Archery in the Schools— Coming Soon to a School Near You!
By Scott Warner
When the Division of Natural Resources first implemented West Virginia's Archery in the Schools Program last year only 20 schools were part of that pilot program. But it seems to have hit a bulls-eye. When school begins this fall, more than 80 schools will be participating. The enthusiasm for this program quadrupled in less than a year.
The purpose of the program is simple -- introduce physical education students to an activity which anyone can participate and teach them a skill they can do outside the classroom and enjoy for the rest of their lives. Most of us don't play dodge ball or other school yard games anymore, but those countless hours I spent with my Dad-- shooting a bow in the backyard, making trips to the 3-D range and being out in the field bowhunting--turned into a lifetime passion.
Through the Archery in the Schools Program, the DNR is providing kids an opportunity to become involved in a sport that all students (no matter the gender or age) can participate in on an equal playing field. Also, not all students are interested in the sports regularly offered in PE classes. Archery may provide the niche they may be looking for.
Kentucky first implemented the program in 2002 with only 21 schools. In less than three years, their recruitment has been phenomenal and more than 300 schools have successfully implemented the program, reaching nearly 250,000 students. What's encouraging is that Kentucky 's physical education teachers consistently reported that both girls and boys were very enthusiastic about archery, student behavior and attendance actually improved on archery days, students who historically resisted PE class were more eager to participate in archery, and students who excelled in archery class were not the stereotypical athlete.
Because of the success, Kentucky has been able to host three statewide archery tournaments with more than 2,500 students participating. What's interesting is that the majority of their tournament participants had never competed in an organized athletic event. For the first time, some of the smaller schools from rural eastern Kentucky were competing equally against the larger, better-funded schools.
So will West Virginia have similar success? Absolutely. With the strong interest we have in competitive archery and the 150,000 bowhunters, we shouldn't have any problem matching Kentucky's success. But it's the commitment and partnership we have received from the West Virginia Department of Education, West Virginia Bowhunters Association, and other wildlife and youth organizations around the state that's going to assure the success of this program.
If it's competition that keeps kids interested then we're on target. If everything goes as planned, next winter the DNR will host its first statewide Archery Tournament. Tournament winners will be eligible to compete at the National Tournament held in Kentucky.
Schools interested in participating are required to have staff complete 12 hours of instructional training and successfully pass a Level 1 NADA certification test, offered free to the schools by the DNR. As an incentive from the state Department of Education, teachers are eligible to receive continuing education credit for completing the class.
Training sessions are scheduled throughout the year at various locations around the state to accommodate everyone. The equipment used for this program consists of the finest youth bows and targets on the market. Unfortunately at this time, participating schools are responsible for obtaining the approximately $2,000 needed to purchase their own equipment. The DNR, however, is working hard with the Department of Education, state wildlife organizations, archery industry, and local community civic organizations to locate additional funding.
If your school is interested in the West Virginia Archery in the Schools Program and would like to receive some additional information call (304) 558-2771.
Scott Warner is the Archery in the Schools coordinator stationed in Charleston .
A Family Tradition – Beyond the Classroom
By Dave McClung
As my son came down from his bedroom for the third time that night, I smiled because I understood why he couldn't sleep. Tomorrow would be an exciting day -- a day he had been waiting for all year. As his mother tucked him back into bed he said it felt like Christmas Eve. I shared his excitement and knew sleep wouldn't come easy. This wasn't Christmas but a very special day in October. Tomorrow would be the opening day of deer archery season.
He is no stranger to deer hunting. We have spent hundreds of hours together scouting for new tree stand locations, looking for shed antlers and watching bachelor groups of velvet-antlered bucks feeding in fields on hot summer evenings. For the past three years he has spent many hours safely strapped in a tree stand next to me as I bow hunted. He has watched my every move. He understands how wind thermals carry human scent, and how difficult it can be to fool an old doe's eyes and ears. Most importantly, he understands that most hunts don't end with a kill. He is now nine years old and has proven he's ready to become the hunter. Tomorrow I will share a stand with my new hunting partner.
The Archery in the Schools Program will give many children their first opportunity to shoot a bow. They will receive instruction on shooting techniques and safe handling of archery equipment. Archery is an activity that offers instant gratification as shooters see their arrows hit the target. It is amazing how quickly beginning archers develop skills that allow them to hit the bulls-eye.
Many options exist for kids who want to pursue archery beyond the Archery in the Schools Program. A ten-week bowhunting deer season each fall provides many opportunities for children to enjoy time together with adults in the woods. Sitting quietly in a tree stand is a great way to see an abundance of wildlife. Archers can also participate in 3-D archery where shooters walk wooded trails and shoot at foam animal targets shaped like deer, turkey, elk and bear. For a kid it is like going on a big game hunt. The International Bowhunters Organization (IBO) offers 3-D shooters opportunity to compete in local shoots as well as competing at the national level. Archery is not only for hunters, it is also an Olympic sport.
It is very important to fit young shooters with the proper equipment. Often friends or relatives will offer used equipment for beginning shooters. However, it is best to visit an archery shop where each individual shooter is fitted with a bow that has the proper draw length and weight. The shop staff will also select arrows and accessories that match each shooter's needs.
Parents -- don't be surprised if your child comes home from school one day talking about the fun they had shooting a bow in PE class. You should smile, because you now have an activity that you can share with your kids that will last a lifetime. I often joke with my son telling him that when I'm old he will be helping me hang my tree stand. He always says, “I'll help you Dad.” I smile because I know it is true.
Dave McClung is the wildlife manager at McClintic WMA.