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Sharp as an Arrow

Besides being a lot of fun, the TPWD archery program also improves students’ attitudes toward school.

By Steve Hall

At the Texas Archery in Schools Program Championship sponsored by the Texas Field Archery Association in Temple, 398 school children participated in a state shootout — the best of 30 arrows from 10 yards using a standardized compound bow with no sights. “Thhwwaaaapp!” was the sound heard throughout the day, but when the clatter stopped, a student from Wimberley’s St. Stephens Episcopal School took top honors with a 280 out of 300 — higher than the scores of middle and high school students in attendance.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department launched its new Archery in Schools program in February 2006. The department has since trained more than 300 teachers and youth group leaders; unfortunately, many do not have the equipment to implement the program. About 50 schools and 10 scout organizations are actively using the two-week curriculum within their physical education (PE) classes or in their after-school ventures. Beginning next fall, that number could double or even triple due to a recent surge in staffing, partnerships and support.

Hired as the department’s new statewide archery coordinator, Burnie Kessner wants to see the shooting sport regain its status as a popular activity in Texas schools. “With the support of the Texas Education Agency and Texas Cooperative Extension, and with the continued support of archery ranges, organizations and industry, this program shows great potential. It looks like my main duties will be to assist schools in getting equipment and to train more teachers.”

Begun officially as Introduction to Archery in Kentucky in 2002, the program will reach 3,000 schools and 667,000 students in 42 states this year and will be in all 50 states by 2009. Credit for such huge success goes to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and to Roy Grimes, the head of the National Archery in Schools Program. The resource agency initially felt that target archery would increase the number of future participants in the shooting and hunting sports. What they quickly found, though, is that the program doesn’t help only fish and wildlife agencies — there are numerous benefits to the students and to the schools themselves.

According to a 2004 survey conducted by Responsive Management, a Virginia-based research firm, the program not only gets kids excited about archery (92 percent), and interested in target archery (59 percent) and bowhunting (38 percent), it also improves their feeling about PE class (66 percent) and school in general (49 percent). It helps them feel better about themselves (53 percent) and improves their attendance (8 percent), especially on days that archery is taught.

Because of these findings, PE teachers and school administrators are taking notice and considering implementing the program in their districts. “It allows me to learn something new and gives me the chance to do archery and outdoor stuff,” says Jocelyn Hoover, a student at Lamar Middle School in Flower Mound. Her teacher, Ferris Bavousett, initiator of a popular outdoor education curriculum in 22 North Texas schools, echoed Hoover’s remarks. “The program allows an opportunity for all children, not just the elite athletes, to participate in a rewarding lifetime activity without the pressure of winning,” she says.

The Texas Archery in Schools Program recently received a big boost through donations to the Parks and Wildlife Foundation from Dallas Safari Club and Toyota, and from efforts by the Texas Hunter Education Instructor’s Association, which piloted the program in 10 Texas schools in 2005 and 2006. The training is available to teachers and youth group leaders across Texas. The one-day Basic Archery Instructor or three-day Basic Archery Instructor Trainer workshops are held throughout Texas.

For more information about the program, visit <www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntered>.

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