 2 1/2 tsp baking soda 1 tsp cinnamon 3/4 cup butter 1 tsp salt 1 1/2 cups sugar 3 eggs 2 tsp vanilla 2 cups grated peeled zucchini 1 cup chocolate chips INSTRUCTIONS (FOR ONE CAKE) Preheat oven to 350°F and grease an 8” cake pan. Next, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a bowl and whisk together. Cream sugar and butter together. When fully combined, add eggs one at a time, then zucchini and remaining wet ingredients. Add in dry ingredients and mix together. Add mix to cake pan and bake for 60–70 minutes. When cooked (a cake tester or toothpick pulls out clean), allow to cool for 10 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Ruby Rhubarb Syrup INGREDIENTS 4 cups rhubarb, chopped 1/2 cup white sugar 1/2 cup honey 2 cups water

Pepperoni Pizza Pinwheels For recipe, visit our website: ourchildrenmagazine.ca

INSTRUCTIONS Combine the rhubarb, sugar, honey and water in a heavybottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is soft and the liquid is pink. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 10–15 minutes. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl and pour the rhubarb through the strainer until most of the liquid is in the bowl. Press the solids gently to get as much liquid out as possible. The leftover solids make a great spread. Pour the syrup into a clean bottle, allow to cool and cover. The syrup will keep for weeks if refrigerated. Combine syrup with soda water and ice cubes to taste for a sparkling and refreshing drink!


Our Children | Summer 2022


Birthday party snacks can be awesome, and healthy PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NOVA SCOTIA GRAZING CO.

Five ways to reduce the sugar spirals and keep the party hopping

By Karen Kerr, registered holistic nutritional consultant


ids love their birthdays. My daughter starts planning her party months in advance. In a child’s little lifetime, it’s a big deal and worth the time and energy it takes us to plan, organize, shop, set up, survive, send home, clean up and collapse. Food can be the trickiest part. You may have guests with food allergies and intolerances, plus picky eaters. And the biggest question is always: how much sugar is too much? I have a firm stance that there is nothing wrong with cake. I was raised by a professional cake decorator and my daughter’s one request each year is to use “Nanny’s buttercream icing.” So, with cake being a given, I try to avoid sugar in the other foods I serve. Here are five ways to reduce the sugar spirals and keep the party hopping. Depending on age and size, most kids’ sugar intake should not exceed 20 to 30 grams per day (average for one slice of cake). 1. Plan an afternoon party. This allows you to avoid providing a whole extra meal. A common party food is pizza, but even one slice of pepperoni pizza has five grams of sugar. I like a party where there is something active being done, whether it’s an outside game or indoor play park. Get the kids engaged and moving. 2. Avoid the liquid sugar. Have a few jugs of water on the table. Kids don’t need juice or pop. One juice box can contain 18 grams of sugar and most pop has around 25 to 38 grams per can. If you serve cake with a juice box you are essentially serving each kid two slices of cake, which is just too much. 3. Place a vegetable plate out before you serve anything else. I find if you put healthy options out and make it look yummy, they will happily eat it — especially if the kids have been running around with an activity. If you want the convenience of not making one yourself, I love the quality of Nova Scotia Grazing Co. 4. Look for healthier options. There are some wonderful local places that specialize in making delicious and nutritious

cakes. From gluten-free, vegan or no-refined-sugar options, you can find what you are looking for. After my daughter started inviting a friend with celiac disease, I always bought a gluten-free cake. You don’t want a child to feel singled out over a medical condition. 5. Remove the candy from the take home bags. I don’t know who started this tradition, but I personally think they are unnecessary. (But yes, I’ve had them for each of my daughter’s parties because no one wants to be that parent!) But art supplies, little toys or books are great alternative choices.

A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE LOCAL BAKERIES: North End Baking Co. northendbaking.com Schoolhouse Gluten-Free Gourmet schoolhouseglutenfreegourmet.com Wild Leek (vegan restaurant) wildleek.ca Truly Scrumptious trulyscrumptiouspastry.com Odell’s Gluten Free Bakery & Cafe (odellsgfcafe.com) Susie’s Shortbread (susiesshortbreads.com)


2 1 P s e d a r g r o f s p m a ight c tion at egistra easy online rsidecamp.org www.bay 68.CAMP or call 902.8


Our Children | Summer 2022


Book your next playdate with nature

By Fawn Logan-Young


his summer, I’m challenging parents to take their kids’ COVID-safe playdates outside. Spending time outdoors has many benefits. Research shows that outdoor play helps children develop muscle strength, build self-confidence and learn

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN PLANNING AN OUTSIDE EVENT 1. Ages: Plan activities that are age appropriate 2. Location: Is this taking place in your yard or a public space? If the space is public, do you need permission? 3. Participants: How much supervision do you have? Is the event for both parents and children? Are the activities safe and OK with other parents? 4. Respect the environment: Explain to participants that they mustn’t disturb nature that is alive and off trail. Leaving no trace is a good practice 5. Backup plan: Rain happens. Plan a backup date or use the weather to your advantage, such as hosting a rain puddle stomping party Activities can be as intricate or as simple as you would like. If you’re interested in planning your own outdoor event, connect with other parents regarding your ideas. You never know what others can contribute.

problem-solving skills, not to mention one of parents’ favourite benefits: kids are sleepier at bedtime. I recommend picking up the book Forest School Adventure – Outdoor Skills and Play for Children by Naomi Walmsley and Dan Westall. This wonderful British book contains basic outdoor knowledge and activities classified by age group. Here are some activities you could consider: 1. Mini survivalist/bushcrafter – Spend an afternoon learning basic outdoor skills. Some activities could include: • Learning about shelters and dens: A frame, baker’s tarp, lean-to, etc. • Basics of fire making: Learning basic safety tips, sourcing materials, how to start the fire and how to maintain it. • Fire cooking: There are many ways to get creative with campfire foods. This can be as intricate or simple as you like, such as s’mores or cinnamon bun firesticks. 2. Tiny fantasy world creation – Imagine you are shrunk down to the size of a mouse. Now, that tiny mushroom in

the grass is as big as a house. What would your world look like and how would you customize it with what you have around you? Kids can build 3D maps of their worlds, accompanied by digging mini dens and villages using strictly what is available around them (sticks, rocks, clay, etc.). As children develop their worlds, the backstories often come naturally. 3. Amazing race – You can plan threeto-five mini games/puzzles to be completed by teams to determine the winner (could be parents and children, or two children depending on age and ability). As on the TV show The Amazing Race, each completion of a task leads to another clue that brings participants close to the finish line. An example of a challenge would be “name that tree.” Figure out the names of trees around the area. Have the names written out and ask participants to match the tree names with the right tree. If tree diversity is limited, get creative with other plants and shrubs. Apps like iNaturalist are great to use if you don’t know how to identify the plants in your area.

ArtWorks is an all-ages art studio in Halifax, offering classes, camps, parties and workshops.



‘Let’s play outside!’




Our Children | Summer 2022

‘The big water hike’ Walking the Pipeline Trail Loop Story and photography by Trish Joudrey

Jill Mosher and 10-year-old daughter Emma.


family adventure means something different for everyone. For some it can be exploring a new trail, climbing over rugged terrain or identifying birds along Nova Scotia’s coastline. For one Dartmouth family, it’s walking the urban wilderness Pipeline Trail just a 15-minute drive outside Halifax. The Pipeline Trail holds a special storybook charm for Jill Mosher and her 10-year-old daughter Emma. It’s here where Emma skips through the woods imagining herself in fanciful places, creates names for spots along the trail like Bridge of Doom, or plays limbo under a fallen tree trunk. She has names for everything, even the trail. “I call it the Big Water Hike,” she says with a laugh. “There’s water everywhere. There’s a brook we follow all the way to a huge lake called Long Lake, and lots of waterfalls too. There’s even water on the paths. I love water and I love going outside. That’s why I love this trail so much.” Jill nods in agreement. “She’s a fish. The water in the brook dries up in the summer months so if you are anything like Emma, you’d better come between April and June to see the water raging and the flowing waterfalls.” I had never walked the Pipeline Trail before so when Jill initially said, “We’ll meet you by Exhibition Park,” my curiosity was piqued. I had never seen a sign at this location marking an entrance to a trail. After meeting in the parking lot, we head off across an open field to the edge of a forest where a wide foot path guides us through the trees.

Emma races ahead, obviously very much at home in the woods. This 3.5-km section of the Pipeline Trail is part of a larger system of trails around many lakes and ponds in the Long Lake Provincial Park designation. Categorized as an urban wilderness trail, it is largely unmarked and unmaintained, making today’s adventure even more exciting. Emma leads the way, soon veering off the main path onto a smaller mossy track over slippery roots and rocky outcroppings. “How do you know where you’re going?” I ask, noticing there are many such meandering footpaths in the woods around us, and no signposts. “Easy,” says Emma. “I just follow the river.” Sure enough, to our right is a fast-flowing river tumbling rapidly over rocks and broken branches. Emma takes us to the edge of the water where she can’t wait to test out her high rubber boots. She watches the foam swirl around her boots, making images on the water before it rushes past her on its way downstream to Long Lake. We pick our way along the water’s edge when Emma stops and faces us. “That’s the Bridge of Doom,” she says, pointing to a suspended wooden-slat bridge across the river. “It’s only held up by that one log underneath it. See? What if it breaks?” We chuckle. But that doesn’t deter Emma. Once she reaches the bridge, she’s over it and back in a flash. Our first sighting of other hikers comes soon after the bridge. They were carrying a large foam crash pad.




1. Choose a trail with a varied terrain to maintain everyone’s interest. Look for flat, hilly, boulders, fields and shorelines. 2. Before you leave, agree on a scenic destination point about mid-way to enjoy a rest and a healthy, energizing snack. 3. Involve kids in the planning of the hike. They will be more invested in the walk if they know what to look for, including route signs, landmarks, features of the trail and trees to identify. Alltrails.com and Hikenovascotia.wordpress.com have comprehensive information and maps on local trails. 4. Pack a bag for collectables. Kids love to hunt for treasures such as unusually shaped or coloured rocks, different mosses or leaves and bark they can identify.

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“Were you climbing?” Emma asks. “Yes,” they tell us. “There’s a great spot ahead — a large rockface up the river that we like to climb up.” After we say our goodbyes, I realize the Pipeline Trail holds an appeal to a diverse population of people — walkers, nature lovers, climbers, as well as water fans. The path leads on between boulders and over swampy areas, where we hop from rock to rock and from high ground to high ground. Except Emma. She sloshes straight through with her rubber boots. Her mom cautions her to be careful and slow down when she can see the lake. When we catch up to her, I see the serene expanse of Long Lake before us. The 3-km lake has a thin mist over it: a magical setting. We’re the only people in this idyllic place. Emma wades along the sandy shoreline, hunting for treasures. It’s too cold to swim, so we rest and pitch rocks into the water. Emma never seems to tire. “She can go for hours,” says Jill. “We’ve been hiking since she was four or five years old, so now she’s an avid hiker. Once, she hiked for eight hours straight.” On the way back, we follow another trail that leads slightly away and uphill from the river, a new scenic loop back to our starting point. On the way, we see how many different trees we can identify: balsam fir, red spruce, hemlock, maple, birch. We stay on the worn tracks so as not to contribute to the lean soil erosion that exposes the already fragile root system. Our two-hour adventure has invigorated us. We have seen many waterfalls cascading over boulders in the river, walked across the Bridge of Doom and rested on the shore of one of the area’s most beautiful lakes. Most importantly, we enjoyed nature, connected with each other, and only some wet feet to attest to the fun along the Big Water Hike.

902 490 2400 | canadagamescentre.ca |



Our Children | Summer 2022

Understanding pronouns Helping the 2SLGBTQIA+ teen community better express its identity By Lindsey Bunin Photography by Bruce Murray/VisionFire


arly in the school year, my junior high-aged son came home from school to proclaim he “has a very rainbow class this year.” I asked him to explain, and he told me all about the various kids he’d had the opportunity to meet (since the junior high is a mashup of different elementary schools) and he now knows kids who are trans, non-binary and gay. What a wonderful world, I thought. My son is having the important experience of learning about gender and sexual orientation in a healthy way and these differences are as common to him as one kid who wears glasses, versus one kid who doesn’t. Then I wondered if all families received that information in the same way I did.

Jay Aaron Roy is the owner of Cape and Cowl Comics and Collectibles in Lower Sackville. The shop is a trans-owned business that makes acceptance part of its mission.

I contacted Cynthia Sweeney, founder of Simply Good Form, a group that teaches about equity, diversity and inclusion. She and her family started their gender journey in 2017 when her youngest child expressed that they were transgender in the later years of elementary school. “We didn’t know a lot about gender identity because we didn’t really have to think about that,” she says. “I’m cis gender myself. That means when they assigned my sex at birth, the doctor proclaimed, ‘It’s a girl!’ That aligned with my gender identity growing up and because of that I was able to take it for granted for so many years … but it’s not that way for so many people who identify under the trans and non-binary umbrella.” Sweeney describes the moment when her child explained who they are as a “ground-zero point of learning for all of us.” Their child had been learning about gender identity in school as their class read George, a children’s novel about a young transgender girl, by Alex Gino and it was a lightbulb moment for them. Sweeney started the search for information and resources for both her family and her child, and immediately felt passionate about helping other parents. As she learned more, she started to realize the systems in our communities were, in some cases, doing more harm than good. She originally started Simply Good Form as a blog to make information more accessible, and it quickly evolved to a full-scope educational consultancy for businesses and schools. “Children generally know their gender identity from a really young age and the pressure to conform is so strong; it can feel necessary to suppress those feelings in order to be accepted,” she says. “So, I wanted to be able to educate businesses and schools because it’s really important that people understand how to be inclusive and accepting.” She asked me if I’d been taught about gender identity when I was growing up in the ’80s and I said no. She hadn’t either. She made the point that a lot of parents were never taught about it growing up and that can lead to fears and uncertainty because it’s something many of us have never encountered. “I think a lot of people our age feel shame about what they


Cynthia Sweeney is the founder of Simply Good Form, a group that teaches about equity, diversity and inclusion.

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don’t understand and are afraid to ask questions. They disengage because of fear and that ultimately perpetuates the isolation for the other person. It’s great to be able to be open and say, ‘I’m learning.’” Samantha Nielsen, a Grade 7 and 8 Healthy Living and Core French teacher at Sackville Heights Junior High, says she has recognized an increase of discussion around pronouns in the school setting in recent years. “While I am a cis-gendered straight woman, I recognize that gender identity has become an important aspect of expressing teen identity for my students and young people everywhere,” she says. “In Healthy Living, we often discuss gender and sexuality as a fundamental aspect of our identity. Both my 2SLGBTQIA+ students and my cis-gendered students seem educated on this topic and are able to engage in this discussion.” Nielsen sees this distinction in her French classes as well, as students learn to apply pronouns appropriately in two languages. She explains that while English pronouns use they/them or ze/zir and other non-traditional terms, French uses the pronoun “Iel,” which is a combination of il and elle.

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THE PINK BALLOON Cynthia Sweeney co-wrote a children’s book with BriAnna Simons about gender identity called The Pink Balloon. She also recommends these books as resources for families looking to learn about gender. • It Feels Good To Be Yourself by Theresa Thorn • What Are Your Words by Katherine Locke • My Rainbow by DeShanna Neil • I Love My Purse by Belle DeMont • George by Alex Gino • The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessey • If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo Simply Good Form has a lending library of books to help families learn about gender. For more information, visit simplygoodform.ca





Our Children | Summer 2022

Of her approximately 200 students, Nielsen estimates about 25 Drawing from Leighann’s guidance, Roy believes it’s most openly identify as non-binary, genderqueer or transgender, important for us to listen to the youth around us and in and use they/them pronouns or pronouns that differ from their sex our communities. assigned at birth. A number of students also use fluid pronouns, for “Do you remember being young?” asks Roy. “Do you example: she/he/them. remember having something that felt really important to you Correspondence with parents can be tricky, says Nielsen. that no adult would listen to? Youth still feel that about adults “While we have many amazing parents who fully understand today. All the time. So, sit and listen to the youth. They will show the importance of allowing gender identity expression, we also you the path to a greater future; one that is more accepting and have parents who may not understand how this can be a large understands it takes nothing away from you to use a name and part of a child’s sense of self.” pronoun that makes someone else smile instead of frown.” It’s common practice, Nielsen explains, for teachers to collect Nielsen says that in response to feedback from the students, an “All About Me” sheet at the start of the year, and many her administration and the Halifax Regional Centre for Education educators have added a section about pronouns have allowed the staff at her school to select and preferred name at school and home. professional development topics based on issues that “One of the first rules of my classroom is are most suited to their school community. ‘no intentional misgendering or deadnaming,’” “We have a number of non-binary, genderqueer BINARY says Nielsen. Deadnaming is when someone — and transgender students, along with a thriving PRONOUNS intentionally or not — refers to a person who community of 2SLGBTQIA+ students,” says Nielsen. is transgender by the name they used before “Because of this, we invited the Youth Project to come Using a combination of transitioning. “This is to show solidarity with binary pronouns, he/him/ in and discuss pronouns and other issues students my 2SLGBTQIA+ students. I also discuss why within this community face at school.” his or she/her/hers and I think this is important and how my room is a She says that because the presenter was a they/them/their, will help safe space for all students.” transgender woman herself, they were able to better teens better express their Beyond the classroom, some local business understand and learn from someone who could gender identity. owners have chosen to create safe spaces identify with the kids. for customers. In addition to advocating for professional Cape and Cowl Comics and Collectibles in development opportunities, Nielsen also created Lower Sackville is a trans-owned business that a 2SLGBTQIA+ dictionary for her school to arm makes acceptance part of its mission. students with the vernacular to show respect “Cape and Cowl is a bunch of my favourite and acceptance. things wrapped up into one place,” says owner “Two of my non-binary students asked to look it Jay Aaron Roy. “It’s part comics and collectibles over and felt comfortable enough to sit down with me shop, part artist consignment shop, part and edit the pages,” says Nielsen. While Nielsen works youth drop-in centre, part community space, to create a positive environment for her students, she part proud social justice messenger and recognizes that “there will always be parents who do represents my whole personality.” not agree with or understand the choices their child Cape and Cowl’s safe space is called makes. The work we do every day isn’t to change the “The Leighann Wichman Safe Place” after a minds of those who disagree, but to affirm, respect friend of Roy’s who helped many find their and show support for the students we work with path forward. The shop also has a separate directly every day.” office for a community registered social worker Sweeney agrees. with the Nova Scotia Health Authority. “It’s critically important to listen to our children, to respect “The whole shop is a safe place, really. People can rest knowing them and support them as they show us who they are and who they are in a space where they will be respected, their gender they want to be in the world,” she says. “As parents and caregivers, won’t be assumed, and we have lots of fun distractions if they are we have a tremendous ability to mold and guide our children and stressed. We also have an accessible gender-neutral washroom.” it’s so important to be cognizant, and to not stifle them from being Roy has been able to see first-hand the impact of safe spaces their authentic selves.” within his community. She acknowledges that it’s often hard. “It saves lives. I’ve received hundreds of messages, maybe “We love seeing ourselves in our children and when our child thousands now, over the last seven years thanking me and telling shows us something different than what we expected or wanted, me that my drop-in space made all the difference in the lives of it can be scary,” says Sweeney. “When transgendered children their friends and family.” are loved and accepted, they have the same healthy outcomes as Roy says having a space like this was always inevitable. His cis-gendered children. Statistics of depression, anxiety and selfmom created a space for him to be himself when he was a young harm essentially go away when the child has the right support in kid, and Leighann helped him embrace “the me I knew was inside.” their corner.”

Located off the Trans Canada Highway #2, Magnetic Hill (Exit 450).


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