College Applications at an All-Time High Despite COVID

By Lucas Walters

As college applications have come in over the past few months, seniors at Oak Hall are experiencing new challenges involving many aspects of the process. Despite this, Director of College Counseling at Oak Hall, Myronee Simpson says that universities both in state and out have seen record turn out when it comes to their applicant pools.

“The last couple weeks many colleges have been releasing decisions and usually they’ve been accompanying those releases with press releases about ‘here’s how many applicants we received’. Like just today, they haven’t released yet but Brown University sent an email I’m assuming to college counselors basically outlining kind of what their pool looked like this year. You know the fact that they had a record application pool this year, the largest in their history.”

In addition, Simpson says that many thought applicant pools would be smaller due to the lack of in-person learning across the country.

“You know you would have thought that there might be a decline in applicants because a lot of high school students have not been in traditional learning for over a year. You have some school districts around the country where students have not seen the inside of a high school classroom since March of last year. So, you might have thought for that reason that you might not have as many students applying to schools but in the case of a lot of these more selective schools, they actually grew their applicant pool.”

Simpson says that while applicant pools have increased, the amount of those applications that are submitted without standardized testing has also dramatically increased.

“In terms of testing, a lot of cancelations of standardized testing last spring, continuing this fall. So that prompted a lot of colleges to change their testing policies to test optional. So, you have a lot of students that have – In some cases close to half of a school’s applicant pool, the applicants did not submit testing.”

The in state versus out of state split also seems to be defying expectations, although a majority of Oak Hall seniors have not made their decision yet.

“Right now, in a class of let’s say 59 students only 14 of them have said, ‘Yes I am going to be attending here’. So that’s not a lot of – Out of the 59 that’s not a lot of people. Having said that, out of that 14, seven have said they’re attending out of state, seven have said they’re attending in state. So, it’s about a 50-50 split right now.”

(The interview with Ms. Simpson took place in March, prior to many seniors choosing which college they will attend.)

Simpson says that we may see geographic distance play more of a role as students begin to make their decisions.

“Maybe the thought process was to go a little bit further, but students might be thinking you know geographically, ‘I might decide I want to be closer to home versus then initially I thought.’ So that might be something that factors in.”

In addition, Simpson commented on the lack of availability of in-person tours and accepted student programming.

“Normally, pre-COVID time, April would be a very popular month for accepted students to go to one of these two things: either accepted student programs that were big open houses basically, at colleges for accepted students, or do individual tours and visits, again for accepted students. A lot of colleges aren’t offering that. If they’re doing accepted student programming it’s likely gonna be online.”

Simpson elaborates on this, saying that there is a mindset change between touring schools initially, and touring schools after being accepted.

“When you visit the first time a prospective student, you’re applying not knowing whether or not the school will be an option. When you visit after you’ve been accepted, at that point you know that the choice is yours to decide whether or not you want to go to this school. So the mindset when you visit a school that you plan to apply to versus a school that you visit when you’ve been admitted is very different.”

For the Talon, I’m Lucas Walters.

Documentary Review: Seaspiracy

By Mia Currie

Seaspiracy is a new Netflix documentary that sheds light on the issues contaminating oceans. Seaspiracy attempts to uncover what is really going on beneath the surface with regards to “dolphin-safe tuna”, “sustainable fishing”, and the “MSC” stamp. 

Overfishing has been an issue for many years, and the mass killings which are happening in the ocean are unparalleled to those on land. When fishing boats go out to catch fish, they additionally catch sharks, turtles, and even dolphins which end up being killed and discarded back into the ocean. This problem has caused the desolation of the shark population as well as the increased bribing of observers on fishing boats. These observers are hired to make sure that the “bycatch” isn’t killed and are rather put back into the ocean. But this does not usually happen. When people buy “dolphin-safe tuna” there is actually no guarantee the fish they bought is actually clean. One of the biggest appeals to eating fish is the omega-3 fatty acids which are extremely good for our health. In reality, these nutrients come from the algae which fish eat and are absorbed into their muscles. Therefore, there is no need to actually eat fish. In addition, fish are full of toxins such as mercury, PCBs, PBDEs, dioxins, and pesticides. According to research, there is no such thing as “clean fish” anymore because of how dirty our oceans are. Fish are not only filled with toxins but also with micro-plastics which are plastic particles that have been broken down by the sun and are consumed by fish.

The documentary also brings up the reality of “sustainable fishing,” which doesn’t actually exist. The main researcher in Seaspiracy went to various government officials as well as environmental protection organizations and asked them for their definition of “sustainable fishing” (which they were unable to provide). According to the documentary, the best thing you can do to save the oceans is stop eating what’s in it. There’s no such thing as “sustainable fishing” because the lack of regulations and enforcement make it so it cannot exist.  

This documentary was really eye-opening as it also touched upon the issue of forced labor and the inaccuracy of what we’ve been told we need to do to save the environment. For example, plastic straws only make up 0.03 percent of plastic in the ocean, while fishing gear makes up for over 46 percent for plastic in trash island.

OHS Summer Camp Gets “Back to Fun”

By Jenna Poppell

Last summer, Oak Hall’s summer camp program opened in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only did the campers and staff follow strict guidelines to stay safe, but certain aspects of the yearly camp were not included like field trips and overnight trips. As the end of this school year approaches, the Oak Hall summer camp program is ready to bring back the fun! The program is open to the Gainesville community since attendance at Oak Hall School is not necessary for participation at summer camp. Registration is open throughout the summer, but early registration is recommended to ensure that there is space, as camps are filling quickly. Registration can be found at: Oak Hall School Summer Program

While certain pandemic precautions will be in place, the limitations as to what the campers can do this summer has decreased. “We were so encouraged during the summer of 2020 that we could successfully operate and fun and safe camp environment for our families while navigating the concerns associated with COVID-19,” said Jeff Malloy, Oak Hall’s Director of Operations and Auxiliary Programs. “For summer 2021, we look forward to getting ‘Back to Fun’ and we are planning for a full summer of programming complete with trips, overnight events, and relaxed COVID restrictions which will be determined through an ongoing evaluation of community behavior and positivity rates,” he continued.

Camps begin June 1 and run through July 30. This summer, a variety of new specialty clubs join the program:

Jedi Academy
This exciting new camp is perfect for the Star Wars enthusiast!  We will explore all things Star Wars any by the end of the camp you will be a Master of the Force complete with your own lightsaber.

Animal Adventures
In this new camp, campers will dive into all things ANIMALS!  From special art projects, to animal games, contests, and activities, to a few visits from our friends in the animal world.  If you love animals, this camp is for you. 

Ninja Warrior Junior
Unleash your inner ninja warrior! In this camp you will be put to the test in obstacle courses, spy training, and puzzles. This camp will exercise your physical and mental ability. The week will culminate in a nerf battle so campers can put their new skills to the test!

Cooking Around the World
This cooking camp will dive into dishes from all over the world! Chefs will learn the art of cooking food from various cultures across the globe. From sushi to pizza, campers will explore the unique aspects of diverse cuisines. The week will culminate with a cooking competition that will put their skills to the test! 

Pottery Wheel and Clay Week I
Students will create a variety of functional and decorative cups and bowls with some hand building as well. Paint and colorful glazes will bring beautiful finishing touches. Beginning and experienced students are welcome. 

Gaming Camp I
In this camp students will have the opportunity to engage in multiplayer online gaming across the more popular platforms of 2021 including Minecraft, Roblox, Among Us, and others. For those interested, we will go over strategies to excel and improve in each game, how to run a server, and the underlying mechanics that make each game what it is. 

Flutter Me Shutters Week I
Week I of the program would FOCUS on using a camera with numerous lenses and taking pictures using the different settings.  We will visit the Butterfly Museum and the Santa Fe Zoo during the week to capture some of our photos.

Flutter Me Shutters Week II
Week II of the program would FOCUS on editing your pictures and creating a photo book with the help of Photoshop and InDesign (based on camper ability).   

Wood Projects I
The skills learned here will last a lifetime. This class is open to both girls and boys. No knowledge is required. We will have fun using various tools and making functional and decorative items like a cutting board, skateboard, carvings, wall decor and more. Give your campers the life-long skill of woodworking! 

Battle of the Bakers: Cupcake Edition
This camp is taking place of Cupcake Wars with added challenge! During this week, campers will learn the basics of baking, decorating and presenting their edible creations. At the end of the week, they will be able to put their new skills to the test by brainstorming their own creations to present to a panel of experts who will judge on taste and presentation and choose the challenge winner. Let the bake off begin!  Don’t miss out!  

Homegoods 101
If you love DIY projects and creating something new, this camp is just for you! This week, campers will be working with a variety of materials to create beautiful pieces of art for their home! This week will dive into various Tik Tok DIY trends for campers to channel their inner Chip and Joanna Gaines!

Gaming Camp II
In this camp students will have the opportunity to engage in multiplayer online gaming across the more popular platforms of 2021 including Minecraft, Roblox, Among Us, and others. For those interested, we will go over strategies to excel and improve in each game, how to run a server, and the underlying mechanics that make each game what it is. 

Computer Construction and Deconstruction
In this camp students will have the opportunity to disassemble several electronic devices including laptops, PCs, monitors, mice, keyboards, speakers, and others to understand how things work. Towards the end of camp, we will build a working machine from scratch and guide interested students on how to start DIY projects of their own in the future.  

eSports Fortnite
In this eSports program, competitors will practice strategies that will prepare them to compete against other gamers in Fortnite. The main goal of the Fortnite eSports competition is to stay active and make it to the endgame and be the last team standing. Competitors will work together as a team to learn cooperative strategies, effective communication, prime routes on the map, and how to keep your cool. 

Battle of the Bakers: Dessert Edition
This camp takes the place of Dessert Wars with similar baking challenges and competitions. During the beginning of the week, bakers will learn the basics of various desserts to create a baseline for the competition on Friday. Towards the end of the week, bakers will team up and plan their sweet dish, and will take a field trip to Publix to acquire the supplies needed. The challenge on Friday will put their creations to the test in front of a panel of expert judges on their sweet creations, teamwork, and presentation.

Kids on Wheels Bike Riding Camp
This camp provides a hands-on, educational way for children to master the art of bicycle riding, even beginners. Increase your skills and confidence by improving steering, braking and stopping. Learn about gears, shifting, pedal cadence, rules of the road and how to stay safe when riding. Daily activities include group and private instruction, riding safety courses, confidence course and a mini tour of the Hawthorne Trail on the closing Friday for campers who are ready.  Required equipment includes a bike without training wheels, a helmet, and bike gloves

Pottery Wheel & Clay Week II
Students will create a variety of functional and decorative cups and bowls with some hand building as well. Paint and colorful glazes will bring beautiful finishing touches. Beginning and experienced students are welcome. 

Ready Set Yoga!
This camp will help campers discover new ways of self-care and bringing the outside in with making our own zen gardens, mala beads for meditation, and decorating our own yoga mats. Campers will do yoga each day and then learn ways to use teamwork and collaborations with some fun activities.

This camp dives into nature and the learning all about animals. During this week, students will be able to build a butterfly habitat, learn about endangered animals, and also take a trip to the Santa Fe Zoo where they will get to be up close and personal with some zoo animals!

In this camp, students will work with both VEX and Tetrix Robotics technology to build and control their own robots. We will go over how to assemble a basic four-wheeled robot, how different sensors and actuators work, how to program and control robots, and then compete in a series of challenges that will allow for students to modify their robots to perform specific tasks.

Break into Business Entrepreneurship Camp
With your fellow campers the week will be spent developing a business plan for your wildest and best ideas. Come up with a dynamic marketing plan, production and distribution plan, and a financial plan to make your dream a reality.  You’ll end your week proposing your presentations to our expert panel!

3D Creations
We’ve got ideas ready with everything from painting shoes, cement projects, outdoor art projects, kinetic sculptures to other STEAM focused projects.

Battle of the Board Games
Throughout the week, campers’ skills will be put to the test through various popular board games with a twist… Campers will participate in life-size chutes and ladders, hungry, hungry hippos, a nerf battle, and finishing the week with a game of deal or no deal. Are you up for the challenge?

All Things Color
Hydro dipping, pendulum paintings, mosaic projects, splatter paint, fabric dyes, acrylic pour painting… and, of course, with some fun camp competition too. We will even dabble in interior design! 

Tailgate Fever
Campers will be in tournament style play all week playing badminton, corn hole, giant jenga, lawn bowling and more!  Various competitions will be incorporated throughout the week to put your skills to the test! The week will culminate with their own “tailgate fever” that will be planned throughout the week, where campers can enjoy a tailgate meal after their flag football game.

Arcade Stick Building and Customization
In this camp, students will construct a fully functioning arcade controller to work with either PC or Nintendo Switch (additional cost required for PCB). Students will be walked through the electrical components of the printed circuit board, wiring, and the input levers and buttons. 

Wood Projects II
The skills learned here will last a lifetime. This class is open to both girls and boys. No knowledge is required. We will have fun using various tools and making functional and decorative items like a cutting board, skateboard, carvings, wall decor and more. Give your campers the life-long skill of woodworking!

Emulation Station
Build an emulation station video game setup using a RetroPi build. Learn about the history of video games from Atari 2600 through modern gaming. In this camp students will work with a Raspberry Pi 4 board and learn about electronics, configuring controllers, and the art of recreating hardware through a software implementation. 

Brain Games
This week will make you think hard to solve puzzles, be a detective, and think outside of the box! Various brain game challenges will culminate throughout the week including Unlock! Games, mind challenges, and more. Campers will be able to take a trip to complete an Escape Room Challenge in Gainesville to prepare them to split into teams to make their own Escape Room here on campus. 

8/9 Transition Camp: Learning Strategies for 9th Grade
Open to all rising 9th grade Oak Hall students and all rising 9th grade students who are new to Oak Hall, this one-week mini-course is designed to prepare students to successfully begin upper school.  The time will be structured around informational sessions, discussions, activities, and exploration of upper school spaces.  Topics include study skills, methods for getting organized, test-taking strategies, understanding time management, dress code and other rules and procedures, upper school resources (i.e. college counseling, school counseling, Media Center, learning support, clubs and organizations, etc.), daily schedule, course schedule, use of technology, and more. 

Oak Hall’s summer camp program follows certain COVID-19 safety guidelines to ensure the safety of all the children:

  • All registered families will be asked to sign an additional Release of Liability form related to COVID-19
  • Face Coverings in accordance with Alachua County Emergency order 2020-21 will be worn by staff and campers when social distancing cannot be guaranteed.  Should the Emergency order be lifted, our policy on face coverings will be reviewed by our medical adviser with decisions made on local conditions.
  • Staff will be subject to daily self wellness screening prior to coming to campus each day
  • Camper self/parent health screening will be required daily prior to coming to campus
  • Parents and visitors will not be permitted inside camp/school buildings (subject to change based on local conditions).  All check-in and check-out procedures will take place outdoors.
  • Campers will be in groups of no more than 10 per CDC guidance.  Camp groups may stay together throughout the day/week/session dependent on local conditions
  • No large group gathering of more than 50 campers at any one time will occur while properly social distanced per CDC guidelines.
  • Campers may go through a day of programming together with their assigned group with only counselors and activity sites rotating as necessary.  This will be evaluated based on local conditions.
  • Activity sites and activity programming will be sanitized per CDC guidelines and when possible, dedicated common supplies will be provided to individual campers (markers, crayons, pencils, scissors, etc.).  Programming itself will be modified accordingly (for example, kickballs will be sanitized and rotated at each dead ball)
  • The playground will be sanitized per CDC guidelines between uses; provide social distancing through queue lines, capacities on equipment, or assigning groups/individuals to specific equipment or zones
  • Campers may provide their own lunch or purchase lunch from one of the catered options.   We will require no sharing of food between campers.   Designated or disposable utensils and drinking cups will be provided.  Any snacks provided will be prepackaged or served to campers.
  • Oak Hall does not provide bus transportation to bring campers to campus.  Field Trips which require school bus transportation will do so in a well ventilated bus with face coverings worn, and physical distancing provided.  This is subject to change based on local conditions.
  • Overnight activities or trips are being planned but will be evaluated based on local conditions prior to their scheduled time.
  • Campers and staff not passing daily health and wellness check will be required to not come to campus and stay away for 72 hours following symptom resolution or 24 hours with a physician note.  If a staff or camper develops a symptom while at camp they will immediately be quarantined and sent home.  The quarantine area will then be sanitized before future use.  
  • In the event of a confirmed COVID-19 case, families will be notified, and subsequent precautionary quarantines resulting from contact tracing in accordance with CDC and local guidance.

Varsity Baseball Team Benefits From Younger Players

By Shailey Klein

Two months ago, the Oak Hall baseball program didn’t know if there would be enough players to field a varsity team. Now with one week left in the regular season, the baseball team holds a 9-4 record with losses only to P.K. Yonge and St. Francis Catholic.

The Eagles are led by seniors Andrew Pickens, Matthew Leber, and Levent Eldem. The trio was celebrated for senior night on April 7 before facing the Hawthorne Hornets at Roger Maris Field. Reaching the run rule in the fifth inning, the Eagles dominated the Hornets 10-0 after opening up the game with six runs in the third inning, sending the seniors out with a memorable victory. 

The underclassmen on the baseball team have benefited from the leadership of the seniors this season. Freshman Harrison Beach especially appreciates how the seniors have mentored the younger players throughout the season. 

Despite the departure of these three key players, the future is very bright for Oak Hall baseball. Under the guidance of Head Coach Kevin Maris, the team has a plethora of young talent with plenty of time to develop over the next few years. “I believe that the young core of our team is in good hands with Coach Maris and Coach Hill, and they will do really well over the next few years,” Leber commented. “Our team is mostly freshmen, so they have definitely contributed to our success this season,” he added. 

The Oak Hall baseball program has the additional benefit of fielding a middle school baseball team to introduce young athletes to the sport and give them game experience before reaching the varsity level. 

The Eagles’ district consists of St. Francis, Aucilla Christian, Redeemer Christian, and St. John Lutheran. The last meeting between St. Francis and Oak Hall went down to the wire and resulted in extra innings. Unfortunately, the Eagles fell short after the Wolves sealed the game with three runs in the ninth inning. The Eagles are prepared to potentially take on the cross-town rivals again in the district tournament after the heartbreaking loss earlier this season. “I’ve loved competing with the guys and I’m really excited about what we can do in the postseason,” Pickens stated. “I really think we’re going to turn some heads,” he added. 

The Eagles play its last home game on Thursday, April 22 at 4:15 p.m.