Halifaxâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Family Magazine ourchildrenmagazine.ca
Making green holidays Being mindful of the impact the season can have on the environment
Planet-friendly classrooms getting an A+ Ecology and the environment have become integral parts of the school curriculum
Lego exhibit helps kids aim for the sky The Discovery Centreâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s latest feature hopes to inspire the architects and engineers of tomorrow
plus Health & Wellness by Starr Cunningham
Book Reviews Nutrition
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Planet-friendly classrooms getting an A+ It all started with an empty juice box.
CONTENTS Making green holidays While many of us may be wishing for a white Christmas, the greener variety has many positive lessons for our kids
Lego exhibit helps kids aim for the sky DEPARTMENTS
The Discovery Centre’s latest feature hopes to inspire the next generation of architects and engineers
7 Editor’s note The building blocks of a perfect story
8 First bell Events, products, trends, and more
13 Message from the Executive Director Monthly reports highlight educational success stories
18 Nutrition How the holidays can teach kids about healthy eating
20 Parenting Health & Wellness Self-care is not selfish
22 Book reviews Our Children reviews The Things Owen Wrote, Joseph’s Big Ride, Bunk 9’s Guide to Growing Up, Lila and the Crow, and I Still Love You: Nine Things Troubled Kids Need from Their Parents
our Hockey Nova Scotia, in partnership with East Coast Varsity, is pleased to offer the
Hockey Nova Scotia—East Coast Varsity
LATE START PROGRAM On our cover The program begins in January and is designed to help children who are new to hockey jump into the sport in a safe, fun and supportive environment.
• Open to children ages 8-12 years old who are new to the game. • Includes eight on-ice sessions beginning in January. • Saturday afternoons at the East Coast Varsity Stadium (15 Ragus Road, Dartmouth, N.S.). • Led by certified on-ice instructors. • Registration fee: $50.00 (includes a hockey sweater)
Come out and try hockey with us this winter! For more information or to register, visit hockeynovascotia.ca or contact Garreth MacDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org. East Coast Varsity 15 Ragus Road, Dartmouth, NS eastcoastvarsity.ca
Hockey Nova Scotia 7 Mellor Avenue, Unit 17, Dartmouth, N.S. hockeynovascotia.ca Hockey Nova Scotia @HockeyNS @hockeyns
Alternative gift ideas and sustainable wrapping help to reduce the garbage and environmental footprint of the holidays. See page 10
Publisher Patty Baxter Senior Editor Trevor J. Adams Creative Director Jamie Playfair Art Director Mike Cugno
Production Coordinator Kelsey Berg
Printing Advocate Printing & Publishing Advocate Media Managing Editor Ken Partridge Contributors Heather Laura Clarke Starr Cunningham Katie Ingram Edwena Kennedy Chris Muise
For advertising sales and editorial and subscription enquiries: Tel. 902-420-9943 Fax 902-429-9058 email@example.com 2882 Gottingen Street Halifax, Nova Scotia B3K 3E2 metroguidepublishing.ca ourchildrenmagazine.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.
Ken Partridge, Editor Our Children Magazine
The building blocks of a perfect story Finding that one piece that fits all the major themes of our 2018 holiday issue I’ve always been a fan of Lego. I have bricks in my collection that date back to Christmases of my childhood, plus all the ones I received last year. I routinely regret all those blocks that got left behind when I moved out of my parents’ house as a young adult. They were probably still tucked away somewhere in the attic when the house was sold. I never stopped collecting or designing new creations with them, even though there was a long period when I kept them hidden away from view. It wasn’t cool to be an adult who played with what was generally considered a children’s toy. Thankfully, those days have passed. Today society embraces and even venerates the inner geek in each of us, leaving me free to talk about my hobby and even to display some of it in my office. So, when I heard The Discovery Centre was opening a new Lego display (see page 16), how could I not include a story in this issue of Our Children? It’s a perfect fit. It brings together in a few pages all the major themes of this edition. To me, Lego is inextricably tied to Christmas. There was always at least one set under the tree when I was a kid. I always bought some for my own kids and continue to do so for my grandsons. There may be a set or two for me in there too. Lego is the ultimate toy for the middle R of the environmental mantra: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. I reuse the same bricks over and over again. Ones I’ll receive for Christmas this year will fit together
and work with the ones I received as a child. I can even make a case for recycling, since I’ve passed blocks from my collection along to others and have acquired bricks from families looking to pass along collections they no longer want. I can’t really include reduce, though. As my wife will regretfully attest, my collection never seems to get any smaller. On another front, Lego is now moving toward sustainable bricks by switching from plastics derived from petrochemicals to one made from plant-based materials. That ties in nicely with our cover story this issue (see page 10), which focuses on reducing the waste usually associated with the holidays and its impact on the environment. These greener aspects also reach into our story on how classrooms are incorporating more aspects of environmental stewardship into the regular curriculum (see page 14). And finally, the use of Lego teaches kids many important skills without them even knowing they’re learning, or education by stealth as Ryan McNaught, a Lego certified professional, puts it. Finding ways to help our kids grow and learn is what Our Children is all about. See? The perfect story. All of us here at Our Children and Metro Guide Publishing wish you and your loved ones all the best this holiday season. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Joyous Kwanza, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Festivus—whatever reason you celebrate, may light and love fill the season.
Give the Gift
of Curiosity This holiday season, give the gift of a Discovery Centre Family Membership or make a smart selection from our Discovery Shop's science-themed toys, books, games and apparel.
1215 Lower Water St., Halifax www.thediscoverycentre.ca
Our Children | Winter 2018
East Coast meets West Coast When Randall Thompson, an expat Cape Bretoner, found himself in need of a career change after relocating to Victoria, British Columbia, he decided to start his own company and founded Caper Games. The company recently scored its biggest hit to date with the creation of a new deduction card game called Get Adler! The game has earned a Father Geek Seal of Excellence and can be found in stores across Canada, plus Barnes & Noble in the U.S. The game takes place in London, England in 1937, where intelligence has discovered that top-secret documents are missing. So, too, is MI6 Agent Adler. The only clue is an intercepted message: “Trafalgar at seven”. MI5 Agent Gold,
Inspector Sharpe of Scotland Yard, and Constable Townsend have been thrown this task: Find and eliminate Adler. They’ve got seven hours. The multi-player card game includes secret characters investigating each other to unmask double agent Adler. Once the traitor is revealed, the game transforms into an action-packed race against time to eliminate Adler and recover the topsecret documents. The game is suitable for ages 10 and older, works best with four to eight players and typically takes 30 minutes to play. The popularity of the game has inspired two spin-offs. The first is a novella of four continuous short stories called Gold & Sharpe, based on the
main characters from the game. The story follows MI5 agent Sarah Gold and Inspector Victor Sharpe of Scotland Yard as they try to catch German double-agent Adler and solve cases across London. The second is a line of apparel featuring Caper Games’ new logo. The new clothing line includes hoodies, toques, and tees. The clothing is proving quite popular with Thompson’s fellow Capers. “The response on Facebook has been amazing,” Thompson says. “After doing a small run and a prize-draw in a couple of Cape Breton groups, we received many requests for the toques and had to quickly place another order in additional colours.” To learn more, see capergames.ca.
Auld Land Syne Who isn’t allowed to stay up a little later than usual on New Year’s Eve? Join thousands of revellers at the Grand Parade in front of Halifax City Hall for the East Coast’s largest New Year’s Eve party. The family-friendly celebration begins at 10:30 p.m., with headliners Neon Dreams and A Tribe Called Red offering live musical performances, followed by a giant firework show at midnight.
Looking for a little action?
A symphony of entertainment Symphony Nova Scotia’s The Nutcracker has become one of those staples of the holidays. Successive generations have attended and no doubt they’ll be back again this year from Dec. 7 to 9 and 13 to 16 for the 2018 performances. Complete with larger-than-life puppets, spirited dancing, and Tchaikovsky’s hauntingly beautiful music, this tale of magic and wonder is as delightful today as the first time you saw it. All performances are at the Dalhousie Arts Centre from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Following The Nutcracker there’s Handel’s magnificent Messiah on Dec. 21 and 22. This year it’s presented in the historic “Dublin” arrangement, and features Mezzo-soprano Marion Newman, tenor Michael Colvin, and baritone Alexander Dobson. And once the holidays are over, there’s still plenty of reasons to return to the
Symphony as it presents the music of New Scotland on Jan. 12. From jolly jigs and reels to lilting laments, SNS explores the traditional tunes of the Highlands, complete with live step-dancing and bagpipes. It’s a fun, feisty kitchen party for the whole family. Participation is actively encouraged at the New Scotland concert, so bring the whole family and have fun enjoying and learning about music together. Children on the autism spectrum and their parents are welcome. The performance is at the Alderney Landing Theatre, 2 Ochterloney Street, at 3 p.m. Please note that seating is first-come, first-served. You and your children are also welcome to stand, sit on the floor, or move around as you wish. Unfortunately, due to space limitations, SNS isn’t reserving free tickets for adults without children.
Weekend fun If you’re looking for a break from your usual weekend routine, you might want to round-up the family and head out to Hatfield Farm, 1840 Hammonds Plains Road. From now till the end of March, Hatfield’s if offering two and a half hours of adventure, including a wagon ride, a petting pen, all-you-can-eat hot dogs, unlimited juice/pop/coffee and tea, time in the Rubber Rodeo with the inflatable games, zip lines, playgrounds, and mini-golf (seasonal). There’s no minimum group sizes or reservations needed, but you do need to arrive prior to 10:30 a.m. to register. You should call ahead too, just to make sure the weather isn’t going to ruin your fun and to check on pricing.
The Halifax Mooseheads always promise a good time for young and old alike, so head down to the Scotiabank Centre on Dec. 15 for their final home game before the Christmas break. Halifax’s major-junior hockey heroes will be facing off against Maritime rivals, the Charlottetown Islanders.
It isn’t all fun and games If you’re looking to keep your kids a little grounded during the holiday season, keep them in touch with their history by attending the Halifax Explosion Memorial on Dec. 6 at the Fort Needham Bell Tower, 3372 Devonshire Ave., 8:50 to 9:20 a.m. This solemn ceremony marks the 101st anniversary of the First World War accident when two ships (one laden with ammunition) collided in Halifax Harbour, sparking an explosion that levelled the city’s North End and killed some 2,000 people.
Festive theatre Neptune Theatre’s long-awaited holiday production begins on Nov. 27 and continues through Jan. 5. Artistic director Jeremy Webb adapts the classic fairy tale Cinderella as a musical comedy for the stage, starring Samantha Walkes as the title hero. Concurrently, Neptune’s studio stage hosts another holiday mainstay: Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a one-man show starring Rhys Bevan-John. The pantomime at Theatre Arts Guild is another annual family favourite. It’s always a lively, rollicking show with lots of audience participation. This year see Sleeping Beauty from Nov. 22 to Dec. 8.
Our Children | Winter 2018
Making green holidays While many of us may be wishing for a white Christmas, the greener variety has positive lessons for our kids By Katie Ingram
is the season to be jolly, while being mindful of the impact the season can have on the environment. “Whether it’s a special holiday or throughout the year, we really should focus on the word reduce,” says Kari Riddell, an enviroeducator with the Clean Foundation. “We need to keep that in mind during the holiday, while you’re shopping or entertaining or during the morning of.” While there isn’t a breakdown by month, according to 2016 data from Statistics Canada, Nova Scotia produced 169,786 tonnes of waste from residential sources, which was up 8,981 tonnes from the previous year. As a a whole, Canada produces 10,225,943 tonnes of residential waste.
During the holidays, there is over consumption and over commercialization, which can lead to more waste being produced per household, says Lauren Murphy, manager of youth programs at the Clean Foundation and mother of two. Murphy finds children are more adept in understanding the reasons behind waste reduction, but there are still lessons and skills to be learned. “It’s kind of amazing how, if you model something for a child, you can show them the correlation to nature and to animals, something a lot of adults struggle with,” says Murphy, whose children are in Grades 2 and 4. One area to start with during the holidays is gift wrap.
“You want to think about what you’re wrapping your gifts with,” Riddell says. “Reusable gift wrap could be a scarf versus paper that has glitter and glue and can’t be recycled.” She also encourages families to use reusable bows and ribbons and to be minimalist when it comes to packaging. “If you have to use tape, only use a bit of tape,” she says. “You don’t have to wrap it like it’s never going to be opened.” Emily Dodge, board member with the Nova Scotia Environmental Network, says communication and fun are key in teaching this to kids. “Challenge kids to find other ways to wrap gifts: paper grocery bags or even scrap paper they can colour themselves and make
11 their own wrapping paper,” she says. “As you’re doing that, you can talk to them about why it’s better than buying a roll of paper. It’s a way to have a conversation about it, while also making it hands-on.” Giving the task more meaning is something that can also be extended to decorating. Murphy says her Christmas tree is covered in ornaments made by her children. “Even though my tree definitely looks hilarious, each one of them has more sentimental value than going through a store and buying a box of Christmas ornaments,” she says. When it comes to gift giving, Murphy says gifts can be something the giver already owns. She will often ask her children to pick something they don’t use anymore, but another person would like. “They’re even more excited about it because there’s a story behind it, as opposed to their mom went to the store and bought a gift while they were at school and they don’t even know what it is,” Murphy says. “It’s kind of the idea of upcycling or looking at alternatives of having to buy something brand new.” If parents do choose to buy gifts, the shopping trip can also be a teaching moment. They can show their kids the types of products available and explain how some are more environmentally friendly than others. This can help instill better consumer habits when they are older, says Kate Preper. “One of the biggest problems right now is over consumption. So, if we keep buying this plastic stuff, they will continue to make it,” says Preper, owner of The Tare Shop, a café and zero waste bulk goods store, and founder of Our Positive Planet, a website focused on environmental success stories. “I think one thing for that [over consumption] is parents not falling for and buying into the new trends and toys. If you get sucked into it, your kid will as well. So, we need to watch what we’re buying and try to move away from plastic to more sustainable options.” When talking about sustainability, parents can also show their children not all sustainable gifts are physical objects. “They can also be lessons, or a trip somewhere, whether it’s just to a park or
whatnot,” Dodge says. “It’s just the idea a gift doesn’t have to be a shiny, flashy toy or latest electronic gadget; it can be so much more.” Preper says experiences as gifts might be difficult for kids to grasp, but parents can “foster” the idea from an early age. Like with wrapping and gift giving, Preper says parents should include their child in this process as much has possible. “Ask them what they really want to do,” she says. “If they have enough toys already, maybe ask for money and save up and see if there’s an experience they want to do.”
MERMAIDS LOVE SUSTAINABLE GIFTS Even though December can be a tad cold and snowy, the Halifax Mermaids are still spreading awareness about the environment. Our Children asked Mermaids Mimi and Tuwala for gifts suggestions to help you lower your carbon footprint this holiday season. • Memberships or Museum Passes: Tuwala says taking children to museums not only helps them get interested in the world around them, but it lasts longer and, as an experience, doesn’t produce greenhouse gas. • Sea Glass Jewelry: For Mermaid Mimi, sea glass jewelry is a gift that keeps on giving. Families not only go on a trip together, but they can make the jewelry together and help keep beaches clean of debris. • Giving Back: Everyone needs help at some point and Mimi points out helping a person do something can often mean a lot more than an object. Her suggestions are offering to shovel snow, helping parents bake food, bread, or sweets for a neighbour, or volunteering to read to someone who needs a friend. • Plants: Both Tuwala and Mimi suggest giving someone a plant or tree. Not only do they help remove carbon dioxide form the air, but families can work together to take care of their new leafy, green friend.
Our Children | Winter 2018
BIG BOX ALTERNATIVES There are many shops within the Halifax Regional Municipality that offer environmentally friendly or low-waste options. Here are a few to consider this holiday season: • Shore Things, Eastern Passage: Shore Things uses reclaimed materials to make unique gifts, most of which are ocean-themed. It’s a seasonal shop, so make sure you shop early. • Organic Earth Market, Halifax: While Organic Earth is a grocery store, you never know what you might find there that would be good for stocking stuffers and small gifts. • Second hand and antique stores: There are several of these throughout the HRM. Buying used items helps limit how many clothes, toys, or other items end up in the landfill. A few suggestions are Elsie’s Used Clothing and Finer Things Antiques and Curiosities, both in Halifax, and John W. Doull Bookseller in Dartmouth. • Nurtured, Halifax: From baby toys and puzzles and games, to waste-free lunch containers, Nurtured has dozens of eco-friendly items designed for sustainability. • Bulk food stores: Looking to give a person’s favourite candy or even a healthier snack or two as a gift? Halifax has a few bulk stores, including The Grainery Food Cooperative or The Tare Shop, both in Halifax.
While experiences and eco-friendly products are better for the environment, they can also be more expensive. Dodge says families should make a plan if they’re going to adopt this model. “Don’t try to do too much at once because it can be difficult cost wise and time wise,” she says. “If a family sits down with their kids and picks one aspect this year… it makes it a bit easier to attain.” Other family members and friends can also help. “Make it clear, to your friends and family, you don’t want gifts, or you want money so you can go on a trip together, or that you want an experience as a gift,” Preper says. Once everything is done, Dodge says parents should make sure their kids see what their newspaper-wrapped gift or family trip is helping. “Get outside and try to understand while you’re doing some of these things in the home,” she says. “When they can spend time outside, they understand (for example) where wrapping paper ends up. The big thing in all this is to not forget to go outside and spend time together as a family, to enjoy it.
MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Monthly reports highlight educational success stories Phase two of the Pre-Primary Program, a new school song, and standing up to bullying—highlights from the Regional Executive Director’s report
his fall was the start of the first full school year since the change over to the new Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE). To kick-off the year, the Regional Executive Director Edwin LeRoux issued one of his monthly reports highlighting and celebrating the successes of students and staff and demonstrating the implementation and the positive impact of changes to Nova Scotia’s education system. There are ordinary miracles in teaching and learning happening every day in the system and these reports provide families, staff, school communities, partners, and the public, a window into HRCE classrooms by sharing stories of impact. Here’s a couple of excerpts from the report:
Working with a recording artist Congratulations to students of Basinview Drive Community School. Last year, students worked with singer/songwriter Meaghan Smith to write a school song called Everyone Belongs. All 700 students contributed to the message of the song about inclusion and celebrating differences. Check out this incredible school song. The story behind it can be found here: youtube.com/watch?v=C7DppBmhVfw
The Pre-Primary Program How does Pre-Primary prepare students for school? September marked the start of phase two of the four-year Pre-Primary rollout. In the HRCE, there are currently 30 schools housing 43 Pre-Primary rooms. This includes the addition of three classes that opened in early October at Brookhouse Elementary, Fairview Junior High, and Sycamore Lane Elementary. There are 97 Pre-Primary staff members who are providing 670 children with play-based learning experiences that support young children’s development. How does Pre-Primary lay the foundation for school success? Hear from a Pre-Primary educator and a Primary teacher in this video: youtube.com/watch?v=OIMdfMlozyY&feature=youtu.be
Images taken from the video created of the song Everyone Belongs, created by Meaghan Smith and the students of Basinview Drive Elementary. Check out the full video at youtube.com/ watch?v=C7DppBmhVfw.
Future reports will appear on the centre’s website (hrce.ca) and be shared via Twitter at @HRCE_NS and @Elwin_LeRoux. Video stories can also be found on the centre’s YouTube channel: youtube.com/HalifaxRegionalCentreforEducation.
Phase two of the Pre-Primary Program is now underway. These images are taken from a video created to show how the program prepares kids for starting school. See the full video at youtube.com/watch?v=OIMdfMlozyY& feature=youtu.be.
Our Children | Winter 2018
Planet-friendly classrooms getting an
Local students learning to recycle, garden, save energy, reduce waste, help others, and save the planet
By Heather Laura Clarke
By Heather Laura Clarke
t all started with an empty juice box. During “circle time” on the floor with her Grade 3 students last year, teacher Laura Kennedy passed around an empty juice box and asked them to tell her what it was. After guesses like box, carton, and rectangle, one student shouted, “Refundable!” “We talked about how each juice box is worth a nickel, and sometimes people will just leave a nickel lying on the ground,” says Kennedy, who teaches at Sir Charles Tupper Elementary in Halifax. “We also talked about what we could do with the money if we collected all the empty juice boxes in the school.” Her students started collecting refundables in special bins and redeemed them for more than $200 in a single school year. When the school received an unexpected donation of travel-sized toothpastes, Kennedy and her students used their juice box money to buy other toiletries to make “Kindness Kits.”
Above: Grade 6 classes can learn about wind, solar, and marine technology, and build circuits powered by renewable energy. Above left: A letter from one student who heard Eddie’s message of environmental stewardship and has taken it to heart.
They created an assembly line in the classroom and filled 30 plastic bags with tissues, toothbrushes, floss picks, cough drops, hand sanitizers, and snacks. They donated them to St. Mary’s Basilica and Hope Cottage and went on to make larger Kindness Baskets, laundry hampers heaped with everything from toiletries to socks and towels, to donate to Adsum for Women and Children. So far this school year, Kennedy says her Grade 4 and 5 class has “hit the ground running” and collected more than $10 in refundables towards another charitable project. Vice Principal Erica Phillips says, “Everyone knows to bring their refundables to Ms. Kennedy’s class.” Phillips teaches Grade 3 at Sir Charles Tupper, and last year she helped the school build eight raised garden beds that could serve as an outdoor classroom. She says it’s good for students to see that food “doesn’t just appear in grocery stores,” and get their hands dirty growing it themselves.
She and her class recently harvested their cucumbers and she used her dehydrator to make cucumber chips for everyone to taste. When they harvested their carrots and zucchinis, she baked them into muffins. Numerous parents emailed her for the recipe because they couldn’t believe their children ate veggie muffins and liked them. “When children grow vegetables themselves, they’re much more willing to eat them,” Phillips says. “My kid has onion breath most of the time because she loves to pop into the garden at home and grab some chives.” She says gardening’s a perfect fit for Grade 3 because the curriculum covers plants and soil. She emailed parents over the summer to suggest they collect soil samples from anywhere they went on vacation, and in the fall her class got to study samples from Kejimkujik, P.E.I., Cape Cod, and even Oregon. Phillips says the Tomatosphere program is a hit with students of all ages, and she
Clean Foundation’s environmental superhero, Eddie the cat, is helping an entire generation learn about and care for the environment.
incorporates it into her curriculum every year. Students plant two identical-looking sets of tomato seeds and track their growth, but one seed package has been to the International Space Station and grows “space tomatoes.” “We’re very much in the centre of Halifax and this isn’t farmland, but we can garden on our back patios and porches or in a little raised bed,” Phillips says. “There’s nothing better than watching a kid pull out a carrot; that look of shock and awe that they grew it from a tiny seed, and now it’s something they can eat.” Schools across Nova Scotia are bringing in guest speakers to help students learn how to lead more environmentally-friendly lives. Green Schools Nova Scotia is an Efficiency Nova Scotia program that worked with more than 900 school groups last year alone. Its website contains hundreds of free online resources for teachers to download and print, and so far, its engagement officers have visited nearly two-thirds of all schools in Nova Scotia. Green Schools Nova Scotia’s program coordinator, Colleen Freake, says many students already understand about turning off lights when they leave a room and not running the tap while they brush their teeth, but there’s always more to learn. She says Green Schools Nova Scotia engagement officers try to work with the teacher to integrate with the curriculum, so they might do a Language Arts tie-in with a question-and-answer version of “Energy Bingo.”
“Kids really care about the environment, and this reaches them where they are,” Freake says. “They’re taking it all in, and then they’re going home and chatting about it with their parents.” The Clean Foundation’s EnviroEd team has been visiting schools for years to talk about green solutions, but they started making huge strides in 2009 when they hired an unexpected environmental superhero: a cat named Eddie. The loveable singing puppet brings his “Litterless Road Tour” to elementary schools and community groups across the province, accompanied by Enviro Educators Kari Riddell or Amanda Ring, to talk about the importance of keeping the earth clean. He’s been challenging children and their parents to pack a “wasteless lunch,” by introducing them to his friend, Norman, a one-winged falcon at Hope for Wildlife. “The kids hear about how Norman’s habitat was destroyed by litter, and Eddie asks them to please help out his friend. It’s amazing to see how they respond to him,” says Riddell, one of Eddie’s puppeteers. “Having a mascot makes it more magical for the kids and it helps them remember the experience.” After Eddie issues the challenge, the EnviroEd team sends the students home with lunch bag tags to serve as reminders. It certainly worked for Clean program manager Lauren Murphy’s son. He saw Eddie’s show three years ago and still insists his lunch doesn’t contain any disposable plastic. Once a class was so inspired after Eddie’s presentation that they secured a solar panel for the roof of their portable classroom. Another group of students once rushed outside to pick up trash at the neighbouring junior high school. “The principal had no idea why these elementary-aged students were picking up garbage over there, and they just kept saying, ‘This is for Eddie! Eddie told us to do this,’” Ring says. “He only found out later that Eddie was a puppet!” The Clean Foundation also organizes interactive workshops for older students. Grade 6 classes can learn about wind, solar, and marine technology, and build circuits powered by renewable energy. Grade 7 classes can collect water samples from local streams and learn about creatures in their local habitat. Phillips says it’s important for students of all ages to learn what they can do to preserve our natural environment, because they’re the ones who are going to inherit it. “Today’s children are the people who will be taking care of us and the environment when we’re older,” Phillips says. “They’re little sponges right now. We just need to show them how to be respectful of living things and give them the hands-on experience to take over for us.”
Our Children | Winter 2018
Lego exhibit helps kids aim for the sky
Towers of Tomorrow with Lego Bricks features 20, 14-foot-tall, to-scale replicas of some of the tallest buildings and architectural marvels from around the world.
By Chris Muise
The Discovery Centre’s latest feature hopes to inspire the next generation of architects and engineers
he newest feature at the Discovery Centre hopes to inspire the next generation of engineers and architects with the help of one of the world’s most beloved toy brands, Lego. Towers of Tomorrow with Lego Bricks, a traveling exhibit hailing from Melbourne, Australia making its first Canadian stop in Halifax, features 20, 14-foot-tall, to-scale replicas of some of the tallest buildings and architectural marvels from around the world, including the CN Tower, the Empire State Building, and the Burj Khalifa, just to name a few. All 20 towers were made exclusively with Lego, with a grand total of two tonnes worth of bricks and 2,400 man-hours. The man who expended each one of those man hours, Lego certified professional Ryan McNaught, was on-sight during the exhibit’s exclusive opening event to show a group of first- and second-grade kids from Saint Mary’s Elementary what he’s built.
“We’re going to get the school group in here, and we’re going to put them through their paces and test their Lego skills. See if Halifax Lego kids are up to the challenge,” says McNaught, who is one of only 14 Lego Certified professionals from around the world. You see, the replica towers aren’t the only Lego bricks in the exhibit. Found beneath their displays are areas filled with loose Lego bricks, to the tune of 200,000 individual pieces. McNaught divided the kids into three teams and tasked each to first build the tallest free-standing tower they could, and then the longest bridge without any underlying supports. McNaught hints the replica skyscrapers are to get kids and their parents in the door, but it’s these loose bricks that are the real stars of the exhibit. “It’s a great way to teach kids about architecture, and the world we live in,” McNaught says. “We call it ‘education by
stealth,’ in that kids don’t know they’re learning. They’re going to have a great time playing with Lego bricks, but really what they’re doing is they’re learning skills around engineering, around how difficult it is to make towers.” “I’m trying to build a bridge,” says sevenyear-old Kierra Depenha. “It’s not really turning out how I want it to turn out.” “We can build whatever we want,” adds Adrian Pecurica, who is adamant he is sixand-three-quarters-years-old. “Right now, I’m building an iron fort. This red piece is blood.” It’s an ingenious way to get kids thinking about the real-world applications of such things as structural integrity, physics, and even gravity. Lego, one of the most enduring toy brands on earth, has been a staple of the playroom since 1949, and there’s nary a child alive today who hasn’t encountered a piece or two. No child would suspect they’re actually learning when given the chance to play with some.
17 And yet, we probably owe the existence of some of the real-world equivalents of the towers on display in the exhibit to Lego, according to McNaught. “Most architects, engineers that I talk to, both [men] and [women], played with Lego as a kid and it was one of the key things that got them interested in what they do,” McNaught says. That connection between Lego and future city-makers of tomorrow isn’t lost on the people at the Discovery Centre, who booked this exhibit over a year in advance. “Our slogan for this campaign is ‘start small, dream tall,’ and that’s exactly what these kids are doing here today with their towers,” says
SUSTAINABLE LEGO BRICKS In the world of toys, Lego towers above the rest, and not just because you can stack their bricks to the ceiling. With oil growing scarcer, and plastic getting costlier, Lego maintains a rigid standard of quality when it comes to the stuff their bricks are made of, while other toys are finding ways to reduce costs by reducing plastic. This is in part because the company wants to ensure the bucket of bricks you grew up with as a child will fit together flawlessly with bricks you buy your own kids today. “The thing that I like about Lego is that I’m still using the same bricks I had when I was a child,” says Ryan McNaught, a Lego certified professional. In that sense, Lego is already practicing sustainability to a certain degree. “There’s that reusability element to it,” McNaught says. But the Danish company wants to do better still. That’s why Lego expects to produce its first ecologically-friendly bricks this year. Production has already begun on a range of bricks made from plant-based materials sourced from sugarcane, according to the company’s website. At the moment, they’re only being used for Lego‘s more “botanical” pieces, like trees and bushes, but the hope is to transition to a fully-sustainable product catalogue by 2030. As an end user, McNaught is more than happy to switch over to eco-friendly bricks once they arrive. “If they’re fundamentally the same, of course you’d go for the environmentally-friendly solution,” he says. “Lego‘s quality and standards, which haven’t changed over the years, [means] they won’t bring anything into the market that doesn’t meet that [standard].”
Jennifer Punch, director of marketing and sales at the Discovery Centre. “When you think about careers down the road, how many potential architects, designers, construction crew engineers do you think we have in this room right now… hopefully, it’s inspiring them to use their imagination and aspire to be those future engineers and architects.” It may seem like a long shot, exposing kids to Lego and hoping they grow up to build the world’s next largest skyscraper. But childhood exposure to potential career paths isn’t for nothing, according to Saint Mary’s Elementary teacher Brigitte Theriault. “That’s how children learn, they learn exploring with handson materials,” she says. “I think it’s important to expose them to different career paths, but I think at this age, it’s just about having fun and exploring.” “They probably learn more, applying it practically,” says Eric Machum, a parent chaperone who came with his son Max’s class to the opening event. Hands-on learning isn’t anything new to the Discovery Centre, which recently relocated to a top-of-the-line facility located next door to NS Power’s downtown headquarters. In fact, it’s been their bread and butter for going on three decades. “Everything we do here at the Discovery Centre is about fun, but it’s also got an educational element,” Punch says. “Towers of Tomorrow with Lego Bricks is all about experiential learning… similar to other areas of the Discovery Centre.” Depenha, who is eager to tell anyone who’ll listen she’s been to the real Burj Khalifa when her family lived in Dubai (although she was only a baby then and doesn’t remember it personally), has other career paths in mind, like being a veterinarian or a dancer. But she thinks it would be great if some of her other classmates are inspired to follow a career in architecture because of their time at the Towers of Tomorrow exhibit. “They’re teaching us how to build… so people could build houses for people on the street,” she says. Pecurica, on the other hand, has definitely been inspired to change his career trajectory because of the Lego exhibit and meeting McNaught. “I learned that lots of Lego structures can be taller than I think, like that big blue one is almost to the ceiling,” he says, pointing to the Burj Khalifa. “I decided to be a famous Lego artist when I grew up.” “I’m sure they’ll all go home with very exciting stories today,” Theriault says, as the kids are led out on their way back to their regular classes. “They’ll remember this day for a long time.” The Towers of Tomorrow with Lego Bricks feature exhibit is open to patrons of the Discovery Centre as part of regular admission until Jan. 4, 2019, when the toy towers will be packed up and ferried to their next destination. Until then, Punch welcomes folks of all ages to come and enjoy the exhibit, because really, who among us doesn’t love Lego? “I feel like this exhibit is really for everybody,” Punch says.
Our Children | Winter 2018
How the holidays can teach kids about healthy eating By Edwena Kennedy
he Christmas season probably seems like the least effective time of year to implement healthy eating habits for our kids (or, let’s face it, for ourselves). Between the many parties and special meals loaded with sweets available at this time of year, it’s pretty hard to imagine how I could possibly suggest we can use this time to teach our kids healthy eating habits. But I suppose, we need to understand what healthy eating habits are first, don’t we? Well, healthy eating isn’t just about what you eat, it also has a lot to do with how you eat. I’d argue that because some of the foods are only available during the holidays or once or twice a year, the real problem isn’t that we’re eating them, but rather we’re mindlessly eating them in copious amounts with complete disregard for hunger and fullness cues. Since we know how easy it is to overeat and how horrible we feel when we do so, it’s only natural we find ourselves stressing about the amount of sugar and desserts our kids are eating. We chase them around buffets, nagging them to only have one cookie or warning them they must finish their chicken before they can get a slice of cake.
But what if I was to tell you that to teach your kids how to avoid unhealthy eating habits, you must let go of the control and NOT restrict them during these times. I know this sounds crazy but hear me out. You see, this is a special time of year. We want them to associate it with happy and fun memories, rather than feeling “bad” for eating Grandma’s special pie or not being allowed to eat the special candy from Santa. And running around stressing out about what and how much they’re eating is making them feel bad and guilty for wanting to enjoy these foods, which may backfire. Research shows the more you restrict food, the more kids (and adults) crave and want it. So, this is NOT the time to try and restrict food. To be honest, even if you try you’re likely not going to win in the long run. You may succeed by restricting your child at one event (and likely ensue a lot of tears and bad memories in the process), but the next time your child has free access to these foods, they will overindulge on purpose, because scarcity and restriction leads to more desire. So instead, here are a few things you can do to teach them some good healthy habits and lessons, without it causing turmoil.
1. Teach them to be picky about desserts/treats. This doesn’t mean they only only get to choose one thing, but they don’t need to have everything that’s offered to them. When they ask you if they can have something, respond positively with “Sure! How about you choose your favourite one or two treats and then save the rest for tomorrow.” Learning to choose treats you really enjoy and turning away the ones you don’t really care for is an important part of healthy eating. 2. When they eat something, whether its a large piece of cake or a small candy, have them sit down at a table and focus on their food. This is one concept of mindful eating that helps encourage kids to enjoy their food better, more slowly, and in a way that makes them feel more satisfied (which doesn’t happen when eating on the run or in front of the TV). 3. Once they’ve chosen they’re favourite treat, don’t try and restrict the quantities they eat. Remember, this is a special occasion that allows for some special rules. They’re smart enough to know that party food is different from food that’s offered regularly at home. Let them eat freely but with a focus on eating until they’re tummy says they’re full/feels happy. Let them know that if they eat too much, they may feel sick and you don’t want them to feel this way. Funny enough, by letting go of the control, you may be surprised how little they actually do eat. In fact, have you ever seen how a toddler eats when they have free reign? Chances are, rather than eating a whole plate of cookies, they’ll take a couple bites and drop it on the floor before running off to play with their cousins. 4. If (or when) they do overeat, don’t make a big deal and scold them for what they’ve done. Avoid blaming them by saying “I told you so!” Instead, sympathize with them and make sure they associate this feeling with the fact they ate a bit too much. Help them remember this feeling and let them know this type of thing takes practice. Once they know what it feels like to have two cookies, maybe next time they’ll try eating only one and see how they feel. Most times, kids agree and do well with regulating their intake. Overall, when we don’t make a big deal about foods like holiday treats and desserts, they really don’t become that big of a deal to our kids. Kids don’t have the hang-ups and baggage we have around food, so let’s not pass on the feelings of guilt, shame, or emotional attachment to food we have. It’s a party, we ate too many cookies, let’s move on with our lives and get back to regular eating habits when it’s all over. In the meantime, maybe we can avoid unnecessary battles during the holiday season while still learning a lesson or two. Edwena Kennedy is the registered pediatric dietitian and mom of two behind My Little Eater (mylittleeater.com), an online course platform with multiple courses to help parents raise happy, healthy eaters from ages six months to 12 years. Sign up for her free resource, 25 lunch ideas for your school-aged child. She lives in Halifax and loves to travel with her family, try cuisines from all over the world, and does interior decorating in her spare time.
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Our Children | Winter 2018
Self-care is not selfish Making the time to look after your own needs means you’re at your best when needed by family or friends
PHOTO: PAUL DARROW
By Starr Cunningham
Marty and Iz, Starr’s golden retriever and Shih Tzu, visit the park when they aren’t sleeping side-by-side at the cottage.
elf-care is a phrase we hear more often these days. And that’s a good thing. As parents we’re constantly taking care of everything and everyone else. The kids, the shopping, the pets, the family schedule, the housework, the vehicle maintenance, the finances, the appointments, the holiday planning, and the list goes on. It’s all important stuff, but there’s a priority that’s often left-off the proverbial To Do list: YOU! At the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia, we’re huge proponents of self-care. We know it’s a critical part of maintaining good mental health.
I’m the first to admit it’s often difficult to carve out “me time” when there are so many other balls to keep up in the air. As a person who lives with depression, I have to be especially diligent about taking time for myself. While medication and talk therapy sessions are regular parts of my personal routine, there also needs to be time set aside for doing the things that make me happy. I used to be under the impression these things were optional. However, now I recognize they’re mandatory. So why is self-care so often scarce? For me, it’s because I have a tendency to only make time for myself when everything else
is done. And I know I’m not alone here. Think about the last time you had planned to go to the gym only to have something pop-up with the kids. What did you choose to complete? Chances are it was the task focused on the children, not on you. It’s normal to put our own needs on hold until there’s time. Then, the time just disappears. Well, now is the time to make sure you get that time back and use it for you. There’s a saying about not being able to pour from an empty cup and it rings especially true when we’re talking about self-care. If there’s nothing left for you, then how can you expect to fully be there for others? It’s really that simple. To be a productive and effective parent, partner, employee, family member, or friend, you need to be at your best. That means making self-care a chief concern. So, what are some self-care suggestions? Of course, they’ll be different for everyone, but here are a few standard categories: • Healthy eating is a huge. Making smart food decisions provides more energy and generally makes you feel better. While cooking a meal at home may take more time than ordering in or dining out, it goes a long way toward putting you and your family on the right path. Remember, when you eat well your children eat well too. There are also the therapeutic benefits of washing, chopping, and cooking fresh food at the end of a busy day. Don’t think of it as work that
21 needs to be done, but rather a regular pocket of family time that brings everyone together to share time in the kitchen. • Exercise. There’s no disputing this one. Every time I make the time to go for a power walk, row at the gym, or attend a Zumba class, I feel stronger and more confident. It’s not just in my head; there’s science to back this one up. Physical activity is key to good mental health. It gets your blood flowing, your lungs working, and your heart pumping, and it doesn’t have to be a solo activity. Taking the kids and the dog for a walk in the woods counts. So does dancing in the rec room or playing a game of tag in the backyard. If you’re having fun, your kids are having fun too. • Then there’s zzzzzzzzz. We all know sleep is critical for clear thinking and maintaining energy throughout the day, but too often we push our quality sleep time limits. It’s much easier to be adamant about a bedtime for the little ones than it is to be focused on counting our own snoozing hours (especially if there’s a work deadline looming or a stressful situation on the horizon). For me personally, sleep is the most important of all self-care strategies. One lousy night of sleep is bearable, but any more and I’m sure to be irritable, hungry, and likely to cancel any plans involving exercise. • Doing things you find relaxing. Ahhhhhhh! For me, nothing beats reading a book in the bathtub or curling up in front of the fireplace with a great playlist. I also love baking, writing letters, and taking time to not just read the paper, but to do the crossword puzzle too. These are simple self-care techniques that work to recharge my batteries and bring calm into my day. They are grounding activities that are just as significant as all those other scheduled meetings, appointments, and must-dos that are part of my daily schedule. For you, they might include painting, knitting, yoga, home improvement projects, or combing recipe books for new meal ideas. They’re meant to be unique to each individual because relaxation means something different to everyone. •S taying social. Connecting with others is always good for our mental health. Spending time with family, friends, and colleagues is vital to staying engaged, not just in your own life, but in your community. I can always tell when I’m starting to neglect my self-care because I lose my desire to meet a friend for coffee or answer their calls. These interactions typically bring me joy, but they can start to make me anxious and become energy-eaters if I’m not at my best. Social isolation is definitely not part of a healthy self-care strategy. It can lower your mood and bring on emotional thinking. Yes, alone time is important, but not if that’s the only type of time you’re fitting in. • Feeling spiritual. For some people this might mean going to worship, while for others it might involve watching the sunset over the harbour or taking time to simply sit in nature and listen to the birds. Meditation is becoming more mainstream these days and it can provide a nice escape from individual thinking to explore the bigger picture and contemplate the wider world. • Playing with Marty and Iz. Okay, this one is really for the dogs. Marty is our two-year-old golden retriever and Izzy is our 11-year-old Shih Tzu. Spending time with them is self-care at its finest. They are two furry goofballs who never fail to make me laugh and keep me on my toes. You should never underestimate the power of animals. They provide entertainment, unconditional love, and are experts at the art of distraction. Plus, they make you get up and move.
Starr and her sister, Stacey, out for a self-care Thanksgiving Day hike at Hemlock Ravine.
I’m sure you get the idea by now. Self-care is all about doing those things that put a smile on your face and create positive energy. Selfcare provides self-confidence and increases self-esteem. It doesn’t have to cost money. It’s easily accessible and, best of all, it creates happy people, happy homes, and happy workplaces. What’s not to love? So the next time you want to teach your child an important lesson in resilience, why not let them see you demonstrating self-care. It’s certainly not selfish. In fact, it’s anything but. Starr Cunningham is the president and CEO of the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. She’s an acclaimed journalist, best-selling children’s author, and volunteer. She was recently recognized as a Canadian Difference Maker – 150 Leading Canadians for Mental Health and is a winner of the Northwood Foundation 2017 Live More Advocacy Award.
Our Children | Winter 2018
By Trevor J. Adams
The Things Owen Wrote By Jessica Scott Kerrin Groundwood Books Ages 8 to 12 Life has always gone pretty easily for Owen. He’s a good student, friendly, and well liked, supported by his loyal family. But then he makes a mistake that, if uncorrected, could cost him his family’s respect. As the plot twists, he makes a last-minute (and surprisingly convenient) trip to Iceland with his grandfather, where he just might get the chance to save himself. Generally buoyant, hopeful, and well paced, the book’s only weakness is the occasional slip into dialogue that sounds more like narration than actual conversation. (One early scene with Owen and his grandfather discussing Icelandic poets is the most egregious example; it sounds like it’s adapted from a Wikipedia article on “Icelandic poets in Canada”). But those (infrequent) lapses aside, this is a solid pick. Owen is a likeable character kids will find relatable. The writing is otherwise solid, challenging but not too hard; a good choice for readers just graduating to chapter books.
Joseph’s Big Ride By Terry Farish, art by Ken Daley Annick Press Ages 4 to 7 A child’s first solo bike ride is always a big deal; for Joseph, who came from a refugee camp to start a new life in America, it means even more. From the first time he saw a bike, Joseph has yearned to experience the speed and freedom. After many dashed hopes and false starts, he finally gets a bike of his own and the experience is all he imagined. Heartwarming and joyous, this book will resonate with young learning-to-ride readers.
Bunk 9’s Guide to Growing Up By Adah Nuchi, illustrated by Meg Hunt Thomas Allen & Son Ages 8 to 12 Most young girls won’t go up to their parents and say “Hey, let’s talk about puberty!” but the subject is very much on their minds. This book is a good tool to start the conversation. Written as a guide from been-there-done-that older girls at Camp Silver Moon, this wide-ranging book touches topics like menstruation, breasts, hygiene, health, nutrition, and feelings. Billed as “girl powered,” trying to capture the tone of a conversation between sisters or best friends, this is a no-nonsense peer-to-peer book that will entertain and educate.
Lila and the Crow By Gabrielle Grimard Annick Press Ages 5 to 8 When Lila moves to a new town, she’s keen to make friends. But the kids there are unkind, relentlessly mocking her dark hair, shouting “Crow!” at her. Parents will see this plot as an obvious analogue for racism, while younger readers will instantly recognize the casual and reflexive cruelty that’s a part of daily life in kid world. First baffled then hurt, Lila eventually learns resilience and embraces who she is, turning a hurtful label into a point of pride.
PARENT’S PICK: I Still Love You: Nine Things Troubled Kids Need from Their Parents By Michael Ungar Dundurn A social-work professor and frequently published author, Ungar is internationally recognized for his work with at-risk youth, and uniquely qualified to write this valuable resource. As he works with kids and shares his own experiences as a troubled teen from an abusive home, Ungar explores the importance of structure, consequences, identity, control, belonging, responsibilities, and safety. Academic jargon and turgid prose often plague books like this, but as a veteran writer, Ungar knows how to make it readable and memorable. This is a valuable guide to help families navigate (and avoid) troubled times.
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