This year, our class collaboratively read a book, Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel with a class in Manitoba via Skype, similar to our previous project last year with The Book Thief.  The book is about two scientists and their son who buy a chimp for a sign-language project. The book is fiction, but based on a real-life project. After finishing, we then watched a documentary called Project Nim, which explores the true story of Nim Chimpsky, and human-raised chimp. These are some observations made during viewing.

Lukas Vermeer
There were many, many similarities between the documentary and the book. In both cases, the chimpanzee was taken into the home and raised without much conference about was going to happen next. Both stories took place in the 70’s (think retro!), and both chimps liked holding kitties (aww!). Both chimps (named Nim and Zan, respectively), were taught similar words (tickle, drink, hug), but it was revealed that they weren’t making speech. They ended up being sold to a medical lab. The projects started out good, but ended up shutting down due to financial problems. The chimp in each story was moved to a ranch, and subsequently made one friend each, both female.

There were also many differences, but not as many as there were similarities. The setting takes place in NYC in the documentary, but British Columbia in the book. Also, while teaching and disciplining Zan (chimp from book) were very well-handled, Nim (from documentary) wasn’t disciplined or had a maintained schedule at first. In the documentary, Zan was taken by a young student and her family, opposed to two scientists in the book. Zan was actually never tested on, and in the end he was given to a sanctuary while Nim lived out his life at the ranch. Nim lived in solitary more than Zan, and was quite a bit more violent.

While chimps seem to be very cute and cuddly, they can also be very wild and vicious. Nim would bite and attack caretakers if they moved very suddenly, or if they had food and wouldn’t or forgot to share some with him. Also, when Nim attacked, he would always draw blood and wouldn’t stop until he did so. There are also very disturbing scenes in which Nim is drugged and put onto a metal table, where he is given needles and IVs to test diseases and drugs.

Even though there were many disturbing images and behaviours in the documentary, there were also very many things to make you happy. It was just very exciting and truly rewarding to see Nim signing and making communication with his caretakers. When Herb (the scientist who started the project) reunited with Nim, Nim went crazy happy to see an old friend. When a lawyer went to fight for Nim in court, you couldn’t help but smile for some of the people’s determination to give Nim a helping hand. Seeing Nim having fun with other chimps at the ranch at the end after so many struggles was awesome; he was safe. And my favourite part was when Nim gets to hold and hug the chimp and spend time with him! 🙂

At the end of all this, there was lots of new information to be learned. A big one was that the book and the documentary were so very similar. They had both the basic storyline, similar characters (human and chimp), behaviours, and heartbreaks. The chimps also acted way more violent than I ever imagined; I didn’t know they could get that bad. I also was surprised (and disgusted) by how the chimps were really treated at the biomedical lab. The scientists would wait until the chimps got close to the bars, then jabbed them with the needles containing diseases and cures. Nim’s life was also very difficult; he went from place to place, and caretaker to caretaker. The most important one for me was that in the beginning of the project, no scientific procedures were used to raise him, and he wasn’t disciplined. Would Nim have acted better if discipline was established early on? Would that have changed where Nim was sent, or how he was treated? Both the documentary and the book are amazing, I would advise you to read them!


The monstrous Sea of Red, fans cheering wildly, the announcer bellowing out the starting line-up. The players burst out on the ice, and the energy crackles in response, flowing through the air. Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, Holtby, who can stand up to them? This is the Verizon Center, home of the Washington Capitals! Awesome!


Brother Fought Brother

Posted: April 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

The proud, red-clad uniforms of the Royal British army are brightly visible as they stand shoulder-to-shoulder, ready to protect Upper Canada from invading Americans. Yes, this is  a scene directly from the War of 1812, where British-Canadians faced off against their brothers Americans, and we (Turnberry Public school from Wingham, On) got to re-enact it for our year-end trip! We headed down to Tillsonburg to the Barker-James farm. Here, trenches and forts are replicated from the War of 1812 and the two World Wars, and tons of authentic weapons, artillery, uniforms and collectibles are on display. We arrived and trained (just like they would’ve in the War!), fought, presented and debated with American counterparts, who arrived from Michigan.

My two best moments of my day in Tillsonburg were re-enacting the Battle of Lundy’s Lane, and debating with the American students. For the Battle of Lundy’s Lane, we first trained with (fake) Brown Besses, or more commonly known as the musket. It takes a long time to reload one of those! Since this was a school trip, we used dog kibble to fling out of our barrels, opposed to shooting. Then we trained with the artillery. To reload, one person had to scrub inside the barrel with a cork-screw, then someone sponged it out, and finally the third person rammed the cannon in. We pretended to do this, then a fourth person would chuck a tennis ball for the shot. We also practised bayonet fighting and marching in a line, and we were set to take these Americans on! We battled it out on one of the fields, and I’m proud to say that the Canadians won!

The other favourite moment was debating with the American students. We got to see different perspective on the war, and their reasoning behind it. There were whole new ideas and reasons that I hadn’t even heard of before!I also found it interesting that, while we see us as having won the war, they also thought they won! But, it was very cool to hear new sides that you wouldn’t regularly hear.

As stated before, we learned a lot of how ways worked on the war, such as reloading a musket, arming a cannon, common bayonet moves and how to march like British regulars. Musket reloading was very intriguing for me. First, you take out a cartridge which has some gunpowder and the ball. You pour a little bit of powder into the pan, and the rest, along with the ball and paper, into the barrel. Then, you would jam down to the bottom with the ramrod, and then cock it back and FIRE! We also used a strategy taken from the war itself. On the siege of Fort Niagara, we used a tribe of Natives to surprise and scare the Americans, drawing their attention away from the west entrance, where we slipped in and bayoneted the Americans until the General surrendered.

I think that there was overall a big idea that came out of our day yesterday. It was that the War of 1812 was a family war, relatives fighting against each other. A lot of Upper Canada was populated with American Loyalists that settled after the American Revolution, and some Canadians were also living in America. So it turns out that brother fought brother, and it was grim. We had a lot in common, and were pretty much the same other than different countries and uniforms. War is never a good thing, especially when the opposing enemies are friends and relatives.

In class, we have been reading a book, named Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel, with another class via Skype in Snow Lake, Manitoba. In case you didn’t know, our class is in Wingham, Ontario, so that’s a pretty big distance! The book is about a boy named Ben whose scientist father has “adopted” a chimp for a research project. Ben and “Zan”, the chimp, become good friends, but as the story progresses, Ben starts to get confused about the horrors of animal testing. He wonders if what they are doing is the right thing. About half way through the book, we were given a choice of questions to answer based on what we believe, and this is the one I chose:

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.


Here is my answer.

Peter says that Zan’s being brought up as a human is a “kind of slavery”. I agree with his quote. Zan is forced to be strapped into a chair and to be taught sign language against his will. For example, this is slavery and holding him back because if they left him in the wild, he would roam around with his chimp family and friends. He would have nothing to hold him back or strap him down. Zan is made to follow instructions, and has privileges taken away if he doesn’t do what he’s asked or if he throws objects or has tantrums. Zan is a chimp, and he doesn’t have the same wiring as humans. He was never meant to be taken out of his natural habitat and forced into an foreign world. Punishing him for acting the way he was meant to is not right. Zan is a chimp, not a human. (Meant to do chimp things, not human things). Peter totally nailed this one, this is slavery! I think that people need to realize that chimps were never meant to be able to communicate like humans, and trying to teach them will only lead to disaster. Do you think that being taken out of your natural habitat and being forced to learn foreign signals is fair, to human or animal?



Do you agree or disagree with this test also? Does your opinion change just because they are not being injected or hurt?

Half Brother Connection

Posted: February 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

In class, we have been reading a book together with another Gr. 7/8 class in Snow Lake, Manitoba via Skype. The book we have been reading is called Half Brother, by Kenneth Oppel. It is about a family that adopts a chimp as part of a science project for the father. Recently, we have been asked to write a connection relating to one of the many themes of the book, and this is mine.

In the book, Half Brother, Ben finds it a little difficult to change lifestyles, because of Zan, and it’s hard for him. But he still perseveres and keeps on going without complaining. This reminds me of when I had to write my speech. It was hard to get everything done, but I persevered and went through. The message is to never give up through a difficult period of time.

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by ucumari

A kitten Christmas

Posted: December 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

Well, Christmas is almost upon us, and I’m really starting to feel the spirit everywhere. And in class, we are starting to play around with cool sites that we can use for projects. The latest one is Animoto, and we were supposed to make a Christmas-themed one. So of course, what better thing to make it on than kittens?

It’s Not Christmas, Is It?

Posted: December 20, 2011 in Uncategorized
Christmas is always a fun time, spreading cheer and joy. Except of course, when you’re sick! So it was inevitable that one Christmas, at least one, that I would be sick. So a couple years back, I had the flu on Christmas day. We got up and did the usual stuff, like reading the Christmas story and getting out the video camera. We opened presents, and then I felt sick. I ran to the bathroom, and, well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty! So in the afternoon, I went to lay down and I ended up sleeping to 8:00am on Boxing Day. Or so I thought. Turns out, it was 8:00pm on Christmas! And my brothers and parents had a heck of a time trying to tell me otherwise. So, the moral of the story is to buy clocks with the date and am/pm on it!
                                                                                                                   Douglas Heriot