Empty Bowls Club Help Combat Hunger in Alachua County

By Elizabeth Birkner

Oak Hall School offers many clubs for students to join when they reach the Middle and Upper School. Many of the clubs are formed to help the less fortunate and do good deeds for our community. One such club is the Empty Bowls Ceramics Club. This club’s purpose is to help the hungry by making ceramic bowls which are then sold by the Bread of the Mighty Food Bank. The money raised by the selling of the bowls goes back into stocking the pantries at the food bank. While the club is geared toward students with ceramic skills but welcome any student to join and help.

Last year, the club flourished after not being a program at Oak Hall for some time. Club president Benjamin Leber was thrilled and ready to begin the program again with art teacher Becky Lancer. “Last year was the first year our club resumed meeting post-pandemic due to the constraints of the pandemic. Our club made and contributed [more than] 150 bowls last year that were donated to the Bread of the Mighty Food Bank,” the junior said. “The Empty Bowls program is a community-driven effort aimed at raising awareness about and combating hunger and food insecurity in our local area and beyond,” he continued.

Art teacher Becky Lancer and junior Benjamin Leber attend the Bread of the Mighty Food Bank’s fundraising event in September

In September, Leber and Lancer attended a fundraiser hosted by the food bank, where around 130 bowls made by Oak Hall students were donated, exceeding the club goal of 75 bowls. According to the Bread of the Mighty Food Bank’s website, “The bowl is a stark reminder that many in our community face an empty bowl on a daily basis.”

“The Empty Bowls Program is a meaningful way for individuals to get involved, make a tangible contribution to our community, and raise awareness about a pressing social issue hunger. It is heartwarming to see the artistic talent at Oak Hall School come together to tackle a problem that affects so many,” Leber said. Students can get involved is by attending the club’s meetings and bowl creating after school on Tuesdays and during SOAR on Wednesdays.

Some goals of the club this year is to get other Oak Hall clubs involved in their mission, run a summer camp to create bowls, and to volunteer at the food bank when possible.

Bowls created by Oak Hall, Gainesville High School, and Buchholz High School are on full display at the Empty Bowls fundraising event in September

Just Because: Veterans Day

By Ryan McKinney

On Nov. 11, we honor the extremely brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces. Veterans Day recognizes any member of the armed forces who served to protect our country and fight for those in need. This includes anyone who served in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, National Guard, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

This federal holiday started when President Woodrow Wilson established it as Armistice Day. This was because the date of November 11, 1918, marked the one-year anniversary of armistice between the Allied Nations and Germany, which ultimately led to the end of the World War I. Armistice Day was then changed to Veterans Day in 1954 to honor those who served in any war, not just WWI.

Veterans Day continued to be celebrated annually on Nov. 11 until Congress passed the 1968 Uniform Holiday Bill. This law was brought forth to ensure that certain federal holidays would always fall on a Monday, thus giving Americans a three-day weekend. Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and George Washington’s birthday were all part of the bill. Later, on September 20, 1975, President Gerald Ford changed name the date back to Nov. 11.

Senior Marcello El-Semarani’s stepfather Albert served in the Army for 19 years, enlisting in February 2000. Albert broke his news of enlisting on his 21st birthday to his family, leaving them in shock. “It did NOT go over as planned,” he said. His favorite experience while serving was when he was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and had the opportunity to learn about different cultures throughout the different areas of the world. Adapting to the military life was something that he eventually got used too as well. The main thing he remembers about adapting to military life was dealing with “schedules and knowing that I don’t need a lot of sleep to function” he said.

While Veterans Day is the official holiday to thank our veterans, those that served should be thanked throughout the year, for sacrificing their life to protect ours.

A New Chapter in the NBA

By Ryan McKinney

On Nov. 3, the National Basketball Association (NBA) introduced a new era of excitement with a highly anticipated in-season tournament, offering a fresh twist to the traditional basketball calendar. This groundbreaking addition aims to enhance fan engagement, bring new dynamics to the regular season, and add a unique sense to the sport that has captured the hearts of millions.

Tournament Format

The NBA in-season tournament will feature all 30 teams competing for glory in an exciting “World Cup” style format. All 67 games of the “In-Season Tournament” (yes, that’s its actual name) will count toward the regular-season standings except the tournament championship. The tournament will take place between the beginning of November and the middle of December, providing a mid-season spectacle for fans to savor. All teams have been randomly drawn into groups of five within their conference based on won-loss records from the 2022-23 regular season. Games taking place from Nov. 3 continuing until Tuesday, Nov. 28 will be listed as “Group Play” games on specific tournament nights. Eight teams will advance to the “Knockout Rounds”, meaning the team with the best record in group play games in each of the six groups with an addition of two “wild cards”. The knockout rounds will be single-elimination games in the quarterfinals, semifinals, and championship taking place in early December. The qualifying teams will compete for a prize pool and the new In-Season Tournament trophy, the NBA Cup.


For the 2023-24 season, the new tournament brings a prize pool that is allocated to the players and teams that participate in the knockout rounds and accolade for those that make a potential deep run. At the conclusion, the NBA will name the most valuable player of the competition and the All-Tournament Team. Selection will be based on the players’ performance in both group play and the knockout rounds.

The introduction of the in-season tournament promises to inject an extra layer of competition into the regular season. Teams will not only compete for the usual division and conference standings but also for the glory and rewards associated with the tournament. This added incentive will lead to intense competition and memorable moments throughout the season, making every game count. Along with the tournament the league is also designing new courts for all teams correlating to its yearly city-edition jerseys.

Playoff Predictions

As the regular season progresses and the tournament’s structure takes shape, experts and fans are making their predictions for the upcoming playoffs. Here’s a glimpse of my early forecasts for the NBA playoff top seeding:

Eastern Conference

  1. Boston Celtics: The Boston Celtics is my favorite to win the east due to their dual threat in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Their scoring ability always gives them a chance to take them far.
  2. Milwaukee Bucks: The Milwaukee Bucks are expected to continue their strong performances into this upcoming season. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s unmatched skills, along with the new addition of Damian Lillard, will keep them in the title contention for the next few years.
  3. Miami Heat: The Miami Heat have struggled early on this season, but always pick up momentum after the All- Star break. With Jimmy Butler leading the way, they are poised to have yet another playoff run and might just be the dark horse of the tournament like previous years.
  4. Atlanta Hawks: The Atlanta Hawks contain a lot of firepower behind a Top 3 backcourt in guards Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. Young’s playmaking abilities and the team’s young talent make them a potential contender for this year finals.  

Western Conference

  1. Los Angeles Lakers: The Los Angeles Lakers, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, are perennial contenders. They are predicted to secure the top seed in the Western Conference and will be a force to be reckoned with in the tournament and the playoffs.
  2. Denver Nuggets: The Denver Nuggets, led by the two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, can always be seen as a threat as they are the reigning champions. Their success does depend on Jokic’s brilliance and the support of their role players.
  3. Golden State Warriors: The Warriors, led by veteran Stephen Curry, are always seen as a force in the postseason due to their clutch attributes as a team. They have the potential to surprise everyone and make a deep playoff run.
  4. Los Angeles Clippers: The Los Angeles Clippers seek to have a successful season with the addition of guard James Harden. This forms a starting roster filled with pure talent including scorers like Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.

This sums up my predictions for the top playoff seeds in the East and West. With the inaugural NBA in-season tournament fans can’t wait to see how this new format adds excitement to an already thrilling sport.  

Just Because: Florida Gators Basketball Preview

By Jack Steen

On Nov. 6, the Florida Gators basketball season begins, after a rather disappointing season last year, going 16-17 and getting eliminated in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament (NIT), the Gators are poised for a big year. Todd Golden, as he enters his second year as the head coach of the Gators, has once again brought in a very impressive class of transfers which have garnered lots of attention from the media. Despite not cracking the top 25 in preseason polls, the Gators received enough votes to be placed in the top 50, and I would not be surprised to see them make the top 25 if they perform well in the first few weeks of the season.

In fact, the Gators have already picked up wins over Miami and Florida International University (FIU) in secret scrimmages. Miami is ranked #13 in the preseason AP Poll and went to the Final Four last year. So, the Gators defeating the Hurricanes 91-89 in a closed-door contest is very promising for Golden and the Gators. Their win over FIU may not be as impressive, as FIU is projected to finish only fifth in their conference. The game ended 102-60 and was led by returning junior guard Will Richard who had 29 points. While Richard may not even start for the Gators this year, he will certainly be a key contributor for the team.

My projected starting lineup for the Gators features four transfers, but the star of the team is a veteran from last season.

Sophomore wing Riley Kugel averaged 17 points per game with very efficient shooting percentages in the last 10 games of last season. Of course, the final 10 games last year, the Gators were without All-SEC center Collin Castleton who is now playing for the NBA Los Angeles Lakers. The absence of Castleton allowed Kugel to shine and give us a preview of how the team may look this year. Kugel has experience playing both point and shooting guard but will spend most of the year playing small forward.

The class of transfers Golden brought in ranks top 5 in the country and second in the SEC only behind the Missouri Tigers. The class is headlined by 4-star combo guard Walter Clayton Jr. Clayton averaged 17 games last season with Iona University and looks to be the starting shooting guard for the Gators this year. The starting center for the team, Micah Handlogten, a transfer from Marshall, is the other top transfer from the portal. Handlogten won’t be asked to score much at all for the team, but he will be asked to get down and dirty in the post. He averaged almost 10 rebounds and 3 blocks a game last year with Marshall University’s Thundering Herd. The projected point guard and power forward for the gators are Zyon Pullin, from UC Riverside, and Tyrese Samuel, from Seton Hall. Pullin averaged 18 points, four assists, and a steal a game and will be asked to be more of a distributor than scorer this year. Samuel will be asked to be a very physical power forward for the gators, a position which seemed to serve as another guard spot as last year it was filled by Alex Fudge and Will Richard, two players who are not ideal power forwards as neither have the size for the position. Samuel averaged 11 points and six rebounds for the Pirates, along with a steal and a block each per game.

As important as players are, in a sport like college basketball the schedule is of highest importance. If you schedule too easy of teams you will miss the NCAA tournament due to a weak strength of schedule. If you schedule too hard of teams you won’t win enough games to make the tournament. Finding a good balance of both is very important and seems to be a thing Coach Golden has a knack for. The Gators will face many good teams outside of conference play, matching up against the Virginia Cavaliers Nov. 10 at a neutral site; Baylor Nov. 24 at a neutral site; at Wake Forest on Nov. 29 in the SEC/ACC challenge; and Michigan on Dec. 19 at a neutral site in the Jumpman Invitational. If the Gators can win at least nine of 13 of their non-conference games, they will be in a good spot to make the tournament for the first time in Golden’s tenure, and the first time since 2021.

The Florida Gators are set to face the Loyola Maryland Greyhounds on November 6th at 8PM in Exactech Arena. While I doubt this game will tell us much about the Gators, it should be a good warm up for their game against Virginia which will be the first real test for Golden and his team.

Students and Artificial Intelligence: A New Frontier in Essay Writing

By Ryan McKinney

In the digital age, the educational landscape is continually evolving, with technology playing an increasingly significant role in the way students learn and teachers instruct. One notable development in this context is the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in essay writing by students, particularly children. This innovative approach has transformed the writing process, offering both advantages and challenges. In this essay, we will explore how kids use Al to write essays and examine the measures that teachers are taking to adapt to this new paradigm.

Al, in the form of natural language processing and generation algorithms, has become an invaluable tool for students of all ages. Kids are no exception. They have been quick to adopt Al-assisted tools that streamline the essay-writing process. Some of the ways Al is impacting essay writing for kids include:

– Generating Content Al can assist kids in generating ideas and content for their essays. Al-powered content generators, like ChatGPT, can provide inspiration and help structure the essay’s key points.
– Proofreading and Editing: Al-driven grammar and spell checkers can significantly improve the quality of kids’ essays. These tools help identify and correct errors, ensuring that the final product is polished and well-structured.
– Plagiarism Detection: Al tools are employed to detect plagiarism in students’ essays. This not only promotes originality but also encourages kids to develop their own critical thinking and research skill.
– Language Translation: Al-driven translation tools are instrumental in aiding non-native
English speakers, allowing them to write essays in their native languages and then translating them to English or other languages.
– Accessibility: Al-powered text-to-speech and speech-to-text tools have made essay writing accessible to kids with learning disabilities or those who struggle with traditional writing methods.

While the integration of Al in essay writing offers numerous advantages, it also raises some important challenges and ethical concerns. These include:

– Overreliance: There is a risk that students might become overly reliant on Al, potentially stunting their development of essential writing and critical thinking skills.
– Plagiarism: Some students may misuse Al to plagiarize content or take shortcuts in their essays, undermining academic integrity.
– Quality Control: Al-generated content is not always of high quality, which can lead to © Regenerate essays if not adequately reviewed and refined.   
– Data Privacy: Concerns over data privacy and security arise when students use online AI tools for essay writing. These tools may collect and store sensitive information.

In response to the growing use of Al in essay writing, teachers and educators have been taking proactive measures to ensure that students benefit from this technology while maintaining the integrity of the learning process. Some of the strategies employed by teachers include:

– Education and Awareness: Teachers are educating students about the responsible use of Al in essay writing. They emphasize that Al tools should be supplements, not replacements, for their writing skill.
– Assignments and Assessments: Teachers design assignments that are less prone to Al assistance. They focus on topics that require critical thinking, personal reflection, and creativity, making it challenging for students to rely solely on Al tools.
– Encouraging Ethical Use: Teachers emphasize the importance of ethical writing and proper citation to discourage plagiarism.
– Monitoring and Evaluation: Teachers utilize plagiarism detection tools to ensure that students are submitting original work and are not taking undue advantage of Al.
– Skill Development: While embracing Al, teachers continue to focus on developing essential writing, research, and critical thinking skills in students. They teach these skills alongside the use of Al tools.

The integration of Al in essay writing by kids is an exciting development that has the potential to enhance their writing and learning experience. However, it also poses challenges and ethical concerns that must be addressed. Teachers play a vital role in striking the right balance, ensuring that students use Al tools responsibly and continue to develop essential writing and critical thinking skills. The future of education will likely involve a harmonious coexistence between students and Al, where each complements the other to create a more enriching and effective learning environment. In fact, this whole story that you read was entirely written by AI.