Spec-tacul-air Superheroes:

A Birch Cove Park Adventure

1 hr 15 min 0.8 km return Easy

Trail Info:

This is a short walking trail that winds along the lake and through a wooded area. There are washrooms, a beach and picnic tables.  Birch Cove Park is on the western shore of Lake Banook in Dartmouth. Information on swimming conditions at Birch Cove Beach is available here.

The trail is largely accessible as it is on smooth cinder pathways. However, the path from stop 2 to stop 3 is up what amounts to a steep slope for wheelchairs, which will take a strong motor or some significant pushing. Strollers should not be a problem. Activities happen along the edges of the trail.

Directions:

Birch Cove Park Trailhead
View in Google Maps

From the Mic Mac Mall, take Glen Manor Drive toward downtown. Turn left at the end of this street onto Crichton Avenue. Go 0.6 km and turn left onto Oakdale Crescent. Keep to the right on this circular, one-way street. The park entrance is halfway down the street. Find your best bus route to the trailhead by putting “Birch Cove Park, Dartmouth” in here.

Trail Tools

Become Superheroes

Start at the paved walkway along the water as it leaves the parking lot.

You are Spec-tacul-air Superheroes who must stop the Pollutinators from harming Birch Cove’s air. Your superpowers allow you to shrink into tiny air specs to discover where air goes and how it changes. Find out how the Pollutinators poison the air and how to stop them. Put on your superhero capes.

1. Spin like Specs

Go on the grass just off the walkway on the left.

Transform yourselves into very tiny oxygen air specs through spec spinning. Beware of nearby hazards when spinning as it’s easy to become dizzy and lose your balance.

  1. Find a partner and hook arms.
  2. Hold on tight and spin in a circle for 20 seconds.
  3. Feel yourself shrinking as you become dizzy when you stop spinning.

When the dizziness passes, you are oxygen specs. You must travel as an oxygen molecule, which is a pair of oxygen specs (with an uneven number, create a trio). Hook arms and run down the trail to the next stop. Make windy “whooshing” noises as you go.

Earthworks

The same air has been circulating ever since it was created millions of years ago. Plants are air recycling factories. They take in the carbon dioxide that animals breathe out. In return, they release oxygen for people and wild creatures to inhale. The air circles around and around through all living things. We could not survive without this great air exchange. The air moves in one of the three important

on earth. The other two move water and soil elements.

Learn about the Earthworks

2. Get Carried Away

Run straight ahead from the benches for about 120 m. Stop where the trail turns sharply to the left.

Oh no, you’ve been captured! Scream! A bat breathed you up its nose while it was searching for bugs to eat. The hair in the bat’s nose cleans you off.

  1. Separate from your partner and roll on the grass.
  2. Make yucky noises as you wiggle.

You are drawn into the bats lungs and injected into its blood.

  1. Crouch down and make a sucking noise.
  2. Flap your arms (wings) and squeak as you fly around looking for bugs.

Bats eat moths, mosquitoes and other flying insects. They use sound to locate their prey. Read the box below to find out more about how bats do this.

  1. Mark with sticks a rough circle about three metres across on the grass.
  2. Someone is the bat and wears a vision blocker. The rest are moths.
  3. Everyone must stay within the circle during the game.
  4. The bat says “beep” and the moths must respond by saying “bump”.
  5. The bat keeps using this sound clue to try to tag the moths.
  6. Moths that are tagged wait outside the circle.
  7. The last moth tagged can become the bat for the next round.

Do you Know – Bats

Although bats have good eyesight, they use their sense of hearing to help them catch food. They make sounds or “beeps” as they fly that are too high-pitched for humans to hear. The sounds bounce or “bump” off an object such as a moth and rebound to the bat. The bat’s sensitive ears pick up these sounds and tell the bat what is nearby. This is like a sonar system and is called echolocation. Dolphins also use it.

Ah choo! You are sneezed out of the bat!

  1. Make your biggest sneezing sound.
  2. Fling yourself down onto the ground.
  3. Get up and wipe off all the bat gunk.

You are ejected as part of a different molecule: carbon dioxide. It is made up of two oxygen specs and a spec of carbon. Whoosh up the trail as a carbon dioxide molecule, by linking arms with two other specs. If you listen closely, you may hear Pollutinators in the distance.

3. Nose Around

Go up the trail 125 m, passing two trails on your left. Stop near the top of the hill where two trails come in on the right. This hill will require a strong motor or significant pushing for wheel chairs.

Air also carries smells. Smells are particles and fumes that are so tiny you can’t see them, but you can sure smell ‘em!

  1. Separate from your molecules and find at least three neat-smelling trees.
  2. Scratch the surface of the tree with your fingernail before smelling it.
  3. Share your favourite smelling trees with others.

Can you sneak into a tree as an air spec using your superpowers? Go stand next to your favourite smelling tree.

  1. Stretch your arms high and stand on your tiptoes.
  2. Make slurping noises as you are sucked up into a leaf.
  3. Hug your tree and close your eyes.
  • You’re zipping along the tubes in the branches.
  • You make a sharp turn down into the trunk and then up into another branch.
  • Suddenly you’re in a new leaf and shot out into the air!
  1. Scream as you run back to the trail as an oxygen spec again.
  2. Hook up into pairs and float along the trail making swooshing sounds

Netukulimk—
Trees & Shelter

Trees are very important to the Mi’kmaq and have been used for food, medicine, shelter, and transportation among other things. The wikuom or wigwam, which means dwelling, was built using both the white birch (maskwi) and spruce tree (kawatkw). A spot like this near a lake would have been a good site for a wikuom. Large sheets of bark from the maskwi were used as shingles and placed on the frame. Birchbark was perfect as it is waterproof and easy to transport from place to place. The root of the spruce tree was prepared and used for tying the poles and other parts together. Spruce twigs were also used to line the floor along with woven mats and furs. One important difference between the tipi (or teepee) used by other Indigenous groups and the wigwam is that tipis are covered with animal skin rather than birchbark. Today, many wikuoms and tipis are covered using canvas.

Learn about Netukulimk

4. Race like the Wind

Go about 60 m and stop just after two benches on the right.

Swish! You are part of the wind now. Compete against other gusts of air in a leaf race. Find a dry, dead leaf on the ground; not just any leaf—a fast leaf. Mark a starting line and a finishing line on the path, separated by three giant steps. To begin:

  1. Racers get down behind their leaves on the starting line.
  2. The starter says “go” and the racers blow their leaves to the finish line.
  3. Racers cannot touch their leaves.

Continue along the trail in your oxygen molecule pairs.

Dartmouth was a traditional Mi’kmaq summer fishing and camping site until 1750 when the British settlers arrived. The Shubenacadie River system, which connects the Dartmouth lakes, was a Mi’kmaq transportation route. Visit the Dartmouth Heritage Museum at 26 Newcastle Street to learn more about local history.

5. Get into a Squirrel

Walk 50 m to a twin trunked large maple tree on your left. Get off the trail to the maple.

Uh, oh! A squirrel came by and sucked you up its nose!

  1. Crouch on the ground and put your hands in front of you like paws.
  2. Make a sucking noise and jump high in the air.
  3. Hop around and call “chitta, chitta.”

See how many types of squirrel food you can find nearby.

  • acorns
  • mushrooms
  • seeds
  • insects
  • berries

The squirrel is stuffed and falls asleep. Relief! You are whooshed out the squirrel’s nose while it’s snoring:

  1. Snort and do three somersaults on the ground.
  2. You’re sent back out as carbon dioxide molecules again.
  3. Run together to the next stop, swooshing as you go.

6. Find Tiny Doorways

Run straight ahead on the main trail for about 90 m and stop at the 2nd path you pass on the left (there are also wooden steps descending to the trail on the right). Go down off the trail a bit.

Take a closer look at some leaves as a free-floating air spec.

  1. Make a collection of at least eight cool-looking dead leaves.
  2. Find special leaves with different shapes and patterns.
  3. Display them in a line on the ground.
  4. Trade leaves with others to improve your collection.
  5. Leave it on display for others who walk by.

Swish, now you are drawn towards a plant.

  1. Choose a plant nearby with the coolest-looking leaves.
  2. Look at one leaf, but don’t remove it from the plant.
  3. Compare the top of the leaf to its underside.
  4. Look really hard with your third eye for tiny little holes under the leaf. they are called “stomata.”

Uh, oh! The plant is sucking you into the leaf through its micro doors. Scream as you turn around three times.

Shuffle down the trail as you are carried along in the leaf.

Do You Know—
Clean Energy

Chemicals and gases introduced into the air through human activities cause air pollution and contribute to climate change. This includes exhaust gases from cars, power plants, heating furnaces and factories. There are simple, alternative, and healthy ways to travel by powered vehicles without polluting. A number of Canadian cities (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, etc.) are using fully electric buses but Halifax has not yet made any commitments. Electric cars are growing rapidly in numbers in Canada while falling in price. The electricity can be generated from photovoltaic cells, windmills and small-scale hydroelectric generators. Heat can be collected from solar and underground sources. Modestly priced houses can now generate more electricity than they use in a year by combining efficient design and solar technologies.

7. Become Tree Statues

Take the path on the left downhill for 100 m. Stop at the bottom of the hill where a grassy path goes off to the left.

Trees stand as still as statues. You are in a tree. Can you be that still?

  1. Assign someone the role of the joker. The others are trees.
  2. The trees find a comfortable position close by and freeze.
  3. Trees cannot hide their faces or close their eyes.
  4. The joker tries to make each one smile but cannot touch a tree.
  5. Once a tree laughs, it becomes a joker as well.
  6. See who is the last tree.

Escape before you become frozen in a tree. Run five giant steps and do three twirls. Poof! You’re ejected as oxygen specs again. Float down the trail.

Earth Steps

Here are some things you can do to help keep the air clean:

  • Turn off lights, computers, appliances and TVs when you are not using them.
  • Cut down on car trips by carpooling, taking the bus, riding your bike and walking more. Cars put their own weight in pollution into the air each year.
  • Turn the heat down at night when it’s cold. You won’t notice if it is a little cooler when you’re snug in bed.
  • Get lots of tips on how to make your home more energy-efficient and save money through Efficiency Nova Scotia programs.

8. Escape from the Pollutinators

Stay on the main trail. After passing a set of stairs on the right going down to the water, go 25 m and stop at a fork in the trail. Do this activity in the grassy area with trees to the left of the path.

Oh no, the Pollutinators stop you and challenge you to a game of Contamination.

  1. Choose a Pollutinator. The Pollutinator tries to tag each spec and spread pollution pellets.
  2. If tagged, a spec freezes and receives a pollution pellet from the Pollutinator.
  3. Another spec can free the frozen spec by taking the spec by the hand to a tree.
  4. The Pollutinator cannot tag specs when they’re paired up like this.
  5. The contaminated spec touches the tree and is cleaned by it.
  6. Once cleaned, the spec drops the pellet and is free to run from the Pollutinator again.
  7. The Pollutinator picks up dropped pellets and reuses them when tagging other specs.

Take turns being the Pollutinator and clean up all the pellets at the end. What are three ways you contribute to air pollution?

If an air spec succeeds in getting cleaned by a tree, where does the pollution go? The box below will help you find the answers.

Continue floating down the trail.

Do You Know—
Trees as Air Conditioners

Trees act as giant air cleaners. Leaves trap pollution particles such as dirt, ash, dust and pollen in the tiny hairs covering their leaves and stems. These particles then fall or are carried to the ground by rain and wind. Trees take in carbon dioxide and pump out oxygen in its place. Increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to human pollution are trapping heat and warming the planet. Global warming is threatening the stability of our natural ecosystems and the climate. One healthy tree makes a contribution to reducing global warming by removing over 9 kilograms of carbon dioxide from the air each year.

9. Stop Pollutinators Everywhere

At the trail fork, keep to the right for 50 m. At the end of this trail, turn right, walk downhill for 50 m, and stop as the trail turns to the right. Go off the trail a bit towards the lake.

You have figured out how Pollutinators poison the air, but you can’t stop them in spec form. You must be a clean spec to return to normal. Complete the lichen air quality test:

  1. Look for gray or light green flaky stuff on a rock or tree— these are lichens.
  2. Get down close and breathe on the lichen.

Take a close up picture of a beautiful lichen and upload it if you choose.

If the lichen is healthy, then it’s safe to return to your normal size. Do reverse spec spinning on a grassy section near here. After the dizziness passes, you are normal size again.

Do You Know – Lichens

Lichen are two creatures in one, a fungus and green algae living together. The fungus gives the algae shelter and protection. The algae make food through photosynthesis. Some lichen are very sensitive to smoke and exhaust from factories, buildings and vehicles. Their colour, health and numbers are monitored and used in studies to help judge air quality.

Return to the trail, walking back towards the start of the trail. As you go, find a nice tree or bush to sit by while you draw in your Adventure Journal. Before you sit down, say thank you to your tree or bush by taking in a deep breath and then blowing out. You just took in oxygen from the plant and gave it carbon dioxide!

Take a seat and draw or write in your Adventure Journal the creatures you moved through as air specs. Do you remember the different types of molecules you became in each creature? Use arrows to show how you travelled through the air cycle.

Finish by heading back to the trail entrance and parking lot to search for the mystery plaque, look around on a post below something electric! Make a rubbing of the mystery creature on the plaque in your Adventure Journal with the side of your pencil.

The plaque symbol is:

l

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Please login if you would like to record your trail completion, provide feedback or upload photos to the trail gallery.

Login if you’d like to upload a photo to share in the Adventure Gallery

Good luck using your superpowers to help overcome the Pollutinators.

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Tap share and then "Add to Homescreen".