Zan and Nim; Human Chimps

In the Idea Hive class, we have just recently finished reading “Half Brother” by Kenneth Oppel.  This is a book about a chimp who is taken from the wild, and placed in a human home to learn sign language.  The book talks about experiences that  the family, the scientists, the students, the chimp, and the world had because of this experiment.  In the book, the chimp Zan goes to live with the Tomlins, Richard, Sara, and Ben.  Mrs.Durnin had looked more into the book, and found out that there was a documentary that was very similar to the book.  It was called Project Nim.  So, when we finished the book, both Mr.Fisher & Mrs.Durnin got copies of the documentary, and both classes watched it.  ‘Half Brother’ was based on Project Nim, and so we looked at the similarities & differences between the movie and the book.


There were quite a few things that were similar in both the book and the movie.  Some of the characters and the way that they felt were the same.  For example, in the movie,  Nim didn’t like Wer, who was the first human man that he lived with.  In the book, Zan was not a very big fan of Richard, the father in the story.  There were students in the book, like Ryan, and in the movie, students like Laura.  Nim was very protective in the movie, just as Zan was in the book.  When someone was upset, or crying, the chimps would go up to them, hug, kiss and try to comfort them.   In both the book & the movie, the chimps were sent away, because although they were learning signs, they did not know language.  They didn’t know how to make sentences or use proper grammar.  This was a conflict in the book & the movie as some people said that it was a waste of money to be doing the project if they can’t learn language, while others thought it was completely worthwhile because of the connections that were clearly there, and the fact that they could very well learn sings.  Like in the book, the doctors both wanted to send the chimps to a lab to be tested on.  This is where we get into some differences in the book & movie.

In the book, the public learned about the how Zan might be send to a lab, and helped out, and were able to save Zan from going to the lab.  In the movie however, there was really only a few people who were trying to help Nim out.  One man, named Bob Ingersoll really cared about Nim, and worked really, really hard to try to keep Nim out of the lab.  Nobody except the press helped him out.  Unfortunately, unlike in the book, Nim was sent to a lab, and had many tests done on him before he was saved.  Nim was ‘saved’ if you could call it that, from the Lab by a man named Cleavland Amory.  Although Cleavland got Nim out of the lab, Nim’s life didn’t improve very much.  In the book, Zan ended up going to a sanctuary in Florida with many other chimps.  In the movie, Nim was taken to “Black Beauty Ranch” where he was the only chimp.  Nim grew extremely lonely and became pretty unhealthy.  He even ‘attacked’ his first owner Stephanie when she tried to go into his cage after not seeing him for so long.  It wasn’t until ten years later when Chris Burn bought the Black Beauty Ranch and he brought in more chimps to come and live with Nim.  Chris brought in Lulu and Mitch to come and live with Zan, where they lived together for five years.  Chris also allowed Bob to come onto the property and play with Nim.  This really improved Nim’s life.  In the book, when Zan went to the sanctuary, nobody was able to go and visit them, as there was no human contact.  Therefore, we didn’t know what happened to Zan in the end.  In the movie, we learned that Nim died at the age of 26 of a heart attack in 2002.


There were a lot of really happy experiences that happened in the movie.  One of the things that really made me happy was that unlike in the book, Nim didn’t have a lot of trouble leaving his first home.  He had no health problems, and seemed perfectly happy.  One of the characters that I really liked was Bob.  Bob never gave up on Nim.   He never stopped fighting for him, and in the end, he was able to really help Nim.  I was really glad when Chris Burns bought the ranch and Bob was able to visit Nim again after he had to stay away for so long because of the previous owners.  I was very happy when Mitch and Lulu came to live with Nim.  After being alone for so long on the ranch, he finally had some chimps to be around.

Project Nim had some pretty disturbing content to it too.  We learned what really happened to Nim, whereas in the book, it was mostly only the good things that were talked about.  In the movie, we learned about how Dr.Lemon’s facility was like a jail for the chimps.  There were cages, barbed wire, and the workers used a cattle prod on the chimps if they didn’t do what the workers wanted.  We learnt about how much of a traumatic change it was for Nim to go from living with humans to living with other chimps.  He wasn’t comfortable with them, and he suffered a lot.  He showed very little interest in anything, didn’t eat, and became very sick.  The movie also showed us how Nim wasn’t always a cute little chimp.  He bit and attacked people, and on one occasion, accidentally killed a dog!  The movie showed us a very different personality of the chimps.  One thing that really stuck in my mind was the fact that at the lab, the ‘doctors’ were testing things like hepatitis on baby chimps!  A little innocent chimp that can’t do anything to stop what is happening to them.  Although parts like this were hard to see, it showed us the reality of the project.

The movie gave us a lot of new information on the project.  In the very beginning, we learned that Nim’s mother Caroline, had six of her babies previously taken away from her in the same way Nim was.  We learnt that Nim got alcohol and marijuana from his caretakers in the movie, as it wasn’t unusual in the seventies.  When Nim wanted the drugs, he would do the three signs; stone, smoke, now.  We learned that Nim had 5-6 times the strength of a man, and would use that to his advantage if he was unhappy with something.  We learned about the chimp Lily, who Nim possibly had a baby with, and we learned about how Nim was all alone at certain points of the story.  Thankfully, he had Mitch and Lulu come live with him for five years before he died from a heart attack in 2002, at the age of 26.  The book Half Brother and the movie Project Nim taught us a lot about Nim’s story, and all the happy moments and hardships the chimp went through.  I didn’t only learn about Project Nim, but about testing on animals, life in the seventies, and so much more.  There are still a few questions in my head though.  Would the project have better results if Stephanie has worked with Nim on sign language more?  If she had been more strict with him, and taught him to be more like a human, would he have bit and attacked people?  Do you think there would have been a difference?  The research done before the book, the book, and the movie really taught myself and the whole class a lot, and I’m really glad we had the chance to do all of it.


Tillsonburg took me to 1812.

Yesterday, my class had the chance to return to Tillsonburg to go to Robin Barker-James’ farm to re-enact the War of 1812.  Mr.Barker-James has turned his farm into a battle ground.  He has split up the property into the different wars, and what the battle ground would be like.  Last year, my class went into the trench system that he has for WWI.  This year however, we stayed above the trenches went to the other side of the property to do The War of 1812.  However, we were not the only students at the farm that day. We were fighting against actual American students from Midland, Michigan.  We were split up, our class into British and Native Americans, and the student from Midland were the American army.  We went through the training of  how to load guns, clean canons, and the different orders we would need to know for later in battle.  We ate ‘Bully-Beef Stew’ made by Robin, and we did history presentations on different topics of the war.  We did two battles, Lundy’s Lane, & Fort Niagara, which I am happy to say our class won both, and although it was a very fun day, we all really learned a lot about the hardships of war.

One of my favorite parts of the day was getting to meet the American students.  At lunch, most of my class went into the barn to eat, while the Americans sat outside.  I figured that if they were here, we might as well meet them, so I got a few of my friends and we went out to sit with the American students.  We talked a lot about ourselves, and about our similarities & differences, and learned that we weren’t really different at all!  We ended up sitting together through the presentations and dinner, and we actually made some pretty good friendships.


Another thing I really loved about the day was the fact of how real it all seemed.  I wasn’t scarred for my life, but it was actually pretty intense when you got onto the field in front of your ‘enemies’ and waited for them to shoot at you.  We even put some dog food into the top of our guns, and if it hit you, you were dead.  Simple as that.  We learned how to clean a canon.  If you didn’t do it right, you couldn’t shoot it.  We learned how to stand properly, how to do a ‘wheel’, and how to properly hold your gun.   We had to pull cannons, dig, and rip up bamboo grass, and that showed up that it wasn’t all fun and games, it was hard work.   If you didn’t listen to instructions, you got put in your place.  It wasn’t a game, it was an experience of war.  That’s what makes you really remember the day, and thats why I loved it so much.  It’s a real experience.

We learned lots of drills & orders yesterday.  One of my favorites was how to use a bayonet.  We learned how to pare, belly slash, butt-stroke, and all of the keys to beating your opponent in the case of a bayonet ‘face-of’.  We went into a bayonet face off with the Americans after we learned the basic strategies used.  We learned that a pare could usually beat a thrust, unless of course you were too slow.  We learned that usually a neck-trash would kill your opponent, unless you both did it, then you would both die!  It was like a rock-paper-scissors game, as we went down the lines of Americans and Canadians.  If your move beat your opponents, you stayed alive and they died.  At the end of the bayonet battle, we counted the deaths of each side, and the Americans were the winners of the bayonet battle.

Another thing that we learned how to do was how to properly clean your cannon before you could shoot.  This was very important in the war, because if you didn’t clean it right before you shot it, it would blow up, and rather than killing your enemies, you would die.  Probably a good thing to know how to do!  There were four people involved in the cleaning and shooting the cannon.  You had a person to use the brush.  They had to first clean out the cannon by putting the brush in & back out three times.  Then came the sponge.  This was the step where you had to dampen the mop like tool, and then put in in & back out of the cannon three times.  Then, the next person would have the rammer, and they could shove the cannonball into the cannon so it was ready to shoot.  When the cannon was ready to shoot, one person would have a tennis ball and they would try to throw it over to the enemies to blow them up.  In our training, we had Americans on one side, and Canadians on the other, and if three cannon balls hit your cannon, your cannon would be done for and you couldn’t use them any more.  Each side had three cannons, and the Canadians won this challenge!

I think that the biggest message I got out of this whole experience is the fact that the Canadians and Americans were both people who without the war, could have been very good friends!   The American soldiers had wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, and friends just like the Canadians did.  They were both going into the war to defend their country, not because they hated each other!  This really showed when we got to know about the American students, and how much we had in common.  We bonded with them.  We had friendships with them, because we were so much alike.  It was actually sort of strange when we had to go out and shoot them and fight against them after talking with them and getting to know them.  So really, the Canadians and the Americans weren’t really enemies, they were just defending their country.  They had to go out and try to kill one another.  These people could have been the best of friends if they weren’t forced to go out and try to take each others lives.  I had a lot of fun with the Americans yesterday, and I hope that we never have to go against each other like they did in 1812 ever again.  


Summer.  The beaches, the tans, the barbeques & no school.  The lazy days & the adventurous days.  Swimming in the pool, soccer games, bonfires and canoeing.  Day trips to the beach & walking downtown for ice-cream.  Flip-flops & beach hair, making bracelets & collecting shells.    Iced tea & lemonade, and the feeling of the warm sand between your feet.   Making new friends & making memories with old ones.  Feeling carefree as I watch the bright pink & orange sunset on the beach at the end of an amazing summer’s day.  Awesome.


Animal Testing, or Animal Cruelty?

In the Idea Hive classroom, we are reading a book via Skype called ‘Half Brother’ by Kenneth Oppel. Half brother is a book about a family who ‘adopts’ a chimp to come live with them, and try to teach it sign language. The father in the book is a scientist who works for a university, and he sees Zan, the chimp, as more an experiment rather than a part of the family. However, Ben & Sarah, the young boy in the book, and his mother, find Zan more as a family member. One of the student workers, Peter, takes Ben to see an animal rights activist and changes the way Ben sees the project. He’s now wondering if this is a good thing for Zan, or if it is actually hurting him. Where we are right now in the book, Ben is thinking a lot about animal testing. For my post, I decided to answer the question, ‘How do you feel about animal testing? Does your opinion change if the animals are treated right?’

cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by -Bert23-

The animals who are being tested on, even if they are being treated well, have no way of saying “no” to what the scientists are doing to them. In the book, we learned about some of the tests on animals that have gone terribly wrong. One example that really stuck to me was one chimp who has an oxygen mask glued to his face, put into a capsule filled with water, and suddenly shot up a tube. This test was to learn about going into space. The chimp never woke up. Another reason why I think that it is unnecessary is the fact that we already take so much from animals, and we don’t need to take their lives. Think about it. Most of us eat meat. We have leather boots, coats, gloves etc. We use animals for transportation, and use them for helping us on farms. I think that these are all things that are reasonably fair things to do. We need a lot of what we use for them in order to survive. However, we know what will happen to this animal at the end. By simply doing a test on an animal not knowing if it will live, die, have permanent damage, or possibly be okay at the end is going too far. It might not even work the same on us as it does on the animal! Every year, millions of animals are blinded, poisoned, and killed due to animal testing. Just because we need a new product in our lives does not mean we need to take an animal’s basic needs or lives from them to get it.

What do you think about animal testing? Do you think that all of the testing, causing diseases and deaths, on the millions of animals, was worth a some new cosmetic & household items?

Half Brother.

In our Idea Hive classroom, we are reading the book ‘Half Brother’ by Kenneth Oppel, via Skype.  The two teachers take turns reading while the students and the other teacher are in a back-channel called ‘Today’sMeet.  We talk about what is happening in the book, and ask each other questions, and help answer them.  After each reading, we post on online stickies on

The book Half Brother is about a family who adopts a chimp to be a part of their family, as well as part of a project where they see if chimps can communicate with humans through sign-language.

The main character in the book is 13 year old Ben.  In the story, Ben goes to a construction site with his new friends & plays with fire almost getting caught by a guard. This reminds me of a book I read called ‘Summer Promise’. The protagonist gets talked into going to a party. At the party, there are drugs and alcohol, causing one of the boys to get into a bad accident. She is talked to by the police & is close to getting into a lot of trouble. In both of these cases, the protagonist’s fall into what everyone else is doing instead of choosing the right path.

cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by Laenulfean

The Cousin Eddy Christmas.

Christmas time has a lot of traditions at my house.  From baking cookies, to the Christmas eve church service, to dressing up my dad with bows & ornaments when we decorate the tree.  But one of my favorite things that we do every year is watch ‘Christmas Vacation.’  Every year, about a week or two before Christmas, my family watches this movie together.  The family in the movie is extremely funny, my favorite character being the crazy cousin Eddy.

Anyway, last year, we had my mom’s family Christmas at our house.  Let me tell you right now, that our Christmas’s are very far from dull & quite.  We play Just Dance with my Grandma, Rock Band with our cousins, & just have a good, loud, silly time.  We all want the holiday to be  filled with fun & excitement.  So last year, my uncle Mark came over on Christmas with his kids, then said he had to run back home because he said forgot something (he lives about a block away).  So that was fine, we all just carried on.  But then, about 15 minutes later, he came back dressed up as cousin Eddy from the movie!  He has on the tight pants, the turtleneck with the v-neck sweater on top, and the big hat to go with it.  He said some of the classic lines from the movies, and after many pictures, he went home to change.  That was the highlight of the day, and every time I think about it, I can’t help but to smile.

The Polar Bears of Churchill Manitoba

Because of global warming, the sea ice that the polar bears normally rely on for food, & ways of life, is not yet thick enough for them.  Polar bears eat seals, and because the ice is not frozen yet they do not have access to the seals.  Polar bears need a certain amount of fat on their bodies to be able to survive when the sea ice has melted and they are inland.  If they don’t get enough food when they should, it could be deadly to them.  The polar bears are struggling now because they have less time to eat and build up body fat, and are spending more time without the food they need.  It can also really harm the newborn cubs if the mothers do not have enough fat on their bodies. A pregnant polar bear can loose up to half of their body fat while they are inland.  This can be fatal to both mother & cub. If they don’t have enough fat, it is very hard for them to provide for their cubs, and may result in death.  Scientists say (with 95% certainty) that the planets climate is warming up because of greenhouse gasses.   The Polar Bears are being shoved to the edges of Hudson Bay, where the people & the bears are getting too close for comfort.  As of right now, the polar bears fit under the threatened criteria according to Species at Risk Act’s data.
I created a Glogster to summarize my research.
To go along with our geography unit, place & location, we decided to do a project on the polar bears of Churchill Manitoba.  We found out all about Churchill, global warming, and of course, the life of the polar bear.  We soon found out that the polar bears are a threatened animal.  One day during our research time, a couple of students stumbled upon a way that we could help the polar bears.  They purposed to us that we adopt a polar bear.  You could choose from a few different price options, any where from $30 to $250.  The whole class was very eager to help out, and we choose to try to raise $250 to help the polar bears. Then we made a chart to track how much money we raised, and it added up quickly! From November 18th to November 30th, out of the students money, we were able to achieve, and go above and beyond our goal.  We we’re able to raise $293.  After we reached our goal, to help celebrate, our teacher bought us white Coca-Cola (the company is also helping the polar bears) and specialty white frosted doughnuts from Tim Hortons.   While we ate and drank these, we skyped with Andy Mckiel, the who Mrs.Durnin got the idea from.   Mrs.Durnin had met Mr.Mckiel at unplug’d during the summer, and was following him on twitter, and saw him tweeting about Churchill.  As a result to this tweet, she immediately scratched her original thoughts for the project and wrote out our final project.  To think that this whole thing started out with a single tweet…

This was a great experience, and I am glad I could be a part of helping the polar bears.  I am very happy that we were able to help out the polar bears.  After watching many videos, and reading many articles about the polar bears, I realized how hard the life of the polar bears life really is.  Because of what we did, and what other people are doing to help the polar bears, their life is a little easier.

Ten Marks & A Train Ticket.

At the beginning of the year, we began reading ‘Ten Marks & A Train Ticket’ by Suzy Goldstien,  Gina Hamilton, and Wendy Share.  This book is a remake of the book that the authors father, Benno, wrote when he was 16.  The Benno wrote this book about his experiences escaping Nazi Germany with his brother Heinz when he was only nine years old.
We read the book in sections, and after each section, we would fill in a few sheets with what we learned from that section.  Now that we have finished the book, we are doing a few activities to sum it up.
The story summary can be seen in the Timetoast Timeline I created.
My most memorable image for me was on page 43.  At this point of the story, the boys are hiding under the seats in the train, in the dark, hiding from the Nazis.  This stands out for me because it sows that they were not safely travelling from Germany, they were escaping from it.  I can’t imagine how scared the boys must have felt when the Nazis came into the compartment.  Luckily, the Nazis did not see the boys, and they got off the train safely.
“I held my breath, waiting for them to ask us questions, but they didn’t say a word.  They just nodded to us.  Someone else motioned to us to keep moving.  Again, no one asked us any questions.  I looked at Heinz.  He looked at me.  We could hardly believe what just happened.  We had just crossed the border into Holland with nobody stopping us.  It was so was so easy.  The border guards must have thought we were part of another family.  It was all over very quickly, & we were free.”
This quote is very important to the story.  It tells us that Heinz & Benno are now in Holland.  This changes the setting from Germany to Holland.  The quote is also important because we now know that the boys have made if safely into Holland.  Although they had many struggles getting there, they are now in Holland, like the boys parents, Max & Golda had planned.  The boys have accomplished their goal of escaping Germany.
From reading this book I learned a lot about the Holocaust.  I learned that the Kindertransport, a word that I had never even heard of, saved the lives of 9,600 refugee children.  I learned about the Jewish faith, and the kindness of other countries during this terrible time. I was surprised to read about the section where the boys just ‘walked into’ Holland, no questions asked when they didn’t have their papers.  Earlier in the book, when the boys tried to leave, the border guards told the boys that if they ever tried to come into Holland without their proper papers again, there could be serious consequences.  Even though the guards may have thought the boys were part of a large family, I was still very surprised that with all that was going on, they didn’t ask for the boys papers.  This was an amazing book, and I was able to learn a lot about the Holocaust, and the young children that had to go through it.
I wonder how Benno and the rest of the children who went through this go about their life now after everything that they had to go through?

I wonder how the children dealt with not having their parents to help them through the hardest time of their life?

Run Run As Fast As You Can!

Through the month of September, my class ran different distances around our yard for our gym class.  We recorded these results, and created a spreadsheet & graph to show our results.  Our teacher then asked us about the goals that we made this month, and what goals we still wanted to improve.
There are improvements I made in my cross-country running this fall.  The more I ran, the better my pace became.  When I first started off, I ran fast, trying to complete the distance faster.  But I realized that I was having to stop & catch my breath.  So, I slowed myself to a jog, & my pace improved by 43%.   I slowed myself down so that I didn’t have to stop running until my distance was completed.  By the end of the month, I was able to fun further distances.  The distance I ran improved by 30%.  I also improved my breathing.  After running for a few days, I realized that I was breathing very heavily by the end.  Then, I stared to breathe in my nose, and out my mouth.  I noticed a big improvement.  Mrs.Durnin gave us a lot of good advice, as she is a long distance runner herself.  After runs I, and a lot of other students, noticed that our arms were very tired after running because we had them pulled up on our body a certain way.  Mrs.D told us to grab the air (cup our hands & scoop the air).  My arms weren’t tired anymore!

D’Arcy Norman

There are goals that I have this year to improve my physical fitness.  One goal that I have for myself is to have less ‘screen time’ during my day, and spend that time doing physical activities.  Everyday after school, it’s my job to take my dog for a walk.  Something I could do to improve my fitness is take her for longer walks.  In addition to gym class, I want to make sure that I take part of my day to be physical.  Also, I want to make sure that I am eating healthy.  That makes being physical a lot easier!

Similarities & Differences In the Idea Hive

    Last year, my class got to spend the year, through technology, with Snow Lake Manitoba.  And this year, we get to do it all over again!  There are new students, and some of the old ones have moved on.  But a lot of the same students will be able to grow an even better relationship.  I am extremely excited to start working with Snow Lake again this year, and I can’t wait to see what our teachers have for us this year!  The first thing we did, just to get to know  a bit about each other, was to fill out an interests survey.  That helped us get to know a bit about each other.  And this is what I found out…

Everyone in the Idea Hive is very unique.  There are a few things that all of us have in common.  One of things that every single students has in common is our hygiene.  The one and only thing that all of us do, is brush our teeth at least once a day.  Something that I have in common with most people is how much we like math.  I love math, and a few of the people that also love math are, Cameron, Erin, Tylepham and Jacopeel.   There are also things that I have in common with only a few people.  When I get older, I want to go to Mexico, Greece, England, and/or Paris.  Like me, Bianknop, Braycart, Dirtbiker77, Juli, Mercetes, and Korisock all want to go to at least one of these places.  Maybe I’ll see some of them there someday!  Something that is unique about me is, I am the only person who wants to be a lawyer in my future.

When I read the survey, the person I found to be most like me from Snow Lake was Cassidy.  We both love the show Pretty Little Liars, and our favorite, or most visited website is Facebook.  Like me, she hates spiders (no doubt) and seems to have a good sense of humor.  Its pretty cool to have someone so much like you so far away.  Its really awesome that we get to work with Snow Lake, but I hope that someday, we can meet in person!
The survey gave us lots of good information about everyone, but if I could ask more questions,  I would just like to know some of the basics.  Like, what is your favorite type of music?  Who is your favorite artist?  I am looking forward to a great year, and getting to know everyone.