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Halifax’s Family Magazine

Fall 2020

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Health & Wellness • Nutrition • Book Reviews

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Joy? Who Needs a Little

Experience how your surroundings can spark joy at Discovery Centre’s latest featured exhibit, JoyLab!

Discover how neurological concepts can enhance what you see and learn through the power of joy.

Create unforgettable memories

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Visit to learn more.


So you're raising a vegan



Dartmouth student Sinjin Moser finds purpose on his plate

Fall 2020



Making masks fun

Help your children get comfortable with the new normal

Study spaces that work

Simple tips to create a home nook that fosters learning and minimizes distractions

DEPARTMENTS 7 Editor’s note Making the grade; a new school year brings challenges like no other

8 First bell Events, products, trends, and more

21 Health & Wellness Self-care starts with you


22 Book reviews Our Children reviews This is Not the End of Me, So Imagine Me: Nature Riddles in Poetry, Light in the Forest, and Wild Pond Hockey



Halifax’s exclusive parenting magazine

On our cover Masks are a necessary public health precaution and Owen and Joel Lewis have learned how to make them fun. Photo: Bruce Murray/VisionFire Publisher Fred Fiander Sales Director Patty Baxter Senior Editor Trevor J. Adams Editor Crystal Murray Production and Creative Director Shawn Dalton Designer Jocelyn Spence Production Coordinator Paige Sawler Production and Design Assistant Nicole McNeil

Subscribe now Printing Advocate Printing & Publishing to receive the Lorem ipsum Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod FREE digital visit dolore magna aliquam tincidunt please ut laoreet Contributors edition erat of volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo Starr Cunningham Our Children. for clinic open times.vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie Heather Laura Clark consequat. Duis autem Kim Hart Macneill consequat, vel illum dolore eu feugiat nulla facilisis at vero eros et accumsan et iusto odio dignissim qui blandit praesent luptatum zzril delenit augue duis dolore te feugait nulla For advertising and editorial enquiries: facilisi. Tel. 902-420-9943 Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, cons ectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh Fax euismod 902-429-9058 tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, Everything you need to

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Our Children is a Metro Guide publication.



Making the grade A new school year brings challenges like no other—Our Children is here to help as we learn together

Crystal Murray, Editor Our Children Magazine

@OurChildrenMag www


This fall brings many opportunities for learning and gaining new www perspective www

On the morning of the first day of school, I stopped at an intersection as a school bus passed by. Dozens of little masked faces peered out the windows. I could see the curiosity and perhaps a little bewilderment in their eyes as they wondered what would be waiting in their new world of education. My daughter was in the car. I fought back a few tears and my tummy flipped a little with my own anxiety about what the school year would bring. The image of the masked students on the bus will stick with me for a long time. Moments like this punctuate the realities of life during a pandemic. I was dubious about school resuming. How was this really going to work? There were questions about class sizes and movement of students through the hallways, compliance with physical distancing, and mask wearing. What about the students and educators who are immuno-compromised? If in-school learning pauses again will there be equity in the delivery of programming to ensure support for all students? The last month has been one of the biggest tests for our educational system. The short answer questions are being marked and most parents will give a passing grade but the long essay is still going to take a while. We're all hoping that by the end of the first term there will be full marks for everyone who helped keep our kids in school. We know that the current low, almost nonexistent (as of press time) case load of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia has been like bonus points going into an exam for the back to school plan. Regardless of your position on the Atlantic bubble, the diligence of our health department and the work of our schools (public, private, and post-secondary) who cautiously welcomed students back has been part of this initial success. The magnitude of virus testing and oversight on distancing at our places of higher learning has all played a role in the safe return of students and the safety of the public at large. This term will be one of the greatest indicators of how we move forward as a province and begin to rebuild our economy. This fall brings many opportunities for learning and gaining new perspective on many aspects of our lives. From how we spend time with our family, our relationship with and

appreciation for nature, and the importance of self-care continue to get bumped up on the priority list. The pursuit of purpose is driving many of us these days. You may have noticed this in your kids. The issues around systemic racism and the environment are big conversations that our children are ready to have, in an ageappropriate way. In future issues of Our Children, we'll work to bring you more stories giving children a greater voice on the issues that matter most to them, learning how we as parents can open our ears and listen to what they have to say. We start by talking with student Sinjin Moser (page 11) about his vegan lifestyle. He has found his purpose in making choices that reflect his beliefs on compassion for animals and our impact on the environment. His lifestyle has opened another avenue for education as he learns more about his personal nutrition and life skills in the kitchen. As parents we all had the opportunity last spring to glean some insight into how our children learn. While we all scrambled to find study spaces at home we found out that not all kids learn best at the kitchen table. Heather Laura Clarke brings us some ideas (page 18) on how to create study spaces that work to keep our young learners focused and give them a chance to express their style. A theme that we will always give space to on our pages is mental wellness. Starr Cunningham, president and CEO of the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia, shares some advice (page 21) on how to flex our mental fitness so we can learn how to manage the stress in our life, and help our kids do the same. And mask-wearing—or not—is a source of great stress in some homes. Kim Hart Macneill debunks a few myths around mask wearing (page 15) while giving great advice that will help create safe habits. Tracy Stuart guided Our Children last year and is now moving onto new challenges; I'm pleased to step into the editor's shoes. Thanks to our advertisers and readers for your continued support and belief in our connections to community. I wish you a healthy and joyful fall as we learn from each other. Air hugs and elbow bumps to all!



By Trevor J. Adams

Our Children | Fall 2020

Your friendly neighbourhood librarian

School projects, homework, hobbies, and personal interests of all sorts: while pandemic precautions have limited on-site options, Halifax Public Libraries remain busy helping kids learn and grow. On the organizations website, you'll find a huge archive of at-home resources, including expert Q&As, fun projects, reading suggestions, games, videos, and more.

Welcome back

Many of the local favourite spots for hands-on family fun are open again, boasting lots of exhibits and activities, with public health precautions to fight the spread of COVID-19. Science, art, history, and, culture—attractions abound. On the websites for the Discovery Centre, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, and Halifax Citadel, you'll find all the information you need to prepare for your visit this autumn. Count on distancing and masks and prepare for safetyminded changes to some regular exhibitions. Plan ahead and you'll find an ideal escape for a blustery autumn weekend.,,,


We need to make schools safe — for all of us.

Everywhere we go, Nova Scotians are physically distancing. And wearing masks to keep each other safe. Why should our schools be any different? We need: • • • •

Smaller class sizes Two metres of physical distancing for everybody Masks for those who can wear them Proper ventilation

We all want our kids to be safe and stay in school.

The final frontier The Canadian Space Agency's Junior Astronauts program is a perfect fit for young stargazers and aspiring astronauts. The website is chockablock with learning activities for space-minded kids, with three streams of focus. Science and technology: “From engineering to coding, participants are encouraged to use their imagination to create, innovate, and have fun.” Fitness and nutrition: “Participants learn about healthy eating on earth and in space and how nutrition is essential to an astronaut’s overall well-being.” Teamwork and communication: “These activities call upon participants to think about space differently. From debates to learning voice protocols, they will be challenged to communicate effectively and work together to accomplish their goals.” You'll also find lots of tools for parents and teachers. default.asp



Our Children | Spring 2020 PHOTO: HALIFAX MOOSEHEADS


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Game on It's been a cold-turkey few months for your sports fans, so you can bet the local puck-mad kids were celebrating when the Halifax Mooseheads announced that they're returning to play, after the pandemic cut short last year's junior-hockey season. Things will look a lot different when you return to Scotiabank Centre: with fans seated in zones containing a maximum of 200 people, mandatory masks, limited concessions, and assigned washrooms. With seating at less than 20% capacity, tickets may be elusive: tickets are only available in packages of two to six, with season-ticket holders getting priority. Check the schedule early to avoid disappointment.

MYC has been online since the beginning of the pandemic and continues to offer fun and interactive classes. Now classes are being offered both online, in person or hybrid in accordance with regional health guidelines. At Music for Young Children®, we encourage your child to be more creative, inventive, imaginative and expressive through our keyboard-based music education program. We provide children with a unique set of skills that will carry with them throughout their lives.

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Our Children | Fall 2020


BEYOND MAC N’ CHEESE Mother and son dig into a vegan lifestyle together By Crystal Murray / Photos by Bruce Murray/VisionFire

Sinjin Moser makes a mean vegan mac n’ cheese. The 15-year-old, who attends Auburn High School in Cole Harbour, went vegan a little over three years ago when his mother Nichole decided to embrace a plant-based life style. The change in his diet sharpened both cooking skills and his awareness of the world around him. That mac n’ cheese is just the beginning. Sinjin went cold turkey with his leap into veganism. Like his mother, compassion for animals and learning more about factory farming influenced the transition in his diet. About the same time that his mother went plant based, Sinjin was writing a persuasive essay for a school project. The issue up for debate was animal fighting sports. Sinjin was to write the pro-side of the argument. “I was disgusted by what I learned and then I learned more about other mistreatments of animals,” he says. The Moser family are animal lovers. They have four rescue dogs and for a while when living in Ontario, his mother Nichole was involved with sled dog rescue, learning about the inhumane treatment of animals. “One day the light bulb just went off,” says Nichole. “In our world most people think of an animal as a commodity. I empathize for all life and I decided that I was not going to participate anymore.”

Plant based and vegan ingredients are easy to source in most local grocery stores as demand for these products continue to grow. (right) Nichole and Sinjin have learned how to design a vegan meal plan that supports their health and connected to the things that are important to them.



COVER STORY Taking notice of her change in food choices and his own disdain for the unethical treatment of animals, Sinjin asked his mother if he could join her on her vegan journey. “It all happened very fast,” he recalls. While veganism and vegetarianism have been on the fringe for decades, a new breed of plant-based eaters is emerging. According to research conducted by Dalhousie University in 2018, the number of vegetarians in Canada increased from 900,000 to 2.3 million over 15 years. Another 850,00 consider themselves vegan. The increase in veganism is slower paced but it’s young people like Sinjin Moser feeding the change. One study suggests that Canadians under 35 are three times more likely than the older population to be vegan or vegetarian. Statistics like this are reflected in dietary habits, dramatically influencing the array of plant-based products available in supermarkets. “I feel like we ate a lot of vegan junk food at first,” says Sinjin, recalling his first days reinventing his diet. “But we learned a lot and now I think we eat very balanced.” Finding plant-based alternatives is becoming less of a challenge, brands like Beyond Meat and Lightlife, meat alternatives and the ever-increasing number of dairy free beverages and dessert options have also made the plant-based revolution more accepted. “We have two omnivores living under our roof,” says Nichole, whose husband and older son still consume animal protein in their diets. “At first we were making multiple meals to satisfy everyone but now we find that the omnivores are eating less meat and we are enjoying the meat-free meals together. There are still nights that meat is on the menu but now I find it very unappealing and even dislike the smell of meat cooking.” There was a time when experts advised against vegetarian diets for kids who were still in their developmental stages of growth. But as the science of nutrition evolves, we now are learning that protein and other nutrients required for optimal health are available in an appropriately planned plant-based diet. Some experts and nutritional journals point to improvements in health for children eating vegan and vegetarian diets simply because this diet generally involves less processed food and more nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Sinjin is confident he's meeting his dietary requirements. His family doctor is aware he's vegan and performs routine blood work, which has never shown nutritional deficiencies. He feels much more fit and healthy since giving up animal protein. “It’s hard to explain but I just feel lighter,” he says. Today it's relatively easy to derive adequate protein from a plant-based diet but people still often ask vegans and vegetarians how they get protein. Vestano Melina, author of The New Becoming Vegetarian, says that we all need to understand that the largest mammals on the planet eat plants. The protein that is in animal flesh consumed by humans is made through the conversion of the plants that the animals eat. She cites that legumes are plant-based protein powerhouses and protein rich plant foods bring unique benefits not found in meat. In the Western world, few people ever suffer from protein

Our Children | Fall 2020

“We ate a lot of vegan junk food at first. But we learned a lot and now... we eat very balanced” —Sinjin Moser deficiency; most people eat more protein than their bodies need. There are a few nutrients that vegans and vegetarians do need to remember when planning meals. B-12 deficiency is a risk for vegans, as its most common source is in animal protein. Sinjin says that he makes sure that he finds other sources. Nutritional yeast, an ingredient used by vegans to achieve cheesy, nutty flavours and fortified non-dairy beverages plus occasional supplements keep his B-12 levels adequate. When Sinjin embarked on his vegan journey three years ago, there was an audible buzz in youth culture about the role his cohort plays in making positive impacts on the climate emergency. He finds purpose in his veganism beyond compassion for animals. Nichole is proud of his commitment. “Sinjin is sometimes challenged by it but he has stuck with it. Being vegan means that you make sacrifices that other kids don’t,” adds Nichole. Because veganism is not just about what's on the menu, Sinjin and Nichole have also pivoted away from products made with animal ingredients. Whenever they're replacing items they bought before their conversion, they look for vegan-made products. It gets easier almost every day to find ethically made items. The acceptance and the knowledge that we need to do these things for the planet is showing up in the availability and demand of these new products. “The world is waking up,” says Nichole. Sinjin tries not to preach. He says he doesn’t push his views on his friends and in return they accept his choices. He wishes that there were more vegan options in the school cafeteria. This year he doesn’t have to worry about that, but simple things like going out to grab a burger, since the advent of meat alternatives, has been life changing for a vegan teenager and while he enjoys his own cooking it means that there is more out there beyond mac and cheese.

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Our Children | Fall 2020

Shepherding in new dinner ideas This favourite comfort food casserole will warm up even the most confirmed carnivore By Crystal Murray

We've long associated mealtime, especially dinner, with an animal protein as the core of the meal. Ask a vegetarian or vegan what they are having for dinner and the answer generally involves more creativity. But plant-based meals don’t have to be complicated. Redefine dinner by swapping animal protein for staple fibre-filled vegetables, whole grains, and meat substitutes dinner. In autumn, our appetites run heartier. Shepherds’ Pie was a staple dish in my family, often made from the leftovers from Sunday night roast beef or quickly whipped up with a hamburger base. If you have made the shift to plant-based nutrition or just want to cut down on the amount of animal protein you consume, Shepherd’s Pie still offers a tasty nostalgic option. This Shepherd’s Pie recipe uses lentils as the base. These little legumes are powerhouse proteins and filled with fibre. They're also a super source of iron, manganese, potassium, and folate,

Ingredients 3 lb of potatoes for mashing 1 ½ cups of lentils any colour 1 litre of vegetable broth 1 medium onion for dicing ½ tsp minced garlic 1 tsp fresh or dried thyme or oregano (a blend of both is also nice) Bag of frozen mixed veggies You can also chop and cook fresh vegetables to add to mix but cook them thoroughly first.

a type of B-vitamin that helps support red blood cell formation and the nervous system. They're a complex-carbohydrate with an exceptionally low glycemic index, so they keep your tummy feeling full longer and help steady blood sugar levels. You can make this recipe with a plant-based meat substitute but remember that these products are still processed foods; whole foods are always the better choice.

cut them fairly small. In a good size sauté pan add 1 tsp of olive or avocado oil, ½ tsp of minced garlic, 1 tsp of fresh thyme or oregano and cook, stirring often until onions are tender. Add a 1-litre tetra pack of vegetable broth to the pan, stir in 1.5 cups of green lentils and simmer until tender and the moisture from the broth is mostly absorbed.

Boil and mash 3 lbs of potatoes.

Before finishing cooking, add a bag of chopped vegetables (I like to use organic when I can find them but that's not mandatory). Stir until the vegetables are warmed through. Pour the lentil mixture into the casserole dish. Top with the mashed potatoes.

While potatoes are boiling, dice one medium onion. Most kids prefer not to see the onion so I

Tip: Instead of butter or vegan butter you can add a splash of veggie broth to potatoes for

If you are vegan, use a plantbased butter alternative to prepare the bottom and sides of a 9" x 13" casserole dish.

mashing. You could also top with masked sweet potato or faux mashed potatoes made from cauliflower (but it’s hard to beat the real thing). Pre-heat oven to 350°F degrees and bake for about 24 minutes (35 minutes if the prepared dish sat in the fridge before baking). A few minutes before removing from the oven, brush potatoes with vegan butter and turn on broiler to create a golden finish and bit of a crust. Be careful not to overcook. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes to allow the casserole to set. Serves well with an additional vegetable or salad. This recipe makes great leftovers for work and school. Serves 8.


As schools reopened under new circumstances this year, we can’t help but discuss how the current pandemic has affected our Canadian company and how we have adapted across 400 stores nation-wide. Through various measures, each of our locations temporarily moved into a “to go” model across Canada in our efforts to help curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus back in March. At this time, all seating was temporarily removed as we encouraged customers to practice physical distancing and added extra safety measures ensuring all Government rules and regulations were being followed. Within the last couple of months, Booster Juice adapted a few additional policies to keep our customers and employees safe, this included but

Brand Promise, which means whether you are ordering in-store, through a delivery app, catering or through our School Lunch Program, you can feel safe in knowing getting what you need most: a balanced, great-tasting meal, perfectly suited for all day snacking, breakfast, We strive to make things easier for our customers, which includes our School Lunch Program where we deliver your freshly made order to your school at your desired time. Orders can be grouped by teacher, classroom or any way you like – whatever it takes to ensure everything goes smoothly. For more details, please visit our website at ateringprogram/ or call one of our stores!

not limited to: allowing a maximum number of guests in-store at a time, following the mask/face covering bylaws and maintaining physical distancing via Plexiglass barriers and floor decals spaced a minimum While we are all learning to adapt to the new normal, rest assured that Booster Juice is committed to our Clayton Park 278 Lacewood Drive 902.457.3326

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Stay in the loop by following our social media platforms and subscribe to our Booster Nation newsletter. You’ll receive updates on features, promotions and our NEW Booster Juice To Go app. Members will be able to order and pre-pay directly through the app from Booster Juice for mobile pick up in-store or curbside delivery at participating locations. Our app will offer exclusive access to Booster Juice’s Secret Smoothie Menu and users can opt in for limited-time offers. Hemlock Square 14 Peakview Way 902.832.5236

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FEATURE Joel (left) and Owen (right).

Making masks fun Help your children get comfortable with the new normal By Kim Hart Macneill / Photos by Bruce Murray/VisionFire


tudents returned to school in September facing new rules to fight the spread of COVID-19. The biggest change for many will be wearing masks. All students in Grade 4 and up must wear non-medical masks unless they are sitting at a desk that is at least 2 metres away from other desks and facing in the same direction. That means in most classrooms, on hallways, and on buses. “This change is based on new guidelines released by the Public Health Agency of Canada,” said Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, on Aug. 10. “They now recommend masks for children ages 10 and up because it's that age group that may be as likely as adults to transmit the virus. Children under the age of 10 are much less likely to transmit COVID-19.”

Heather Lewis's sons, aged eight and 10, both wear masks when they go out in public and now at school. “They're very much about following the rules,” she says. “I think in some ways kids get told that this is the rules and think 'Oh OK, well, we have to do it.' They can actually be better than the adults sometimes at remembering what to do.” Before school started, Lewis took the boys to a playground and they decided to wear their masks while playing. Lewis pointed out that it was a large playground with lots of opportunity to social distance, but the boys said they'd prefer to wear their masks. When other children asked why they explained the masks made them feel safe. Jane Marchildon is a child life specialist at the IWK in Halifax. Her specialty is helping children become comfortable with



Our Children | Fall 2020 PHOTO: RYAN WILSON/IWK


A few extras for the backpack this year.

medical environments and procedures. She says the key to helping children get comfortable wearing masks is education, preparation, and praise. Children love to know why. “[The] simplest thing is to say is that we wear masks to keep the germs that we have in our own bodies to ourselves,” says Marchildon. “We're doing that as a way to help the people that we care about—and that might be our family, our friends, our grandparents, people in our community—healthy.” It's important to explain why masks are necessary, otherwise children won't understand their importance. Keep your explanations age appropriate to avoid passing on adult anxieties. The best way to do this, says Marchildon, is ask your child questions like: do you know why we wear masks? Why are there are arrows on the floor at the grocery store?” “If parents know that their children have been talking about the Coronavirus or COVID, then they might be more prepared to have a discussion about it,” says Marchildon. “Kids who really have not heard about it might be able to relate something to like the flu to make it more applicable to them.”

Jane Marchildon, Child Life Specialist at the IWK.

Preparation is key to people of all ages getting comfortable masking up, says Marchildon. Lewis didn't mask her children in public before it became mandatory, but when it did she started practising at home with the boys. Let children try wearing and removing masks at home. Explain the importance of washing hands before touching a clean mask and after taking off a dirty mask, and not touching the mask through the day. Another part of preparation for Lewis is making sure there are enough masks. Before school started she says they had about 50 for the four-person family. She planned to send each child to school with three masks and labelled resealable bags for clean and used masks. Practice is key to sustaining habits, says Marchildon. She suggests a few simple ways to help children grow comfortable with masks. First, turn mask wearing into a game. Challenge the entire family to watch a 30-minute TV show together while wearing masks without touching their faces. The home is a low pressure environment, so it's a great place to practise, plus when all ages participate it shows that mask wearing is important for everyone. Another simple activity is listing all of the places where masks are required, like the mall, school, on the bus, in the library, and so on. This give children the opportunity to ask questions about why and when to wear a mask. Praise is key. “We know it is hard for kids to do new and challenging things,” Marchildon says. “We really want to provide them with positive feedback like 'You're doing a really good job keeping your friends healthy and giving them support by doing that.’” Finally, let kids pick out their masks. That might mean helping to choose a pattern at the fabric store for homemade masks, or buying a pre-made mask in the child's favourite colour. “Kids get to say this is my mask and I have a feeling of ownership and proudness of wearing my mask, because it's a part of me,” Marchildon says. This may also help reduce the number of lost masks for the school year.

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Our Children | Spring 2020

MASK MYTHS DEBUNKED There's a lot of incorrect info on the internet about masks. Make sure you're following up-to-date medical advice. Sources like the World Health Organization (, Health Canada ( en/health-canada.html), and provincial government ( are reliable. Myth: Wearing a non-medical mask won't help stop the spread of COVID-19. Cloth and disposable masks are a key component of slowing the spread of the virus. Countries that encourage mask wearing have lower infection rates and few deaths, according to June 2020 research in The Lancet. Masks trap droplets that people release when they speak, cough, or sneeze. Virus particles travel on these droplets to infect others. By wearing masks, we all protect each other. Myth: I don't need to wear a mask if I'm social distancing. The Mayo Clinic says wearing a mask is one step in slowing the spread of COVID-19. In addition to wearing a mask, following these behaviours will help slow the spread: • Keep 2 metres of physical distance, about two adult arm lengths, from other people. • Limit in-person meetings. • Wash your hands often with soap. Use hand sanitizer when you don't have access to water. • Stay home if you do not feel well. • Self-isolate if you have been around someone who is sick or tested positive. Myth: Wearing a mask will increase the amount of carbon dioxide I breathe and will make me sick. Some surgeries can take up to 10 hours. Surgeons wear masks the entire time without getting hypoxia, a low level of oxygen in the blood caused by too much carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide you exhale will diffuse through your mask naturally, just as oxygen does when you breathe in. Myth: Only people with symptoms need to wear masks. Based on July 2020 data, the CDC says that 40% of people who have COVID-19 are asymptomatic, which means they never exhibit symptoms despite having the virus. It estimates that half of all infections are transmitted before the carrier displays any symptoms.

Halifax Solid Waste Resources is offering free presentations & activities for schools via Microsoft Teams! Topics include: What Goes Where Composting Compost Scavenger Hunt Recycling BinGo Waste to rt xhi ition Contact us at:




Our Children | Fall 2020

Study spaces that work Simple tips to create a home nook that fosters learning and minimizes distractions By Heather Laura Clarke


hen Virginia Ward designed an office in her Fall River home, she never imagined she’d be sharing it with a six-year-old. Her oldest daughter was in Grade 1 when she was suddenly shifted to at-home learning in March. Ward loaned out her home office in the mornings when her daughter attended virtual classes. “I felt it was important for her to have a designated space to learn, somewhere quiet, organized and as distraction-free as possible,” says Ward. “I had all her school stuff in a basket, and we’d pull it out when it was time for school. Then we could tuck it away on my cube shelf when she was done.” As a junior-high teacher turned interior designer, the owner of Virginia Ann Interiors has already created at-home study spaces for several families and it didn’t take long to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Oxford Learning had never planned to offer tutoring online but when the company closed its doors in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, both the Halifax and Bedford locations transitioned to virtual sessions within a week. During their virtual-only months, Oxford Learning owner/ director Lorelei Burgess says she learned quite a few tricks on how to keep their students engaged and productive when they couldn’t be in the same room together. And whether students are learning exclusively from home or just need a productive space for projects and homework, her tips are useful for any family.

HEADPHONES FOR MINIMIZING DISTRACTIONS “When students have headphones on, they’re better able to ignore what’s going on around them,” says Burgess. “We’d have two to three students with each teacher at a time and if students didn’t have headphones on, the background noise was more distracting for everybody.” Don’t worry what type of headphones you have. A parent’s headset, one borrowed from a gaming system, or just a basic set paired with a computer microphone will help students focus on their teacher and tune out the rest.

A DESK OF THEIR OWN While many students do their virtual learning at the kitchen or dining room table, Burgess says Oxford Learning teachers have noticed a definite difference when it came to family tables versus desks. “When a student’s at the kitchen table, there’s usually a lot of commotion in the background,” says Burgess. “They can sometimes hear and see other family members and it’s harder to focus.” At office furniture company Structube, marketing communications manager Melanie Hachey has seen the demand for home office furniture climb since the spring. “As more students learn from home, alongside their parents who are working from home, the importance of creating a dedicated workspace has become vital in many households,” says Hachey. “People have had to rethink their spaces to incorporate pieces that are both practical and functional in their day-to-day lives.” Hachey recommends a compact desk with storage for young children, a starter piece that will grow with them. Older kids may prefer a larger work surface to have room for textbooks and computers.

A COMFORTABLE CHAIR Beds and couches are not ideal for at-home studying because they’re for lounging, not focusing. So once you’re set up with a desk, your child will need a chair that’s comfortable without being, well, too comfortable. If their new study space is in a high-traffic area, like the living room, and you’ll be looking at it constantly, Ward recommends investing in a “stylish” chair from a store like Kew, Attica, or Thornbloom. If the study space will be temporary, you could pick up a secondhand chair on Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji or The Posh Pearl. Hachey recommends something colourful with an adjustable seat for little learners or a compact office chair for a small space, while older kids might want to upgrade to a larger chair.



Be creative when finding a designated study space. An under utilized nook or an empty space between two windows just might be the perfect spot for your young scholar.



So once you’ve got a desk and chair, should they be in your child’s bedroom...or is that just asking for missed virtual classes and a whole lot of slacking off? At Oxford Learning, Burgess says their teachers have found that students working from their bedroom “is not ideal.” She says the preferred set-up is for students to instead have “a little space that’s specifically for schoolwork, that signals that they’re ready to learn.” Ward says older children may do well studying in their bedrooms, but she doesn’t like the idea because their bedroom should be centred around rest and relaxation not school stress. “Our daughter has a desk in her room and I’m OK with her going in there to do her homework, but a long day of virtual learning should be where that separation comes in.”

Ward says you’ll get the best lighting if you place the desk directly in front of a window. (Never have a window right behind a desk, or your child will be nothing more than a backlit silhouette during video calls.) A desk lamp is a good idea, too. She recommends hunting for a nice one at Winners or HomeSense. Then your child will be able to clearly see their work, even when it’s dark and gloomy during the winter months.

CREATING A STUDY NOOK If a desk doesn’t work in your child’s bedroom, where should it go? Ward is a fan of creating an at-home study space in a nook somewhere else within the home. “In the design world, we call it ‘dead space.’ Just a nook that seems to have no purpose, but it’s big enough to slide in a little desk,” says Ward. “If you walk around your house and really look, you may be surprised by the options you find.” When you’re scouting out a location, consider fitting a small desk in a hallway, an alcove, a spare bedroom, an awkward corner or underneath a stairwell (channeling Harry Potter). If you have a spare closet, turn it into a study nook by installing a wide board about 75cm off the ground to create a built-in desk. You could even paint and decorate the inside of the closet to make a mini classroom. Need something that tucks completely out of sight when it’s not in use? Ikea specializes in small spaces, with fold-up desks and chairs that hook onto the wall for easy storage.

WRANGLING THEIR SCHOOL SUPPLIES Ward says every teacher knows the importance of students having easy access to the pencils, coloured pencils or paper they need, so they’re not procrastinating by running around to round up their supplies. Burgess suggests a small desk caddy. Ward recommends keeping school supplies corralled on a roll-away metal cart from Michaels or Ikea, so it can be easily wheeled into a corner or closet when it’s not in use. When clutter’s lurking, Ward says many parents will rush out to buy clear plastic storage containers, but she prefers wicker or canvas baskets that are “more pleasing to the eye.” Thirty-One Gifts has a variety of fabric organizers that you can personalize with names and monograms. A basic shoe organizer hung inside a closet door is a budget-friendly way to organize school supplies, keeping them nearby but out of sight.

A LITTLE DÉCOR GOES A LONG WAY “It’s important for a kid to feel like this is their space, so you want it to be bright and vibrant but not too busy or overstimulating,” says Ward. She suggests decorating their study space with a fun framed print or their own colourful artwork. This doesn’t mean your living room needs to be guaudied up with unicorns or Minecraft; work with your child to pick out things you both like, if they’ll be working in a common space.


Our Children | Fall 2020



“When a student’s at the kitchen table, there’s usually a lot of commotion in the background. They can sometimes hear and see other family members and it’s harder to focus” –Lorelei Burgess “Bring some colour in with accessories, rather than having to paint the walls,” says Ward. “You can add a toss cushion on a chair, or lean some art up on the desk.” When the desk isn’t needed for schoolwork, Ward says you can whisk away the pencils and workbooks and replace them with a framed photo or plant, turning it into “a nice little vignette” that looks more like a console table.


Home study tips

Without a doubt, Burgess says it’s more helpful if parents are not lingering in the background when kids are using their spaces, whether they’re in a virtual class or doing homework. “We find that when parents are around, the kids tend to rely on their parents and ask them questions,” says Burgess. “We’ll ask our students questions because we want them to think about their answers. But if they don’t answer right away, parents may automatically jump in to help and that’s not what we want.” Since it’s difficult for parents to resist the temptation to help their children, Burgess says it’s best when they stay out of sight. Leave the “teaching” to the teacher. Back in the spring, when she explained that parents were free to leave the room for 60–90 minutes, Burgess says many were “very grateful” to have the chance to focus on their own tasks and kids learned more effectively. Ward is still working with families to help them set up cheerful at-home study spaces. While she admits she’s hoping virtual learning “was just a temporary thing,” it’s impossible to know what Nova Scotia’s 2020/2021 school year will bring and she feels it’s a good idea to be prepared. “Back in March, we were in survival mode,” says Ward. “We made it through, and now we can be ahead of the game if it happens again.”

• Headphones help minimize distractions when your child is doing online assignments or class calls. • Working at a desk is preferable to the kitchen table. • Virtual learning in a child’s bedroom isn’t the best solution for many families. • Study nooks that are dedicated to schoolwork can help children focus on learning. • Work with your child to decorate their study area so they have positive associations with the space. • Keep school supplies organized in a bin, caddy, or rolling cart.

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Self-care starts with you Teach good habits and help your kids help themselves By Starr Cunningham


elf-care starts with you but it doesn’t end there. Especially if you’re a parent. Our children need me-time too, and the sooner we can teach them to take care of their mind and body, the happier and healthier we’ll all be. Developing a self-care routine is just as important for kids as it is for adults. Instilling these habits at a young age allows kids to better manage the stressors that life throws at them in school or at home. As you refresh your family routine for the fall, promote your family’s mental wellness by making self-care a priority. Start by finding out what your children know about mental health and introduce them to the concept of mental wellness. We all have mental health and the goal is to keep it in really good shape. They know how to do that with their bodies: feed them well and exercise them. They know how to do that with their bicycles: they pump air in the tires and keep the chain oiled. But do they understand how to maintain good mental health? Talk about stress. Teach them not to panic if something is stressing them. Stress is a completely normal emotion. If they didn’t feel some stress, they probably wouldn’t be motivated to do a lot of really important things (like study for an upcoming Dictée or practise playing scales before piano lessons). A little stress is healthy! A lot of stress over an extended period of time is something they should talk about with someone they love. Discuss mood. It’s normal to feel sad sometimes like when they watch a sad scene in a movie. Or how they felt when they weren’t able to go to school and see all their friends during the pandemic. Or when they argue with a sibling. These are all reasons to feel sad. And that’s OK, because if they don’t feel sad sometimes, they can’t appreciate what it feels like to be happy. Just like stress though, if their sadness lasts for a long time and they're feeling it without a reason, it’s time to talk. Finally, explain self-care. It’s all about taking care of themselves. Here’s a great way to help them understand it letter by letter.

Laugh lots. Laughter really is good medicine. It makes us all feel better. (So, why do fish swim in salt water? Because pepper makes them sneeze!) Find fun. Kids should do what makes them happy. Drawing, dancing, reading, sewing—they get to decide. Connect with friends. It’s so important to stay social, even if it’s on a tablet or a computer. Everyone needs connections with people their own age. Activate the body. Exercise! Skip rope, play sports, swim—it’s good for the body and brain. Relax and recharge. Make time for down time. Take a rest and look for shapes in the clouds, paint their nails, or snuggle with their furry friend. Use the analogy of recharging a phone or tablet. Enjoy every day. Encourage kids to think positively whenever they can. If they look for the good, they’re much more likely to find it. If they have questions, encourage them to explore their curiosity. The best way to understand a topic is to learn more about it. That it’s not just true for school subjects; it’s also true when it comes to understanding their own mental health! Helping others is another great way for them to improve mental health. No fundraiser is ever too small, whether it’s a lemonade stand, art sale, or school-wide initiative. To learn more about self-care or get involved with the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia, visit

Starr Cunningham is president and CEO of the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. n

Sleep well. Let bodies and their brains rest. Limit screen time and stick to a sleep routine. Eat healthily. Treats are fine but only in moderation. Think of food as fuel for the body. Healthy food equals great energy.

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Our Children | Fall 2020

By Trevor J. Adams

This is Not the End of Me By Dakshana Bascaramurty McLelland & Stewart


Imagine the doctors have diagnosed you with terminal cancer. You’re now measuring life in months, not years. As you process that, your first child is born. All you can think about is the legacy you leave, how your newborn can know a parent they’ll never remember. That’s what Halifax photographer Layton Reid faced in 2013 as his son Finn entered this world. In her new book This is Not the End of Me, friend Dakshana Bascaramurty shares Reid’s poignant journey as he created a Finn Box, containing mementos and artifacts from his life. Friends and family shared video clips and messages on how they would remember him. He recorded video diaries and wrote many letters.

“He wanted a real range of stories, not just ones that elevated him to sainthood, but embarrassing stories or stories that show the full complexity of who he was,” Bascaramurty says in an interview with Halifax Magazine. ”He became committed to this idea that he wanted Finn to know who he was after he was gone. It was both a beautiful thing to witness in this and tragic because of spending so much time on this. I think he so badly wanted to show his son not only who his father was, but to also see him as part of a flawed human being and to maybe get some understanding of who Finn was from seeing what his dad was like.“ With this raw and sweet book, Bascaramurty forces parents to consider their own legacies, the short time they have with their children, and what they leave behind.

F O R R E V I E W O N LY — P R O P E RT Y O F R U B I C O N P U B L I S H I N G I N C A vivid, fast-paced re-imagining of the very first hockey game—played by wolves!


Jeffrey C. Domm has had a lifelong interest in nature and wildlife. Over the past several decades, Jeff has illustrated over 30 nature-related books including Atlantic Puffin, Little Brother of the North. Wild Pond Hockey is the first children’s picture book he has both written and illustrated. He has been teaching illustration, drawing, and design at NSCAD University since 1992 and his work includes scientific illustrations for the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Canadian Wildlife Service, and many other organizations. Awards for his work include the Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Illustration. Jeff lives and works close to the coast in Cow Bay, Nova Scotia.

Wild Pond Hockey


Nobody knows for certain how hockey began. Was the first game played in Canada? Was it invented by Indigenous peoples, who then taught it to Europeans? Or, long ago, did a wolf pack find a new way to play? When two ravens excitedly chisel away at a piece of ice on a frozen pond, a curious wolf pack approaches to investigate the ruckus. They step onto the slippery ice and scare off the birds. But the chunk of ice flies between the wolves, who soon start passing the “puck” back and forth. The game is on! Playfully deking and diving with the ravens cheering them on, the wolves slip and slide in a game of wild pond hockey. A fun re-imagining of the roots of our nation’s favourite game with vibrant, photo-realistic artwork from veteran nature writer and artist Jeffrey Domm.

Jeffrey C. Domm

Davies & Park-MacNeil





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H L LY CADO $12.95 USD $10.95


So Imagine Me: Nature Riddles in Poetry

Light in the Forest

Wild Pond Hockey

By Lynn Davies Art by Chrissie Park-MacNeil Nimbus Publishing

By Holly Carr Plumleaf Press

By Jeffrey C. Domm Nimbus Publishing

Lynn Davies is an accomplished poet and Governor General’s Award nominee, with three well regarded collections to her credit. So Imagine Me is her first foray into children’s writing, a medium that gives free range to her lyrical and deft writing style. In each poem, she challenges readers to a guessing game, as they try to figure out what animal she’s describing with clues like: “Be glad you’re in bed on the cold / clear nights when I show up. / I seek valleys and low-lying areas / first, but you’d never catch me.” The paintings of Chrissie Park-MacNeil add to the book’s dreamy vibe, a barely restrained riot of colour, light, shadow, and motion.

Light in the Forest is deceptively simple. Silkscreen artist Holly Carr translates one of her elegant, evocative murals into a book and the result is a simple yet so-oftenforgotten message of hope. Carr’s work gets its power in its authenticity, in this case a candid expression of a mother’s love. “Years ago, when our son was young, he had many fears,” she explains in the afterword. “At night these fears would keep him awake. Because he loved animals and nature, I was inspired to create Light in the Forest to help him overcome his anxieties and fears. Using his beloved animals and the forest, I wanted to remind him to always look for the light.” This is a fine heirloom book for a young child or an excellent addition to a parent’s art-book collection.

There are any number of conflicting theories about hockey’s birthplace. Some like to imagine it began at a boys’ school in the Annapolis Valley. Many historians point to Halifax or Montreal or the games of the Native tribes. With Wild Pond Hockey, nature writer and first-time children’s author Jeffrey C. Domm offers a whimsical new theory: perhaps hockey began in the remote wilderness, as wolves and crows scrabbled about playfully on a frozen pond. It’s a distinctively Canadian sort of fairytale—imagine if Gordon Lightfoot wrote “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” for kids—that he beautifully complements with photorealistic illustrations.


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