NIM & ZAN: They Are Half Brothers

This year, the Idea Hive read a book called Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel via skype and through our new online radio station ( This week we just finished the book and decided to watch a documentary called Project Nim. It tells a story about the life of a chimp named Nim and all the struggles that he faced in his ‘human’ life. We were asked to write how we felt about the documentary and what the similarities and differences between Half Brother and Project Nim.

There were a lot of similarities between the documentary and the book.
Some of the similarities would be, from the very start, the dad (Richard & Wer) didn’t get along with the chimp (Zan & Nim). The chimps most often were with their mothers. Both chimps were taken from their mothers at a very young age. They had to get a shot of tranquilizers to be able to get them to their new home. They both didn’t learn language. They learned words and the signs, but they didn’t know grammar or how to put them together to make sentences. They could say ‘Nim play’. But they couldn’t say ‘Nim go and play?’ even though they knew all of those signs. As the chimps got older, they were more aggressive. They were stronger. They would bite and hurt people more because they were so much stronger they didn’t really know that they were hurting someone. Both of the chimps like to give and receive hugs.

There were a lot of differences between the documentary and the book.
In the documentary Nim had a larger family of 7. Zan had 3 other family members. In the book, Richard and Sarah jobs were to be dealing with chimps. In the documentary, Stephanie and Wer didn’t know anything about chimps which made the transition harder. Nim went to school to learn signs as in the book, Zan stayed at home and had people come and teach him signs there. After Laura backed out of the project, Nim was sent back to his mother. In the book, Zan was sent straight to Dr. Helson’s Ranch. When Nim was away from his family for so long, they came back. It seemed that Nim didn’t want anything to do with him, but Stephanie  wanted to see him. As she went in his cage, he threw her around and hurt so obviously, he didn’t want to go back with them. On the other hand, as soon as Zan saw his family, he was so happy, he didn’t want them to leave. The final difference was that Nim was sent to a Medical Lab for chimp testings. Zan was going to be sent to one as well, until his original family bought him back to save him from his suffering.

There were a lot of disturbing moments in the documentary.
Nim was starting to bite a lot more. Since he was getting older and stronger, the bites started to hurt more and be more harmful. As well, he wasn’t just biting people, he was also hurting them. If someone didn’t give him what he wanted or let him alone for too long and he would get mad. It would get harder and harder for the caretakers to control. Nim had to get shot with tranquilizers to be able to get transported from place to place. When the needles were being injected, the chimps knew what was going on. It brought so much more terror for the chimps knowing that what they went through the other week or day was going to happen all over again.  The chimps that were being tested were so young. They were little babies being played with. Little did they know that that was a plan to get the needles into them.

That were a lot of happy moments in the Documentary. In the documentary, Nim was learning a lot of signs, and really fast. It was easy for him to learn them and understand what other people were saying (signing) to him. On one occasion, Joyce was playing with Nim and he bit her on the arm. She didn’t want him to do it again, so she bit him back. It gave Nim a little taste of what it felt like to be bit. He ended up never biting her again. Nim was very lucky that he got along with other chimps and that they accepted him. Different from people, they would get scared of chimps if they saw one roaming around (I know I would!) but he was very calm and loved to play. So he was very fortunate to get along with people & chimps (animals).

There was a lot of new information that I learned from reading Half Brother & watching Project Nim. I learned that baby chimps get taken from their parents because of research. In Nim’s case, he was the 6th chimp to get taken from his mom. I also learned that there can be another side to chimps. All we hear about is chimps attacking people or destroying property, but from reading this book and watching this documentary, I realized that they are very calm and playful animals if you get to know them and be calm yourself! For example, in the documentary, Stephanie was a little bit nervous about bringing a chimp into her family home. But as she got to know Nim, and figure out his lifestyle, everything flew smoothly!

From reading my post, Who do you like better, Zan or Nim? Why?


Going Back to 1812

READY POSITION…FIRE! It’s the yankees against the British in a battle of 1812.  Out in a field with wooden muskets swung over our shoulders, we are ready to fight. In Tillsonburg Ontario, Robin Barker-James hosted 30 Canadians and 22 Americans in a non-violent re-enactment of the war of 1812. In his barn he has a collection of World War 1 and 2 antiques. He told us what they were used for and I found it very interesting, knowing that the gun that I’m holding was used in the wars. Robin did the basic training with the muskets and taught us how to load up the gunpowder (dog food) and fire (launch the gun). Sadly the Americans won the musket training. He taught us how to bayonet fight, which we had previously learned last trip to Robin’s farm. Lastly he taught us how to fire the cannons. We had a cannon training test. The test was to see how many American cannons we could take out. The cannons had to be hit 3 times by the opposite team to win. We won of corse, with only one cannon left.

One of the best moments that I had yesterday was using the cannons in the battle of Lundy’s Lane. It would go in a cycle, the brush, the sponge, the rammer. Then our General Ross would count down from three 3,2,1,…FIRE! The cannons had a tube that you would clean, and when they yelled ‘fire’ you would throw a tennis ball at the Americans. I loved how they talked to us in a loud and sharp voice. It made me feel like I was actually going into battle. They kept us in line! For example, one time when we were supposed to fire, one of the students didn’t do his job and he made us start the cycle all over again! Robin did such a good job with making everything feel and look so real.

I also loved doing the marching. They taught us how to properly hold a gun in each position (at ease, shoulder, arm ease, port arms, ready position). Then they would make us march in different patterns along his cement pad. If we weren’t in a straight line they would make us do it all over again. One of my favorite pattern was the wheel. The person on the far left would turn right really slowly. The rest would follow along (making sure we were in a straight line!) and going down the line you needed go faster and faster. Kind of like the ticking hand of a clock, going round and round!

I had a great time meeting my American friends! At first we were a little shy, but around lunchtime we were talking and telling them how they talked weird. We were always saying ‘hi’ to each other in battle and promising them that we wouldn’t shoot them. We hoped that they wouldn’t shoot us! We talked a lot about how they say things different from us. We think they pronounce their O’s as A’s. But  they think that we talk weird as well! I miss my American friends and I hope we can see them again soon!

The coolest thing that I learned how to do would be loading a cannon. You would have a cannon team of 4. One person would do the brush, which was the first tool you would use to clean the cannon. A second person would use the sponge. A third person would pretend to put the cannon in and give it to the thrower. The fourth person would aim and throw the bomb (tennis ball) at the opposing team. You would have to do that cycle over and over until the battle was over, or the American cannons were each hit 3 times. I enjoyed this because you were working as a team (team effort). I am one who loves others around me to help me out on what I’m doing!

The big idea of yesterday was that we are all similar. Even though we live in different countries and had a different colour of uniform doesn’t mean we are not the same. In the War of 1812, there were people that were family or friends that fought against each other and could have possibly killed one of their ‘brothers’. They went into a horrible situation and were forced to fight against some of the people they loved. I couldn’t imagine going into battle against my family and close friends.

Thank you Robin Barker-James  and all the people that made the day possible! I had a great time and like you all said, I will be talking about this for the next 40 years!


As I lay still, I feel the breeze on my dangling feet. The tightly woven white yarn pushes against my skin. I hear the trees rustling above me as I look up and see a squirrel crawling from branch to branch delivering food to his family. I smell the freshly cut grass. After a long days of work, I feel comfortable and relaxed. Awesome.

Chimps should be in the wild, not in a desk.

In the Idea Hive we have started reading a book called Half Brotherby Kenneth Oppel. Via Skype, Mrs. Durnin and Mr. Fisher take turns reading the book. Half Brother is about a boy named Ben, who got a chimp as a brother. The dad, Richard,  is a scientist and is doing a project on chimps warning sign language. Zan, the chimp,  is doing very well learning sign language but not so well behavior wise. They asked the government for some money to help with Project Zan, but they said no. Richard thought that they needed some proof that Zan was actually learning, so he set up cameras and got students to help track his improvements. Richard also thought that it would be better for Zan to get strapped into a chair and sit in a desk to learn. Everyone in both of the classes thought that was ridiculous. So the teachers thought of 3 questions for us to choose and voice our opinion on. This is the one question I choose, Peter describes Zan’s situation – being taking from the wild and brought up as a human – as a “kind of slavery” (p. 161). What does he mean by this? Do you agree or disagree? Explain.
I agree when Peter describes Zan’s situation as being taken out from the wild and brought up a human as a “kind of slavery”. They are making Zan act  like a human. Zan is a chimp and he always will be. For example, they are not letting him be like a regular chimp. Chimps need the out-doors, not a desk. They need to swing and play, not constantly learning sign language. They are taking him from the wild and really training him to be an adult, not a child or a chimp. When Peter said that, I think he meant that Zan is being taken from his home and learning the life of a human. When Peter talks about slavery I think he is trying to say that Zan doesn’t have a say. For instance, in the past couple of readings, Zan is being strapped in a chair at a desk to learn sign language. Right now he doesn’t know how to sign really what he feels/wants. For sure Zan does not want to be in that chair or at the desk. In conclusion, as much as Zan is being loved, he should not be living the life-style of a human, he is a chimp and always will be. Do you think it is good for Zan (or other animals) to try living the lifestyle of a human? Why or Why not?

Half Brother Connection

In my grade ⅞ class we are reading a book called Half Brother, by Kenneth Oppel. We are reading it aloud via Skype with Mr. Fisher’s class from Snow Lake, Manitoba. Half Brother is about a young boy who got a Chimp for a birthday present. It was for his dad’s work so they thought it would be a cool present. Richard (the dad) is not taking good care of Zan (the chimp). Mrs. Durnin asked us to write a connection of a theme that has opened up in our last couple readings.

In the book, Half Brother, Richard isn’t being responsible for taking care of Zan. Zan is a project he was working on at work. He is leaving all of the work up to Sarah and Ben making Zan not like him. This reminds me of a movie I watched called Walk The Line. The protagonist (Johnny Cash) wasn’t being responsible with his career. John started taking drugs witch caused his career to fall through the cracks. John learned to stop being so childish and to be responsible to get his career back on track. I hope Richard learns to do the same!

cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo shared by Tambako the Jaguar

I Don’t Want to go to Florida!

It was Christmas Morning and my family was having a good time. Every year we always get a BIG family gift. It was the time of day to open that present. There was around 10 little toys inside 1 box and we have to figure out what those meant. There was a plane, Mickey Mouse, camera, Photo album, sunglasses, a picture of all the Disney characters, swimsuit, 5 Disney Tickets, a calender counting down the days and a piece of paper that says….DISNEY!! Shae and I were screaming with excitement. As we stopped and said “Are you serious?”, Spencer is sitting on the floor  screaming and crying “I don’t want to got to Disney, I want to stay home with Ruby”. Everyone was laughing thinking that he was not serious, but he was. He was scared of all the Disney characters in their costumes. He was also scared that the plane would crash. After my mom calmed him down and explained to him that that stuff wouldn’t happen he was a little bit excited to go to Florida.

The Snow has Finally Come!

It is into December and the snow is just starting to fall. I think last year in the middle of November we were Snowmobiling.

Winter is my favorite time of year,  and I was a little upset when the snow wasn’t coming.  Ever morning I would look out my window and hope that there was snow on the ground. This morning there was!  It was crazy! We had at least 10 cm, and it was still snowing like crazy.  My mom did not wake me up until 8:00am, so I had the crazy idea that the first snow fall would be a snow day!

Sadly It turned out not to be! I hope that we will beat our record of 18 snow days this year!

Happy Weekend! -Shelgree 🙂