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Halifax’s Family Magazine

Summer 2018

SETTING UP CAMP Getting back to nature can help you make the most of the summer break

Beat Summer Slumps Educators offer strategies to keep learning on track

Land Recognition An important first step in respecting Indigenous communities

plus Health & Wellness by Starr Cunningham

Book Reviews Nutrition

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Summer 2018



Summer slumps are no myth Educators offer strategies for keeping learning on track

Summertime and the camping is easy


Getting back to nature can help you make the most of the summer break

DEPARTMENTS 7 Editor’s note

Music to your kid’s ears Music can be the best medicine to preserve and enhance your health

Best camping trip ever: multiple disasters built a stronger bond

8 First bell Events, products, trends, and more

20 Face to face Land recognition an important first step in respecting Indigenous communities

22 Nutrition Healthy summer travel snacks

28 Book reviews Co-Parenting from the Inside Out, Away, Sugar and Snails, The Better Tree Fort, and A Boy Named Queen



Memories in the


On our cover The family summer camping trip is an annual rite of passage for many. On page 12, see some tips for making it as easy and simple as summer is meant to be.

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Best camping trip ever

It made National Lampoon’s Vacation look tame in comparison, but I liked it

Ken Partridge, Editor Our Children Magazine

@OurChildrenMag www

It’s hard to think of a single thing that went right on the last big camping trip my eldest son and I took together. He was about to go away for his first year of university and we decided to do a father-son camping trip to mark this milestone. We settled on a campground near Five Islands, Nova Scotia, packed up my car, put the dog in the back seat, and headed out. I should have known things weren’t going to go well when we reached the toll booth in the Cobequid Pass. I smiled at the attendant, passed over $5, and asked how much farther it was to the exit to Five Islands. I can still see how his head kind of sagged down on his chest as he explained in a tired voice that I had missed the exit several kilometres back, and the resignation in his tone as he called his counterpart in one of the other booths to explain he was sending over a lost driver to turn around and head back in the opposite direction. When we finally did get to the campground, the mishaps were continuous. The dog jumped from the car as we tried to register at the camp office, initiating a frenzied chase around the parking lot. An off-leash dog attacked us in the parking lot of a hiking trail we went to explore. The waterfall at the end of said trail had collapsed during a storm, making the hike anticlimactic at best. The propane tank for our camp stove was defective and the whole thing caught fire. There was a massive storm on the second night. I spent most of the night laying on my back, arms and legs in the air, trying to keep the tent from falling flat atop us. In the morning, we discovered much of our camping supplies had

blown into the woods and the high winds and rain wrecked other parts of our site. We surrendered and packed up, going to visit my mom in Alton so we could get a shower, clean clothes, and rest. But amidst the drama there were quiet times spent walking through the woods or just sitting around the campsite, talking about everything that was to come for my son. What he was excited about, what he feared a little about being away from home, his future, and what he would miss. It was probably my most memorable camping trip ever, and not just because of all the trouble. Ultimately it was just us and that was the point in the first place. We’re blessed with a wealth of spectacular camping experiences in this province. My mom took us camping as kids, and I’ve done it with my own. There’s everything from sites within moments of the city, to the breathtaking Highlands of Cape Breton. We’ve stayed in all the national parks in the Maritimes and hope to get to Newfoundland soon. Our cover story (page 12) brought all this back to me as I read it. I wouldn’t trade those camping experiences for anything. I believe they were beneficial to our sons’ education too. Experiential learning can be just as important to a child’s growth as book learning and makes an excellent complement to the school year. I hope everyone gets the chance to venture into the great outdoors during their summer break, and we’ll see you all again in September.


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Our Children | Summer 2018

Playing along with Eddie the Cat

Clean Foundation’s Eddie the Cat now has his own video game.

Like a trip to Lebanon without leaving Halifax

Nova Scotia’s Clean Foundation is taking puppet theatre to a whole new level. Based on Clean’s award-winning puppet theatre presentation Eddie and the Air Out There, the Foundation has now launched an interactive video game featuring Eddie and his friends. Eddie is a loveable cat (puppet) and environmental superhero who is standing up for all the critters of the world and the environment they live in. The game teaches kids about the importance of energy conservation, the air quality health index, and the exciting world of renewable energy. Travel with Eddie and his friends on an adventure that includes music and interactive games. Depending on their age and reading level, kids can have the game read the story and instructions aloud, or they can select “Read to myself” mode. The game is free and accessible online at, and for mobile devices through the iTunes and Google Play app stores. Just search “EnviroEddie: Air.” The videos are also available at and come with instructions for teachers who want to use these curriculum-aligned materials to bring Eddie and his team of environmental superheroes directly into the classroom.

Savour a taste of Lebanon in the heart of Halifax at the 17th Annual Lebanese Festival. It runs from July 5 to 8 at the Olympic Community Centre on the corner of Windsor and Cunard Streets. It’s a fiveminute walk from the Halifax Common, with free street parking. Relax while enjoying authentic Lebanese food, traditional dance performances, and a live band. Take in the exhibits and shop for handcrafted work at the Artisan Gift Shop

or visit Al-Arz Café, known for its coffee and baklava. Admission to the festival is free, and there’s something for everyone. On July 5 at 7 p.m., the festival kicks off with a bang at the opening ceremonies. There will be neverbefore-seen dance performances, live music, and more. Tickets to the annual raffle are available at the information booth from May 20 until the closing ceremonies on July 8.

Learn about local art while supporting IWK Love art? Need a painting for that bare wall? Then take in the IWK Kermesse Art Show and Sale, May 17 to 26. There will be more than 100 original paintings donated by local artists for sale. As well, raffle tickets for several items, including a watercolour by Steve Buckland are available at the Biggs and Littles Gift Shop at the IWK. The proceeds from the art show and sale will support the IWK Auxiliary’s contributions toward providing care and comfort to patients and families at the IWK. The show and sale take place at the Chase Gallery, Nova Scotia Archives, 6016 University Ave. The opening reception is on May 17 and is open to everyone. The show continues May 18 and then on May 22 to 26. Admission is free.

Looking for an easy way to introduce your kids to local art, like this example by artist Steve Buckland? Try the IWK Kermesse.


Froogie keeps making healthy eating easier A healthy eating app developed by researchers at Dalhousie University, with funding from Heart & Stroke and Canadian Institutes of Health Research, was recently named the recipient of a Gold Davey award for Health and Wellness. The WeUsThem app, Froogie, is aimed at children and families and helps them monitor daily intake of fruits and vegetables. Upon release, the app was featured in the “New and Notable” section of the iTunes Store and has more than two million views to date. Less than one in 10 Canadian youth are eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. The leading-edge research led by Dr. Sara Kirk of the Dalhousie Healthy Populations Institute helped WeUsThem design a fun, creative solution that ensures families maintain a healthy diet. “I am thrilled the Froogie app has won this award. Healthy eating and active living are two of the most important things we can do to improve our general health and wellbeing. Eating more fruits and veggies is an easy change we can make for a big impact and the Froogie characters are a wonderful way to engage children and families in healthy eating,” Kirk says. “I love the creativity the design team at WeUsThem brought to the app and I’m so proud what it has achieved in such a short time since launch.” “We would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Sara and her team for their dedication to developing this progressive technology to help children make healthier food choices,” says Charlotte Comrie, CEO, Heart & Stroke, N.S. and P.E.I. “Unhealthy eating is a leading risk factor for chronic disease in Canada and puts children and adolescents at risk for premature heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and some types of cancer.” Froogie ensures your child receives the proper nutrients on a busy day-to-day basis, while creating a rewarding experience. As users maintain a consistent healthy diet, new characters are unlocked. With a simplistic design, the Froogie app engages children and youth to track their own fruit and vegetable intake. This is the second time a Davey award has been received in Atlantic Canada, both times awarded to WeUsThem. To see a video about Froogie, surf to:

Bring the kids down to Spring Garden Road The sixth annual Spring Garden Road Area Children’s Festival takes place at Victoria Park in Halifax on Aug. 12 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. There’ll be lots of free entertainment and fun things to do, including performances by Razzmatazz at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Activities include face-painting, a petting zoo, bouncy castles, arts and crafts, live entertainment, treats, and more. Free for all! Keep checking back at as organizers continue to add to the entertainment line-up.


Our Children | Summer 2018

Oldfield part of Great Big Crunch A great big crunch echoed through the halls at Oldfield Consolidated Elementary School this spring as 150 staff and students took a synchronized bite into local apples. They were among nearly 300,000 kids across Canada who took part in The Great Big Crunch. This is the fifth year a Nova Scotian school has officially taken part in the event, which aims to bring focus to healthy food in schools. The Great Big Crunch was started by FoodShare Toronto in 2006, with more than one million crunchers since it began. It’s an annual moment of “anti-silence” where everyone gets together and bites into crunchy fresh local produce at the same time. The goal is to engage students, families, educators, and communities in learning more about and celebrating healthy eating and access to healthy food for all. Kellie West, the Principal at Oldfield Consolidated School, hopes the event helps raise awareness of the role of healthy eating in student health and learning. “The Great Big Crunch is a fantastic opportunity to integrate healthy eating with school learning,” West says. “We were excited about the opportunity to celebrate together as a school community in the spirit of creating and supporting healthy school communities for student learning, health, well-being, and overall achievement.”

Only one-third of children between the ages of 4 and 13 are eating at least the recommended amount of vegetables and fruits daily. Margo Riebe-Butt of Nourish Nova Scotia says that impacts the health of our children and youth. “We’re seeing incidences of nutrition-related chronic disease on the rise among children and youth at the same time our healthcare costs continue to rise,” Riebe-Butt says. “It’s not sustainable.” Riebe-Butt thinks The Great Big Crunch is a fun, interactive way to bring schools and students into the conversation around healthy food in schools. “The event helps bring awareness of the importance of supporting healthy eating programs for children and youth among parents, educators and decision-makers,” she says. Satya Ramen, food coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre, shares Riebe-Butt’s enthusiasm for the annual event. “The Great Big Crunch works on many levels,” Ramen says. “It celebrates healthy food grown here in Nova Scotia that’s available year-round. Students can learn about where their food comes from and our food systems.”

Rather than play video games this summer, build your own

Top: Camper Nathan let Minecraft be his inspiration in designing his own game. Above left: Camper Amelia shows off her awesome boss character. Above right: Carly (foreground) and her friends creating 3D games.

Summertime and the livin’ is easy… fresh air, sunshine, corn on the cob, and playing video games? What if, instead of playing games online, your kids could learn how to create their own computer games and apps? Instead of watching YouTube videos, they produced and filmed their own animations and films? These are just some of the many creative ways to stretch imaginations at Artech Camps this summer. Kids and youth from five through teen years can attend weeklong specialty camps in film, game design, computer programing, Minecraft and virtual reality. Creating video games is not only fun, it’s fast becoming the newest, most dynamic form of expression. The planning and design that goes into game development inspires creative problem solving. It’s a process that engages and empowers young people to take on challenges and succeed. Likewise, the skills involved in film making (scripting, filming, acting, and editing) all provide avenues for personal growth, expression, acquiring valuable technology skills, and collaborating with others. Find out more about Artech’s summer camps online at There is a scholarship program for youth and families that face medical, financial, or other barriers. All camps take place at the NSCC Institute of Technology on Leeds Street in Halifax. Phone 902-579-3317.



Our Children | Summer 2018

Summertime and the camping is easy Getting back to nature can help you make the most of the summer break By Philip Moscovitchm Photos by Lydia MacIntosh/ A for Adventure


t was supposed to be a fun camping weekend, but the trouble started before we even left. Packing took longer than expected, and it was nearly dark by the time I was done. But we headed out anyway, leaving Halifax after 8 p.m., hoping to make it to Canso. By the time we reached Antigonish, we were too tired to keep driving, but couldn’t find anywhere affordable to stay. So we slept in the car, alternating between having windows open (mosquitoes) and closed (stifling heat). Everyone was cranky and exhausted for days. The trip was capped by my smashing the rear window of our Subaru after backing it into a raccoon-proof garbage container. Leaving late, insisting on sticking to a ridiculous and tiring schedule, not having a backup plan for accommodations, the trip was a case study in bad decisions.

Make a Plan Family camping trips can be among the most memorable times parents and kids spend together. But making them work takes a bit of planning and some flexibility. When our kids were little, we put together a camping list to remember key items. Keep your list updated though. No use having “foldup playpen” on the list when “extra charger” would be more helpful.

“Preparation goes a long way. The more prepared you are, the more fun you’re going to have,” says Chad Lucas, whose family camps frequently. They plan meals in advance and get the kids (ages 8 to 13) to help decide on activities. “It’s helpful to get kids involved and engaged: Here’s where we’re going, and what do you want to do? Whether it’s playing certain card games, or activities they want to do when you’re there.” “Always make it fun for them in any way you can,” says Chris Surette, co-founder of A for Adventure, a marketing and consulting company that encourages people to connect with the outdoors. “Make it fun, keep it positive, and incorporate a lot of activities.

One of the beauties of our provincial and national parks is there are so many activities throughout the summer.” But Surette also cautions to not overdo the planning. “One of the things I love about camping with young kids is you really don’t need much. People over-complicate it sometimes. Kids are kids and they love to get dirty, play outside, and lift rocks. They are curious, and if you give them space to be curious they will embrace it.” Alice Evans was born in Canada and grew up in the U.K. She took to camping after moving to Halifax more than a decade ago, and makes an annual trip to Kejimkujik

13 CAMPING CLOSE BY You don’t have to go far from the city to enjoy a quick camping weekend, especially if you have gear that can be ready to go at almost any time. In fact, you don’t have to leave the municipality at all. There’s a trio of provincial camping parks within HRM. Dollar Lake, Porters Lake, and Laurie provincial parks are all a short drive from downtown Halifax. Even better, you can get that out-in-thewoods feeling by staying at a hike-in site or a canoe-in site at Porter’s Lake. National Park with her two boys. They enjoy some organized activities, but apart from that, “We go swimming in the lake. We watch the stars. We don’t do too much,” she says. “Having tired kids is fine. Having exhausted kids who are crying is not fun.” “I’ve seen families try to overdo it and it just becomes a big blur,” says Deborah Green, who runs the Wayside campground just outside Halifax. “We’ve had people go, ‘We’re doing Nova Scotia today.’ The kids don’t get anything out of that.”

Chris Surette particularly likes Laurie Provincial Park. “It has some walk-in sites that are lovely and not too far. It feels like back-country, but it’s close to the city.”

Camping as Ritual


We’ve been making family camping trips to P.E.I. National Park since our oldest, now 24, was six months old. Although they’re now adults, most summers our three kids still come, often joined by younger cousins. Part of the magic of camping is its ritual nature, returning to the same spots, sitting around the campfire, eating the same foods. As children grow, there’s a comfort in enjoying those rituals, and in experimenting with the growing freedom to explore in a safe environment where even mundane tasks like going to the bathroom (At night! Under the stars! With a flashlight!) can become an adventure. Evans stays in the same spot every year, not far from a playground. “It’s so easy. They know how to get to the playground and washroom, and they have some independence. With Alfie having Down Syndrome, I know he can be on his own, and I can sort of keep an eye from the campsite,” she says. “That’s what’s great about it. The independence and moving towards adulthood in a safe environment.” My nephew Sasha Martin-Maher, 14, has been camping with his family since early childhood, and loves the freedom that comes with it. “It’s not like the city. When you’re camping you can go wherever you want, as long as it’s not too far away, because there are almost no cars.” Bikes can help provide additional independence. Lucas says his family brought them for the first-time last year. “When you’re in a campground you can let them roam. Having one autistic child, we have to think about that, but her brothers can make sure she gets back to our tent. The campground is like their kingdom.” “Every year you’re allowed to do a bit more,” Martin-Maher says. “I always like starting fires for cooking. That’s fun.”

Camping used to be an opportunity to get offline and step away from social and other media. No more. Most places have cell coverage, and many have free Wi-Fi. Do you let your kids use their devices all they want? Set limits? Or ban them altogether? Chris Surette thinks arguing with kids over devices is counterproductive. While he agrees “there’s a time when you should put your phones down and be immersed in the environment,” he also says families can use phones to enhance their camping experience. “You certainly don’t want your kids playing on their iPads or whatever the whole time, but you can embrace it a bit. Geo-caching is awesome, and there are apps you can use to identify different species of plants, birds, or trees… that can be fun too.” Alice Evans, who camps with her two boys, says she takes a portable DVD player for movies when it’s raining. She says her boys “might say they miss their devices, but I don’t think they do. I think they get used to it pretty quickly.” When all else fails (and if your children are young enough), campground owner Deborah Green says you can always try fibbing: “It’s the country. The Internet’s down, or the password doesn’t work.”


Our Children | Summer 2018

Rain, Rain, Rain What’s not fun is being stuck indoors when the weather is bad. We live in the Maritimes. It rains. Rain can be kind of exciting, especially if you have a waterproof shelter. “It’s annoying, but it’s also kind of fun because everyone’s inside and it’s really cozy,” Martin-Maher says. But too much time indoors can turn cozy into stir-crazy. Evans advises parents to “take some money and know where you can go for meals. It’s good to have some knowledge about the place in case of rain.” Sure, you can start looking up where to eat, or the directions to the closest multiplex on your smartphone, but when you’re crammed into a tent and the water is cutting a channel across your site, it’s helpful to have a plan. For those in RVs or trailers, rain may be less of a problem, but if it goes on long enough, you’ll be looking for other activities too. Be flexible. You may not want to pay for a motel room, but if the rain is coming down too hard, or if your trailer is rocking in the wind, it may be time to pack it in for the night. “One year we went to Dollar Lake and it started pouring torrential rain. There was a literal river running through our campsite and we were like; do we go home?” Lucas says. His wife, Shawna, stayed with one of the kids. Lucas went home with the others.

Hard at Work Paradoxically, one of the things kids enjoy about camping is the chores. “The thing is, you spend a lot more time with your family because there’s more work to do and the kids can do it. Like chopping wood, getting water. At home if you set the table, the faster you do it the more time you have to play. But when you’re camping it doesn’t matter,” Martin-Maher says.

15 NO GEAR? NO PROBLEM Chris Surette says a key impediment to camping is the cost of gear. But there are options if you’d like to camp without a big investment. Surette’s company helps run a program called Learn to Camp, in partnership with the national parks. It provides all the gear you need, except for a sleeping bag, and “gives families the opportunity to learn how to have fun in the outdoors in a safe environment.” Many parks also have ready-to-go accommodations like yurts and oTENTiks (a cross between a tent and a cabin). The oTENTiks at Keji provide some gear, while the yurts at Fundy National Park come more fully equipped. Lucas agrees it’s important to give kids responsibilities, like packing their own clothes, if you make sure to “double-check what they packed, because half the time it will be one bathing suit and no underwear.” Check your list before leaving too. Lucas’s daughter wears cochlear implants. On one trip, the family nearly left without her batteries. “That would be great, if my daughter suddenly got into the woods and couldn’t hear,” he says. Evans says “it’s amazing” how keen her boys are on doing chores during camping trips. “They wash up and cook and get involved in all those sorts of things. They love doing the dishes; it’s something they can do on their own, and they quite like that.”

What Kind of Campground? Nova Scotia has two national parks, Kejimkujik and Cape Breton Highlands, along with dozens of provincial parks and private campgrounds. Add in the easily accessible parks in the rest of the Maritimes and there’s plenty of choice on where to camp. When it comes to choosing campgrounds, take the needs of children into account. Remember, a successful group activity is one in which the person with the least skill or stamina is comfortable. Don’t pick a campground for its great hiking trails if your children are too young to enjoy them. And check the noise regulations. Most campgrounds have evening quiet times, but some may have a reputation for partying. Wayside, which was founded by Green’s dad (she grew up there), doesn’t have a pool or a recreation hall. For families on road trips, she suggests alternating types of campground. And she advises, “If you want to avoid the party scene, Monday to Thursday you’re going to get a good night’s sleep in pretty much any park. Some parks have dance halls and local people coming out for the weekend. That can get a bit noisier. Ask to be put in a quieter area.”

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Alice Evans says the oTENTiks are ideal, not only for people who may not have gear, but for those who don’t have a large vehicle. “We’ve only got a tiny car. We can’t fit three or four of us in there with a tent and sleeping bags,” she says. “And if it’s just me and the kids, we don’t have to put up a tent. We can just drive in and then make supper.”

ESSENTIALS (AND NEAR-ESSENTIALS) Every family seems to have its own must-have camping items, but talk to enough people and there are a few that come up over and over. Here is a list of items that can help keep kids happy. Bicycles: Bikes give kids independence, and there’s no traffic to worry about if they’re racing around the campground. Some places, like P.E.I. National Park, have extensive safe and easy cycling trails. Hammock: Lying around is fun. Lying around in a hammock is even better. A camping hammock can scrunch up small and provide hours of quiet time. Frisbee/ball: What could be simpler? Toss it back and forth. Lots of warm clothes: Being cold when you’re camping is miserable. As Chris Sutter says, “The temperature can really drop at night, especially near the ocean.” Deck of cards: Smaller than board games, and endless possibilities for all ages and skill levels, from go fish to cribbage. Water toys: Noodles, floaties, and inflatables can elevate a simple swim. Alice Evans always brings inner tubes. “You can spend all day at the lake just in those things,” she says. Be careful with flotation devices in the Atlantic, though. They can be dangerous and aren’t allowed at some beaches.



Our Children | Summer 2018

Summer slumps are no myth Educators offer strategies to keep learning on track

By Chris Muise


or most kids, summer break is the ultimate highlight of the year. It’s the time of year where they can set aside their books, get away from their desks, and have fun being a kid for two months straight. Problem is, according to Nova Scotian educators, that long a break from the classroom can stifle a student’s progress early into the next school year. Many of them will have forgotten things they learned before the break, meaning time needs to be spent reviewing foundational curriculum before the student can progress forward. You may have heard this phenomenon referred to as “Summer Slump.” But, with a little forewarning and planning, parents can mitigate its ill effects. Hannah Horne-Robinson is the executive director of Sylvan Learning Centre’s HRM chapter, and she says the Summer Slump is no myth. She sees it rear its head every fall.

Lalia Kerr is a teacher at Three Mile Plains Elementary.

“We can give a test on June 30, and give it again on September first, same exact test, and see lower scores,” Horne-Robinson says. “Teachers see that. That’s why September is usually a review month.” Horne-Robinson says Sylvan regularly sees an influx of tutoring sessions around mid-October, about the time the results of the first tests of the year come home, fuelled by parents shocked their children are struggling at something they seemed to have mastered in June. As the guidance counsellor for Georges P. Vanier Junior High in Fall River, Ron Nugent also notices the struggle to launch at the beginning of the new school year among his students. “September, October, when the kids come back to school, that’s when I’m probably the busiest. I get a lot of calls from parents,” Nugent says. “When [the students] come back in September, you really see the stagnancy in their thinking and their problem solving. That’s something you see every year.” Nugent says it often falls on the teachers to gauge if and how much review is needed at the start of a new school year. “They’re ready to go with the new curriculum, but they’ll throw out a little refresher sheet, or some sort of refresher from the previous grade just to see where the (students) are at,” Nugent says. “And often times, they have to re-teach the previous year’s curriculum, do a quick snapshot of it all.” It’s not just multiplication tables and critical reading skills that can slip, even classroom etiquette like sitting quietly, paying attention, and respecting the teacher can lapse, causing further interruptions in the learning process. Lalia Kerr, a teacher at Three Mile Plains Elementary, has reason to

Ron Nugent is the guidance counsellor for Georges P. Vanier Junior High in Fall River

believe that losing the discipline of the classroom structure for two months, and coming back to a brand-new classroom and a brand-new teacher, has more impact on the summer slump phenomenon than does actual loss of knowledge on the kids’ part. “What they might lose are gains they’ve made that aren’t actually gains at all. They’re simply little tricks we’ve taught them to do,” says Kerr, a teaching veteran of 29 years. “Then they get a new teacher, and they no longer have that bag of tricks being fed to them.” Where Kerr teaches, the teachers teach two grade levels at a time, a teaching style called looping. Kerr teaches first and second grade together, meaning every year she’s seeing familiar faces return to her class. That familiarity helps cut through the effects of the Summer Slump, in her experience. “I come in and I know my kids; the kids come in, they know me. Now, half my class doesn’t, but they follow the lead of the older kids,” says Kerr, who pushed for looping classrooms at her school. “That twoyear business has made a huge difference. It has made a difference in bullying, it’s made a difference in behaviour, it’s made a difference in anxiety. It’s made a difference in all of those mental health areas, as well as in the academic.”


Rey Goguen and his 10-year-old son Aden.

Besides finding a looped classroom for your child, you might be asking, what can be done about the slump? There are some in the education profession who would like to see the way kids take breaks from school change. The current two-month summer break model evolved from an agrarian culture, where kids were often needed to help on family farms during the planting season. That model is outdated, according to educators like Horne-Robinson and Nugent. “I absolutely hate the two-month summer break. I think it’s way too long, and I think it does produce a gap in our education,” Nugent says. “It takes kids out of their element. It also takes teachers out of their element. As much as teachers need a break, and the kids need the break too, two months is too long.” “Personally, I do like the European model, where they have shorter vacations throughout the year,” Horne-Robinson says. “That way, you’re always looking forward to something exciting, you’re not going too long between any individual break.” However, with parents’ work schedules, summer camps, and travel industries so tied to the two-month summer model, it’s unlikely any other style of break will take hold anytime soon. But according to educators, there are things parents can do to stymie the slump. “What they need more than anything is practice. That’s something that parents can easily do during the summer,” says Kerr, who likens summer studies to training in any sport during the offseason. “That’s consolidating those strategies and that learning. It’s practice. That’s the magic.”

RESOURCES Halifax Regional Municipality Summer Camps: summer-camps Halifax Public Libraries Reading Supports: child-read-support.html Nova Scotia Tourism Fun Family Road Trip: Discovery Centre: Sylvan Learning Centres Halifax/Dartmouth/ Bedford: Summer Math Skills Sharpeners: Summer Reading Guides:


Our Children | Summer 2018

THREE STEPS TO DEFEATING SUMMER SLUMP by Hannah Horne-Robinson 1. “The  first is take a good, hard look at that endof-year report card. Where is your student? Are they ending at grade level, where they should be, and just need to maintain? Or are they ending not at grade level and need to spend some time boosting that?” 2. “Have  a range of activities, some free time where they’re doing their own thing playing outside, some time where it’s structured so they’re still having that routine. Don’t [let them] spend the whole summer inside playing video games. Do different activities. Learn other things they can connect to their academic life.” 3.“What activities can you do at home? You can get books out, you can read the newspaper together, you can do the crossword puzzle together, especially if it’s a fun, relationshipbuilding experience with your child. You don’t need money to do a lot of those activities.”

Hannah Horne-Robinson is the executive director of Sylvan Learning Centre’s HRM chapter

“Keep those skills sharp. If everybody was on the same page, with regards to keeping their kids academically sharp throughout the summer months… the teachers could start the new curriculum,” says Nugent, who makes sure his own eighthgrade son completes weekly math sheets over the break. “I’m not suggesting they do schoolwork every day, because they need a break from the regiment of school, but I am suggesting they do a weekly journal, a weekly reading, look at some of the different types of math that are in the real world.”

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That strategy has worked out so far for Christine Poirier, mother of two. “That’s when I tend to get the most books from the library, for the kids,” Poirier says. “It’s an opportunity to get books that are more in-tune with their specific interests, so they’re more apt to read them themselves over the summer. That’s how I keep them reading over the summer.” Horne-Robinson says summer is not just for keeping current. It’s also an important time for kids who are struggling below their grade level to catch up and start the new year on even footing with their peers. But she knows not all kids are eager to spend their free time doing school work, especially those who have difficulty with the material. That friction can make it hard for parents to ensure their children are keeping current with their study skills. “That’s where we often come in,” says Horne-Robinson, who adds that Sylvan offers a summer maintenance program, and can also offer more robust tutoring for kids who need to catch up. But learning needn’t stop at the class room or the kitchen table. One of the advantages of summer break is the multitude of experiential learning opportunities that present themselves over the break. Summer camps and day camp programs of every shape and size exist to cater to a child’s interests. “Do a mixture of different activities with your summer break time,” Horne-Robinson says. “Take a camp that’s more academic, like Mini University at Dal, or the Shad Valley Camp for high school students. Take art-based camps, take sports-based camps.” Encouraging activities that kids enjoy that have educational value is also a good way to keep them invested. “He plays these Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh games, and it kind of keeps him sharp, because there’s a lot of adding and subtracting with that,” says Rey Goguen, about his 10-year-old son Aden. “Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh are games he wants to play, it’s not something I push on him at all.” “Playing cards just helps you stay focused,” Aden adds. “Then next year, you don’t forget all the information. You don’t forget how to calculate. Then you’re ahead of the game.” Even everyday life offers chances to disguise skill maintenance as something fun or easy. “Learning doesn’t necessarily just happen in the classroom,” says Kerr, suggesting nature offers lots of learning opportunities. “Let’s explore bubbles and air today; let’s fly a kite.” “There’s a lot of, like, can you sneak things in all the time, that a lot of parents do,” Horne-Robinson says. “I have to do my grocery list and you’re going to write it.” With a myriad of different strategies to defeating the Summer Slump ahead of September at your disposal, try some out and keep whatever sticks. But Horne-Robinson urges that, at the very least, always have your kids doing something. Don’t let them spend their entire summers on screens, like a bump on a log. “Don’t stop learning. No matter what it is, don’t stop,” she says. “It doesn’t always have to be hard work. But learn things.”


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Our Children | Summer 2018

Land recognition an important first step “We acknowledge that we are in Mi’kma’ki, which is the traditional ancestral territory of the Mi’kmaq people” By Katie Ingram

Naiomi Metallic is an assistant professor at Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law, and the Chancellor’s Chair in Aboriginal Law and Policy.


or Halifax Regional Municipality schools, this phrase is a step forward in the reconciliation process with the Mi’kmaq. The phrase, which acknowledges the buildings were built on land that once belonged to the First Nations community, was approved last June by the former Halifax

Regional School Board. It was implemented in the fall. Many members of the Indigenous community are praising the decision, including Naiomi Metallic, an assistant professor and the Chancellor’s Chair in Aboriginal Law and Policy at Dalhousie’s

Schulich School of Law. A member of the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation in Quebec and graduate of Dalhousie’s law school, Metallic now calls Nova Scotia home. Our Children spoke with Metallic about land acknowledgement, reconciliation, and what else schools can do.

21 There’s been recent attempts from the municipality to reconcile the impact colonialism had on the Indigenous community. How do you feel those attempts have gone?

Is there anything else you feel should be taught in the future?

I know some of the people working on it, so some of the things we want to see are them teaching about treaties, not having Indigenous people or colonialism as something in the ancient past. Talk about how we are a living, vibrant people now and that face many Pretty well. I know the municipality has been, in different challenges. In many ways colonialism is still happening; there’s an ways, trying to work with the Indigenous community. It’s an underfunding of services and the lack of recognition of some rights. ongoing, continuous relationship; there’s always some bumps in There are still issues and problems; it’s not ancient history. Teaching the road, but that’s to be expected, I think, in the long hard work that is reconciliation. There’s a quote I like to use from a professor about that, teaching about cultural stuff as well, and that we have our by the name of Pamela Palmater and she says, “if it feels good, it’s own laws. Encouraging students to think critically about what the not reconciliation.” communities are facing today and looking toward the future and how That might be a little bit of an overstatement because one can to change that relationship. That’s what I want to see without giving take some pride in doing something that feels right, but it’s true, on you a laundry list. the other hand, that sometimes this stuff isn’t easy. People will make mistakes, but the most important thing is people don’t say “fine, I Is there anything else you’d like to add? tried and it didn’t work, so I’m done.” We have seen some things Some people also do the land acknowledgement along with the happening. I think the removal of the Cornwallis statue was really treaty relationship acknowledgement. That is a really key part of the significant, I think territorial recognition is important, and the HRM relationship as well, so maybe as things go along that might come into also hired an Indigenous advisor. I applaud those efforts; they aren’t the discussion. perfect, but nothing is ever perfect.

Do you believe land acknowledgments will have a bigger impact around the province, as it becomes part of the larger school system? I hope so. Again, going back to my earlier comment, it can’t be something we just say and not take to heart. It’s the words and actions behind it or the intent to do more.

Indigenous children will be hearing the land is and was part of their communities. How do you believe this will impact them to hear that acknowledgment every day? I don’t know what that’s going to be like if they hear that every day, but if there isn’t meaningful discussion about the situation their communities are in and the sort of broader claims for treaty relationships, self-determination, and land, then its not going to mean a lot. Perhaps it will be quite frustrating, because people can go around patting themselves on their back saying “oh we did this nice thing by saying a land acknowledgment.” It’s a great symbolic step, and symbolic steps are important, but it can’t be the end of it.

What would you say is the overall impact on the greater Mi’kmaq community? I think it’s good and I think Nova Scotia schools have treaty education and other things that are positive. I’m glad that there’s media attention being given to this because I heard different things from different people. I’ve heard other people say, “well I don’t think anything is happening.” I think good communication would be great. Communities hearing this also need to bring those opportunities, [along] with the idea of nothing about us [being done] without us. So, those communities can have an impact, a say, or comment on what’s being done in the schools.

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DIVING DEEPER There are many different resources available for those who want to learn Indigenous history or the problems these communities currently face. •T  he Canadian Association of Teachers’ Guide to Acknowledging First Nations Peoples and Traditional Territory ( •T  he Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre ( •T  eaching Resources from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada ( www 4-16) /1302868012055/1302868605384, for ages www Canada •B  eyond 94: Truth and Reconciliation in ( beyond-94?&cta=1, an interactive project from CBC)

•H  istorica Canada: Indigenous history ( indigenous-history, with video clips and other resources)



Our Children | Summer 2018

Healthy summer travel snacks Different summer activities require their own types of snacks By Edwena Kennedy


The summer is a time for sun, fun, and lots of family time. Kids are out of the school routine, and for many of us parents, we find ourselves also out of the kitchen routine and more and more in the great outdoors. While family outings and summer events are a must, parents often find themselves at a loss for how to tame the need for snacks while out and about. The dilemma usually lies in either purchasing snacks on the go (which usually end up being unhealthy and expensive) or packing snacks from home (which can become repetitive and not wellsuited for your specific outing). As a registered pediatric dietitian, I always recommend going the route of packing snacks whenever possible, albeit arming yourself with a few of my top tips and tricks to keep snacks both healthy and appropriate to match the needs of your outing.

Road Trips Think no mess and minimal garbage. Nothing is worse than having crumbs all over the backseat of your car and package wrappers everywhere you turn. You’ll want to avoid sauces and runny dips that can be easily spilled. Here are some ideas for healthy snacks that meet these criteria. • Homemade fruit leather • Dried fruit like raisins, mangos, or low-sugar cranberries • String cheese and whole grain crackers • Boiled eggs (already peeled) • Edamame beans (shelled) • Dehydrated apple chips. These are less messy than potato chips and healthier too. • Fruit, pre-portioned grapes, apple slices, or peeled oranges. Stay away from bananas and oranges, which have peels that need to be disposed of.


Airplane Travel On an airplane, the last thing you want is your child becoming grumpy or bored with the food options available. This is where I recommend finding an ice cube tray with a lid or a bento box you can fill with a variety of different snacks to keep your child interested in the array offered. It will also keep you from continually reaching into your bags to pick out a new snack item. You will want to avoid liquids like pudding or yogurts (which need to be declared separately at security). Consider filling the ice cube tray or bento box with snacks such as: • Raw carrots, peppers, cucumbers, or other vegetables • Plain pasta, like penne or rigatoni (easy to pick up with hands) • Berries, such as strawberries or blueberries • Nitrate-free deli meat • Cheese slices • Whole grain crackers • Cereal • Popcorn • Kale chips

Beach/pool When sitting in the heat of the sun, you’ll want to think of snacks that are light and fresh. Pack a cooler and frozen water bottles and consider items that won’t melt easily and are okay if they get slightly wet. Examples include: • Fresh whole fruit, like apples, watermelon, or cherries • Vegetables and hummus or tzatziki dip • Apple slices and peanut butter (bring a plastic knife for spreading) • Bean or chickpea salads (holds up all day, even with dressing on it) • Individual yogurts • Frozen grapes • Fruit and vegetable pouches • Corn on the cob • Olives

Camping Take food that doesn’t need to be refrigerated and requires little to no cooking for quick and easy access. Suggestions include: • Canned tuna and crackers • Nachos and salsa • Roasted chickpeas • Individual oatmeal packages (add boiling water from campfire) • Energy Bites • Cereal Bars • Baked apples (core apples, fill with brown sugar, wrap in foil, and bake over campfire for 15 to 20 minutes)

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Our Children | Summer 2018

Hiking When hiking long distances, you want to think of bringing caloriedense snacks to keep energy levels up and hunger at bay. Keeping in mind you may not have much space in backpacks for food, here are some great suggestions: • Nuts, like almonds, cashews, peanuts, or walnuts • Homemade trail mix • Cheese portions and crackers • Coconut chips • Avocado mash and breadsticks • Homemade energy bar • Pumpkin seeds • Mini PB&J sandwiches • Real food snack bars, such as Lara bars, KIND bars, or Made with Local Real Food bars • Homemade turkey or beef jerky • Banana bread or muffins As you can see, there are many healthy snack options that work well in achieving variety and practicality for each situation. And like with a lot of things, a little planning goes a long way. But I’ll leave that topic for another day.

Almond Chocolate Cranberry Chia Bites Recipe adapted from: Christy Wilson, RD Serving: 1 bite Recipe makes: 35, one-inch sized bites Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients • 1.5 cup rolled oats

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• ½ cup almonds, roughly chopped • 2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut • 1 tablespoon chia seeds • ¼ cup 72% cocoa dark chocolate, roughly chopped into small pieces • ½ cup dried unsweetened cranberries • 1/3 cup honey • 2/3 cup almond butter

Directions 1. In a large mixing bowl, add first six ingredients. Stir together until combined. 2. Add honey and almond butter and mix together until combined. 3. Place mixture in refrigerator for about 10 minutes to allow it to harden. 4. Shape mixture into one-inch rounded balls and place on a platter or cookie sheet. 5. Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container up to five days. You can also freeze and take out as needed. Edwena Kennedy is a Registered Dietitian in Halifax, N.S. specializing in maternal and pediatric nutrition. She offers in-person and private nutrition counselling, plus online classes to help parents feed their family with confidence. Reach her at or at

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Our Children | Summer 2018

Music to your kid’s ears



Sing, sing a song, sing out loud, sing out strong… By Starr Cunningham


t’s a simple and catchy refrain that rings familiar with many of us. Whether you know it from listening to Karen Carpenter, watching Sesame Street, or singing it around a campfire, it’s one of those melodies that gets stuck in your head. At least it does in mine. I grew up singing. As a member of the junior choir in church, I attended after-

school rehearsals at least once a week and performed a minimum of one Sunday a month. My mother also signed me up for voice and piano lessons when I was in grade four. I stuck with the piano lessons until I miserably failed my Royal Conservatory exam around age 14. My younger sister, Shannon, and I continued with singing lessons until we graduated high school.

Music therapy is a mainstay of the programming supported by the mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia.

I have fond (and not so fond) memories of competing in various music festivals throughout the years. My fond memories focus on hitting all the right notes. My not so fond recollections centre on losing my harmony in the family duet competition (sorry Shannon) and forgetting the words in a well-attended foreign language class. I recall the adjudicator saying something like, “If you knew what you were saying up on stage with your improvised German, you certainly wouldn’t be smiling.” Needless to say, my mother and I were both mortified. Looking back now, I can smile about the mistakes. In fact, I think I can safely say everything associated with singing makes me smile. To put it simply, singing makes me happy. Even today I continue to warble as part of my Sunday congregation and can regularly be caught crooning in the kitchen, in my office, and yes, even sometimes out in public (by mistake, of course). Trust me, I’m no Sarah McLachlan, but who says you have to be super talented to share your voice? Not me. At the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia, we regularly support music therapy. We fund programming in several Nova Scotia senior’s homes, we provide it to our friends at Laing House, and we showcase it whenever we can. We have featured music therapy performances at our signature


Read, play, and grow this summer. event Festival of Trees, at our annual general meeting, and at special receptions for our partners and volunteers. Our music therapists and clients have used guitars, keyboards, harps, small drums, shakers, and even simple triangles to lighten and brighten the mood. It never fails to entertain, create laughter, and generate social interaction. Not rocket science, but definitely noteworthy and good for everyone’s mental health. Music therapy involves using music and musical experiences to preserve or progress one’s physical, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual health. Music is the perfect mode for this creative therapy because it’s nonthreatening, non-verbal, motivating, and fun. When my daughter, Lily, was only a toddler we started attending weekly Kindermusik classes. They’re designed to appeal to the child, but the parents (myself included) enjoyed them too. There’s just something about dancing around a classroom with bells on your ankles that sparks delight in even the most cynical of souls. Sometimes it’s the learning we do without even trying that makes the most difference. Music therapy is proof of that. So as you look for ways to keep your youngsters flourishing while away from the routine of school, why not consider making a little music together? You never know, you might just discover that whistling a tune, dancing up a storm, or singing a song will benefit you both in more ways than you ever imagined. Now that’s music to the ears. 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.

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Win prizes for making the most of sunshine and free time. Sign up at any branch of Halifax Public Libraries, June 16 to August 11. Ages 3+.



Our Children | Summer 2018

Kelsey Berg By ErinBy McIntosh & Rowan Morrissy

Co-Parenting from the Inside Out By Karen L. Kristjanson Dundurn Press While separation is one of the hardest decisions parents can make, the transition from a single-family unit to two divided households is often more difficult. This is why many parents choose co-parenting, where everyday routines and holidays are shared between both parents, so they can remain equally involved in their children’s lives. In Co-Parenting from the Inside Out, author Karen L. Kristjanson shares her personal account of separation and co-parenting along with the raw, personal stories of real moms and dads from diverse circumstances who have chosen a similar path. From delayed separation and long-distance parenting to custody battles and mental illness or addiction problems, each chapter explores different co-parenting arrangements. At the end of each chapter, Kristjanson provides a summary of the lessons learned, suggestions for how situations could have been handled differently, and practical strategies and tips that will help parents make thoughtful decisions that will benefit their families. The final two chapters offer a list of quick pointers and 12 things learned from the co-parenting journey, while the appendices offer additional co-parenting and personal growth resources. The book does not need to be read in chronological order; feel free to skip to the chapters that interest you most. Readers who are contemplating co-parenting or are currently in the process will appreciate the honesty of the interviewees in sharing their deeply personal stories and the effects of separation on their children and themselves. The amount of personal growth and confidence each parent gained while dealing with the aftermath of divorce is evident and will hopefully inspire readers going through similar situations. Although you may not agree with the decisions some parents made, this book is a truly eye-opening read and an essential resource for those considering co-parenting.


Sugar and Snails

The Better Tree Fort

A Boy Named Queen

Story by Emil Sher Illustrations by Qin Leng Groundwood Books Ages 5–8

Story by Sarah Tsiang Illustrations by Sonja Wimmer Annick Press Ages 4–7

Story by Jessica Scott Kerrin Illustrations by Qin Leng Groundwood Books Ages 4–8

By Sara Cassidy Groundwood Books Ages 8–12

Written through a series of sticky post-it notes, Away tells the story of a young girl and her mother who struggle to connect as often as they’d like. Using the notes to communicate with each other, the girl shares her fears of going away to summer camp while her mother tries to reassure her she will have a great time. Qin Leng’s watercolour illustrations bring this story to life, showcasing the characters’ daily activities, brief encounters, and their humorous exchanges through each note.

When a boy and girl ask their grandfather what they are made of, he responds with a classic nursery rhyme. The children feel the descriptions don’t quite fit, so the grandfather comes up with numerous quirky alternatives to appease them. Putting a modern spin on the classic nursery rhyme, Sarah Tsiang imaginatively reworks “What Are Little Boys Made Of?”, combating the gender stereotypes that are so pervasive in our society. Accompanied by whimsical imagery that illustrate the grandfather’s musings, this book will show young readers how truly limitless they are.

When Russell asks his dad to build him a tree fort, his dad tries his best and builds him a quaint fort without all the bells and whistles Russell imagined. He also never expected a better one would be built just three houses away. At first envious of the neighbour’s fort, Russell quickly realizes that there will always be a better tree fort, but the bond between father and son is unbreakable. Local author Jessica Scott Kerrin debuts her first picture book along with dreamy, watercolour illustrations from award-winning designer and illustrator Qin Leng.

Fifth grader, Evelyn, doesn’t know what to think of the new boy in school. His name is Queen and he has long hair, wears shiny shorts, and seems to attract a lot of negative attention from the other students. The two strike up an unlikely friendship and Queen teaches Evelyn about his protective force field against negative energy. This book is a great introduction to novels for young readers and teaches kids an important lesson about acceptance, confidence, tolerance, and embracing individuality.


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Our Children May 2018  
Our Children May 2018