Nova Scotia’s sexual education updated before Ontario

Many have been talking about the update to Ontario’s sexual health curriculum, but some may not know that Nova Scotia introduced a similar curriculum almost 4 years ago.

While Ontario’s new sexual education curriculum has been criticized for the inclusion of LGBT topics and the age that sex education is introduced, Nova Scotia’s updated curriculum was quietly implemented in 2011.

“We are really proud of our curriculum,” said Natalie Flinn, the active, healthy living consultant for the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. “We are building capacity for the administration to feel competent and confident in teaching sexual education. And, at the end of the day the true beneficiaries are the children and youth.”

Nova Scotia’s curriculum teaches students about cyberbullying, sexting and how to be safe in an online environment. The update is a response to cultural changes in society, especially in regards to developments in technology and how students interact over social media.

Flinn said that the hypersexual material that children can find on the Internet damages their development in sexual health education.

The curriculum also teaches children about LGBT issues and how they can understand their own sexuality. All of these issues are tailored for each specific age group.

Ontario announced similar changes to its curriculum in late February.  Some parents are upset that children will begin sexual education in Grade 1 and feel that they should not be taught about sex at such a young age.

Ontario’s curriculum has not been updated since 1998.

Both Nova Scotia and Ontario follow guidelines from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Where the two provinces differ is when they introduce certain topics in the classroom.

The organization aims to be non-heterosexist and responds to common misconceptions surrounding sexual health such as sex education leading to early sexual activity.

Additional sexual education available for schools

If the education programs in the schools aren’t enough, there are many other resources for sexual education located throughout Halifax.

The South House offers additional support and resources for sexual health.

The South House, located on South Street, is a sexual health resource centre and will do inclusive workshops on sex and sexual health
The South House, located on South Street, is a sexual health resource centre and will do inclusive workshops on sex and sexual health (Photo: Jennifer Lee).

Jude Ashburn, the organization’s outreach co-ordinator, said that they would often be asked to go to schools and do workshops on sex and gender. They would cover topics that wouldn’t necessarily be discussed in a classroom.

“For a long time we went in and gave sex ed for free and just went everywhere that asked us. And when we do sex ed we mention things like pleasure and masturbation. These are things we don’t think you would get in sex ed (in schools),” said Ashburn. “We affirm the right to have unbiased scientific information about your body.”

While providing workshops in schools, Ashburn learned that children know a lot more about their own bodies and sex education than some might think.

“We asked kids in Grade 3 to describe their gender and they came up with some really radical answers. We would ask them things like, ‘If your gender was a place where would it be’ and what they would come up with was amazing,” said Ashburn.

Flinn said they have received letters of support from parents commending the curriculum.

Since the 2011 update was a response to adapt Nova Scotia’s curriculum to cultural changes in society, there may be more updates in the future.

From the forest to the farmers’ market

Local artist Theresa Lee Capell, creator of Miss Foxine jewelry, crafts wearable art that has been recognized internationally.

They are jewels fit for a fairy — delicate beads, sparkly chains, tree bark and even butterfly wings. The Miss Foxine jewelry stand at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market will make you feel like you are in a fantasy world.

Theresa Lee Capell, the creator of Miss Foxine, stands smiling as shoppers pass by and admire her gorgeous handmade jewelry.

The 25-year-old NSCAD University graduate is inspired by the beauty of nature. As a child Capell would often venture into the woods at her home in Aylesford, N.S., collecting sticks and leaves to create jewelry herself.

“I used to go off into the woods and come back with pine cones and leaves and make them into crowns or jewelry or this little miniature dress form where I would pin the leaves and flowers to it and kind of daydream as a kid thinking ‘oh maybe fairies would wear this.’”

Capell has taken her daydreams and turned them into a reality. She makes her jewelry at her studio in her apartment in Lacewood.

Fairy tales and children’s stories also inspire Capell’s pieces. Her favourite one is Peter Pan.

“I love the idea of flying away into a different land where you can create your own world. That’s kind of the theme I try to put into my work to give it a Neverland kind of feel where the wearer can buy something and create their own story with it.”

Capell’s nature-inspired pieces, such as birch bark earrings, are made from materials she finds in the woods at her family home. She also digs through antique stores finding many unique baubles to turn into the centre point for a piece.

Capell also incorporates shells, pine cones, lavender, sea glass and butterfly wings into her work. Though fear not, Capell is not tearing the wings off of butterflies she finds.

“I have a friend who works at a conservatory and when the butterflies shed their wings naturally she will collect those and send them to me and I will send 20 per cent of the money made from those pieces back to the conservatory.”

Each piece is handmade by Capell. Depending on the complexity of the jewelry Capell will spend up to three hours on one piece, though her cheaper necklaces and earrings will take her under an hour.

Capell showcases her jewelry in antique picture frames and hangs delicate necklaces from tiny trees at her stand at the market every weekend.

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When Capell is not at the market she is working at her part-time job at Banana Republic at the Halifax Shopping Centre. She hopes that her jewelry business will one day be her full-time job.

Since starting at the market four years ago, Capell has gotten a lot closer to reaching that goal. Due to her strong presence on various social media outlets, an agent who works backstage at award shows invited her to fly to Hollywood and showcase her work at last year’s Golden Globes Awards.

“At first I couldn’t believe it,” says Capell, “I thought it was a scam but I got my brother to look at the email and research it and we found out it was legitimate so I messaged her back.”

She set up a booth, similar to her stand at the market, backstage at the Golden Globes where various celebrities would walk by and admire her work.

“The event was very high strung. Whenever a celebrity would come in you would feel very excited and a little shy.”

Capell says it was nerve wracking because if the celebrities wore her jewelry and told their friends about her work then she would be prompted on a much larger scale.

“They are pretty important people and they can tell people about my work through word of mouth and that was a really big thing for me,” says Capell. “Mary J. Blige was really nice, she especially loved my pieces with the butterfly wings. She loved the idea of it being so natural and just presenting the beauty that was already there.”

Since the event, sales have gone up quite a bit. Capell has a few designs in boutiques throughout Halifax and her sales on Etsy have gone up.

Capell wants to have a boutique of her own in Halifax and some day open a second one in Los Angeles. She recently began designing gowns and hopes to incorporate them into the Miss Foxine line.

“I’m just trying to figure out where to invest my money at the moment,” explains Capell. She has been offered to go back to L.A for more backstage events. Capell hopes to design more dresses before returning to Hollywood.

“I’m just taking it day by day right now,” says Capell.

Perhaps one day we will see her dresses walking down the red carpet capturing the same elegant and whimsical style that is in her jewelry.

Dalhousie group combatting the stigma around mental health issues

Marianne Xia, a third year student who suffers from panic and anxiety attacks, is starting a student-run society to raise awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Marianne Xia, a third-year student at Dalhousie University who suffers from anxiety and panic disorder, is starting a student-run group called Anxiety and Panic Disorder Society.

The society was started about two weeks ago and since then Xia has recruited 37 members to the Facebook page. The goal is to form a charity to raise money to help those who suffer from anxiety and panic disorder.

Xia says she started the group because she feels that there is a lack of awareness and emotional support for those who suffer from anxiety. She feels that people don’t treat mental health issues the same as a physical injury or sickness.

“People sometimes think you’re pretending to be that way, they just don’t understand,” said Xia.

Xia suffers from panic and anxiety attacks. She says that it was brought on by being bullied for six years in primary school.

She says when she had panic attacks her parents and school teachers would tell her that she should stop feeling that way, and that she was fine because she showed no physical symptoms.

She says she had a very serious panic attack two summers ago while at work.

“I started thinking a lot; it was hard to breathe and then I felt like I was having a heart attack because my heart rate would instantly go up to 150 and I couldn’t breathe. I felt numb all the way to my chest and fingertips and I couldn’t stand any more. My fingers became really cramped and everyone thought it was a seizure.”

Xia had to be taken away in an ambulance. She says her employer paid the $400 ambulance bill, though she still felt that her attack wasn’t taken seriously.

Xia says that even in Canada there are few resources to help people cope with anxiety and panic. She mentions Canadian Mental Health Association and Anxiety Disorder Association. Xia hopes to have her own website by the end of March.

“I realize that lots of people don’t have access to counselling services so this is why I am setting up this society,” she said.

Access to counselling services is becoming more stretched within the Dalhousie campus and the Halifax Regional Municipality area.

There is a six-week long waiting list for Dalhousie counselling services. Dr. David Mensink, a registered psychologist with Dalhousie counselling services, feels that they are doing their best to provide quality service for students and reduce the waiting list that is already 80 students long.

Mental health services in Halifax are extremely stretched according to Mensink. With a six month waiting list for services in the city, the wait for the Dalhousie services no longer seems as long.

“They are so stretched that they are referring in to us so it’s not like the community is creating more options, it’s actually working in reverse. The community is giving us more work,” said Mensink. “If you had better community services then the waiting list here could be shorter.”

With such a long waiting period Xia’s new society could not come any sooner. They provide student run support groups for those students who require extra help coping with anxiety and panic disorder.

Xia’s society will be hosting a fundraising night at Boston Pizza on March 11. Ten per cent of food and drink sales from those who attend the night will be given to the society.