Archery in the Schools
By Kevin Pugh, Wildlife Biologist
In 2003, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Alabama Department of Education partnered to create the Alabama Archery in the Schools Program. The program initially began in Kentucky by school teacher Jennie Richardson. Richardson used Olympic-style target archery in her classroom as a teaching aid, and the idea soon began to spread. The program was expanded and developed by the Kentucky Departments of Education and Fish and Wildlife Resources into a physical education curriculum entitled Archery: On Target for Life.
After learning about the Kentucky program, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Alabama Department of Education met with Kentucky and implemented a similar program in Alabama. The program began with 16 pilot schools – two schools from each school district. The teachers from each selected school received training and the necessary equipment to begin the program, and thus began the National Archery in Schools Program (NASP) in Alabama.
Since its humble beginnings in 2003, the program has enjoyed great success in Alabama. By the end of the 2006-07 school year, the program expanded to include 114 schools and 450 certified teachers. A total of 270 schools have certified teachers and are working to raise funds to purchase the necessary equipment to start their programs.
Each year since the program began, a State Championship Tournament has been held. Shooters in these tournaments vie for top honors, receiving trophies and medals for individual scores, as well as the top performing teams in the elementary, middle and high school classifications. The 2007 competition was held in April at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center and included 27 schools, with 676 participants, with the excitement level of the participants rivaling that of other traditional school sports in which championship trophies are awarded.
However, the NASP is more than just another sport in which student athletes compete. Teachers involved in the program typically report that students are enthusiastic about learning archery. They also report that student behavior and attendance is improved on days in which archery is taught, that students which historically resisted physical education classes are eager to participate in archery, and that students who excel in archery class are not only the stereotypical athletes. As one young woman from Hubbertville School said, “Not everyone can dunk a basketball, tackle, or run fast. However, I can do this.” Educators also have commented that archery provides a common experience from which students and teachers can relate to one another, and are hopeful that the program will help improve teacher/student relationships in other classes throughout the year.
The NASP provides students with an opportunity to development a recreational skill that they can enjoy for a lifetime. For more information on the NASP, contact the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, 64 North Union Street, Montgomery, AL 36130.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.