The Owl Hour

Flu Outbreak Threatens International Week

By: Joaquin Forero

If a horrible outbreak of flu hit your school, what would you do? On the week before Thanksgiving break, a terrible sickness was spread throughout Austin International School. Teachers and students were hard at work to to prepare for the annual International Week. During this week each class showcases information that they learned about a specific country in the world. Students study the country's culture, language, government, educational and financial systems, and more. Unfortunately, as the Thanksgiving break approached, we learned that a third of the school was sick. Our principals and head of school, Ms. Emily, Mrs. Audrey, and Mr. Jacques decided to shut down the school. On the 14-15 of November, AIS was closed due to an overwhelming number of students and teachers being sick. Before this drastic decision took place, Mr. Jacques sent out an email warning people about sending their kids to school while sick. Even with all of these efforts to keep the sickness outside of our community, the school had to be closed and cleaned. Mr. Jacques, the Head of School, and Mrs. Esther, the Director of Facilities, had to call the cleaning company and go through the whole process of making sure the school was completely sanitized. They had to put up constant reminders to wash your hands with soap and water, cough I your shoulder, and most importantly to NOT BRING YOUR KIDS TO SCHOOL SICK. The official rule is that you are not allowed to take your kid to school if he/she has a fever within 24 hrs without taking medication. On Friday the school reopened. Everyone was just waiting for the holidays, so the teachers decided to organize a day packed full of International Week fun.

Sources: grade students; Declan Connor, Andrew Yahin, and Rafa AlmazanMrs. Ester, the director of facilities

The teachers were able to find a way to make sure every class visited two different classes and hosted two classes to learn and share about countries around the world. One of the 7th graders noted that the Italian bread was exquisite.

We were not the only people being affected by this weird sickness. Figures from Austin Regional Clinic show the health care provider network administered more than 4,500 flu tests and other school districts such as AISD. Schools all around Austin were closing because of this persistent flu. An article on WebMD has this quote which shows how far the flu really is:” It's widespread in 23 states, including parts of the South, West, and Northeast. The agency estimates there have been at least 2.6 million flu illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations and 1,300 deaths from flu so far this season.”

In conclusion, a terrible sickness that affected everyone in 23 different states tried to prevent our International Week events. This led to our school closing, but by adapting the schedule we were still able to enjoy AIS's International Week.

"Unicorn" Scooters Don't Really Exist...

By: Simon Forero

Recently, an E-scooter startup company based in Austin went bankrupt and left hundreds feeling devastated.

Unicorn was supposed to be “the electric scooter you’ve been waiting for”. They claimed that it would save you time and money. They also promised it would be five times faster than walking and a fraction of the cost of a ride-share service. They claimed that Unicorn scooters were better than any rental scooters, such as Bird, a billion-dollar E-scooter business because they were yours. One of its unique selling features was that these-scooters had a “tile” built into them. This “tile” would unlock your scooter if you were near it, and lock if you weren’t. Unicorn is also shareable so you can make it unlock around your friends’ phones if you configure it on the app.

To many people, the Unicorn E-scooter seemed like a perfect Christmas gift. According to KVUE, they sold a whopping 350 scooters each costing exactly $699.99. This means that they made $2, 449, 96O in pre-orders alone. Thanks to their advertisement campaign on Facebook and Instagram, there was a lot of good publicity building up around Unicorn and tons of people were getting excited. Unfortunately, if you were expecting a high-tech E-scooter this Christmas, your out of luck.

They had to inform all of their excited and impatient customers that they would not be getting the scooters they pre-ordered… and they wouldn't get their money back either. Nick Evans, the founder of Unicorn Rides, told NBC in a phone interview the company failed because of unexpected costs and issues related to marketing (with their Facebook advertisements) and manufacturing.

"The advertising cost too much to get someone to our site," "Costs were going up and up."

So by the time they gained a substantial fan base, they went bankrupt.

The community responded to this by posting angry Facebook comments such as:

"This is infuriating and I am not happy with this company," customer Juliette Lopez wrote on Facebook.

And Rebecca Buchholtz wrote that she was "heartbroken" after receiving the email as she had ordered her daughter a scooter for Christmas.

Now this company’s bad reputation got their video to have a 19 / 3 dislike to like ratio. Currently, the company has removed all their advertisements, disabled comments on their videos (to avoid negative publicity), and deleted all of their social media accounts, including their website


Why Children Should Learn a Foreign Language

by: Alexandra Jiampietro

Lately, the number of kids learning a foreign language in school has declined in America. Kat Devlin, a research associate at the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project says, “Learning a foreign language is a nearly ubiquitous experience for students throughout Europe, driven in part by the fact that most European countries have national-level mandates for formally studying languages in school.” It is scientifically proven that during exams, students that learn a foreign language have better memory, problem-solving skills, and they have more gray matter in their brain which is the area responsible for executive control. Therefore, many experts ay that middle school students should learn a foreign language. Also, it can delay or even prevent Dementia and Alzheimer's by 4.5 years. Furthermore, it allows students to travel to different places and speak the same language as everyone else for work; or for fun to explore and discover new cultures.

There are many benefits to learning a foreign language. Such as having better memory and problem solving skills. These two things are really important because they can help you get better scores on standardized tests. How? You are probably thinking. Well, when you learn a new language, it builds up more gray matter in your brain which is the area that makes executive control possible. The more gray matter you have, the better you are at muscle control, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control.

Click on the image to listen to Kate Devlin's TED Talk.

Lera Boroditsky, a professor in the fields of language and cognition said “Language is a uniquely human gift, central to our experience of being human.” If you are bilingual or multilingual, you can communicate with people more effectively. For example, if you know Spanish and you travel to Spain or any other Spanish speaking country, you can communicate with those that speak the language. Also, you can make cross-cultural friendships. Therefore, if you have the chance to explore new cultures and to communicate with people all around the world, you can choose to do so with more confidence than a person that does not speak the language of the country that you are visiting.

In conclusion, Benny Lewis (fluent in ten languages) said “But if there’s even one culture that you’d like to understand better, or even one person in your life you’d like to know better, then one of the best ways you can start is by learning to speak their language.” Finally, there are many benefits to learning a foreign language, specifically for why middle schoolers.