Valley kids at Sugar Moon Nature Camp boil syrup

Published on March 21, 2017

Liam Edelstein, left, Lily Jobes, and in the background James Arrietta were all keen to taste maple sap at a special March Break camp in Port Williams.


PORT WILLIAMS NS – “Can you smell the sweetness in the air,” Amy Cuming asked the children sitting around an outdoor wood fire.

The Sugar Moon Nature Camp, held at the Booker School in Port Williams, used one of the Mi’kmaq traditional calendar moons as a theme.

Evan Mosher, who lives in Wolfville, said the highlight of the unique March Break week was tapping maple trees on Belcher St. for sap.

Evan monitored the fire that was boiling the sap and sending sweetness into the air. A lazy bald eagle drifted over the outdoor classroom.

The Booker School collaborated with the Wild Spirits Forest School to offer the five-day forest school camp. The school has a five-acre campus overlooking the Cornwallis River.

The camp quickly filled to capacity and had a lengthy waiting list, said Booker parent Johanna Mercer, signaling a real interest in outdoor learning.

“Our campers were curious, caring inquirers who appreciated our special guests: Katie Scott of Ducks Unlimited, Dr. Mike Mulherin, ecologist Soren Bondrup-Nielsen and Native Elder Gerald Toney,” Mercer said.

Children at the nature camp and instructors all look upwards at the bald eagle soaring overhead.


The weather proved changeable, which created a wide variety of opportunities for activities and learning. During the week campers built fires, shelters and bird feeders.

“The kids are loving it,” noted Amy Cuming, “and they’re outside 90 per cent of the time.”

“The environment really engages children,” she added. “They’re able to do what they want with their bodies, unlike a regular classroom.”

Cuming and her teaching partner, Ashlea Coleman

are going to continue the nature education work with a trial collaboration for seven weeks this spring. Sessions will be open for the public.

The campers wrote haiku and created art and nature journals. They studied animals and birds. They delved into First Nations mythology and language. They cooked every day and especially enjoyed fresh maple snow ice cream and bannock.

They played games, ukuleles and drums, sang songs in Spanish, hiked in the woods and found spots for moments of quiet listening and reflection, according to Mercer.

Last summer Cuming took the Forest and Nature School practitioners course at the Tir Na Nog Forest School in New Brunswick. After five days, she says she came home with a burning fire inside, ready to open the first Forest School in the Annapolis Valley.

Another nature lover, Coleman says her biggest adventure of all is being a mother of four lively children aged six and under. She has a teaching degree with a specialization in K-12 physical education.

Together they are starting the Wild Spirits Forest & Nature School, which is a not-for-profit educational organization dedicated to reconnecting children and their families with nature.

Coleman believes there is a gap in traditional education where, often, children do not have the space and freedom to play, learn, and grow to enable them to reach their potential.


Watch for future collaborations between the Booker School and Wild Spirits on our website: or Facebook page: For more information about Wild Spirits Forest School, go to:


Tapping maple trees for sap was one of the highlights of the nature camp for several of the children.