STRAIGHT AS AN ARROW: After 13 years, Archery in the Schools is a proven success
Duane Smith, a physical education instructor at Moore West Junior High, is one of the countless teachers across Oklahoma who rave about the Archery in the Schools program.
"The kids love it," Smith said.
Since starting the program at Moore West five years ago, Smith has seen the difference it has made in students. They are more confident, more disciplined and pay greater attention to detail.
It also motivates them in the classroom because they can't compete unless they maintain good grades, he said.
"We have had everyone (in archery), from our top notch athletes to kids who have never been involved in any kind of club or activity before," Smith said. "They all really value it and all are committed to it."
For some students, archery has made going and participating in school a lot more interesting, he said.
"It makes them feel more a part of the school," he said. "We have had people transfer to our school just so they can be part of the archery program."
The Archery in the Schools Program, now in its 13th year in Oklahoma, is a proven success. A pilot program that started with just seven schools in the state, archery is now being taught as part of physical education in 650 schools.
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The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation provides the initial training and seed money for schools to start the archery program. Most archery teams or clubs then hold fundraisers to keep it going.
The Wildlife Department adds 50 new schools each year. In the beginning, the agency would recruit schools to the program. That is no longer necessary, said Colin Berg, supervisor of the education programs for the Wildlife Department, which includes Archery in the Schools.
"They call us," Berg said. "We got about 20 or 30 schools on our waiting list now that want to get our next pot of money that will be available in July.”
Archery in the Schools has grown so much that three years ago the Wildlife Department began to hold two state championship shoots, one in Oklahoma City for the western half of the state and the other in Tulsa for the eastern half.
The state tournaments at each site are even divided into two levels of shooters, Tier 1 (top qualifying scores) and Tier 2, so more kids can participate.
The Oklahoma City state shoot was held at State Fair Park on Wednesday and Thursday. The state shoot in Tulsa is scheduled this week.
The popularity of Archery in the Schools is not unique to Oklahoma. This year, the National Archery in the School Programs is holding two national tournaments — one in Utah for western states and one in Kentucky for eastern states — because of the growing interest.
The National Archery in the Schools program was launched in 21 Kentucky middle schools in 2002. Fearing that outdoor skills were being lost, Kentucky's Fish and Wildlife Services teamed with Matthews Archery and the Kentucky Department of Education to create an archery curriculum.
When Oklahoma's Wildlife Department began considering a similar program, Berg was one of the handful of employees from the agency who went to Kentucky to learn about it.
"When I saw the sheer number of kids participating, I thought, man, this has the potential to be pretty big," he said. "I knew if kids in Kentucky liked it, then kids in Oklahoma would be the same."
Berg said the program wouldn't work without the dedication of teachers to be archery coaches, the vast majority of whom don't receive any financial compensation for their time.
"They go way above and beyond, just like they do in all programs it seems like," he said.
To be a successful archer, age, size or gender doesn't matter. At the state shoots, the team competition is coed. The highest individual score at the state shoot in Oklahoma City was by a fourth-grader from Chandler. Caden Eyestone scored 295 out of a possible 300.
The popularity of Archery in the Schools was the catalyst that allowed the Wildlife Department to also introduce other outdoor education curriculum in Oklahoma schools: Fishing, bowfishing, bowhunting and hunter education.
The success of Archery in the Schools was proof to the Wildlife Department that kids today don't just want to play video games. They just needed to be introduced to the outdoors.
"If they are going to like a bow, they are going to like a fishing pole in their hands, as well," he said. "No doubt there are kids, because of these programs, who have taken up the outdoors."
ARCHERY IN THE SCHOOLS
State Shoot in Oklahoma City
Thursday's Tier 1 Results
Elementary School: 1, Park Road, Chandler; 2, Wayland Bonds, Oklahoma City; 3, Flower Mound, Lawton; 4, South Lake, Oklahoma City; 5, Chisholm, Enid; 6, Mustang Horizon Intermediate, Mustang; 7, Heritage Trails, Moore; 8, Zaneis, Wilson; 9, Plato, Duncan; 10, North Rock Creek, Shawnee.
Middle School: 1, Zaneis, Wilson; 2, Chandler; 3, Moore West; 4, Community Christian, Norman; 5, Mustang; 6, Brink, Oklahoma City; 7, El Reno; 8, Greenville, Marietta; 9, Waylan Bonds, Oklahoma City; 10, Moore Central.
High School: 1, Chandler; 2, Chickasha; 3, Healdton; 4, Fairview; 5, Community Christian; 6, Blanchard; 7, Bray-Doyle; 8, Madill; 9, Lawton MacArthur; 10, Pauls Valley.
Elementary Girls: 1, Izzy Simpson, Park Road, Chandler, 270; 2, Emma Skinner, Zaneis, Wilson, 269; 3, Kaylee Corcoran, South Lake, Oklahoma City, 260; 4, Kaleigh Strange, North Rock Creek, Shawnee, 258; 5, Ryleigh Sharp, Park Road, Chandler, 258.
Elementary Boys: 1, Caden Eyestone, Park Road, Chandler, 295; 2, Skylar Red Elk, Flower Mound, Lawton, 270; 3, Thomas Harris, Flower Mound, Lawton, 269; 4, Justus Navarro, Park Road, Chandler, 269; 5, Logan Allen, Park Road, Chandler, 267.
Middle School Girls: 1, Annie Brannon, Chandler, 287; 2, Brooklyn Keck, Zaneis, Wilson, 284; 3, Peyton Ritz, Chandler, 280; 4, Leah Brannon, Chandler, 276; 5, Lexi Farnsworth, Moore West, 276.
Middle School Boys: 1, Jerod Aycox, Zaneis, Wilson, 294; 2, Karson Warrington, Zaneis, Wilson, 292; 3, Toby Aycox, Zaneis, Wilson, 285; 4, Easton Tolliver, Healdton, 283; 5, Dillon Graham, Brink, Oklahoma City, 282.
High School Girls: 1, Riane Tuthill, Chickasha, 292; 2, Tylie Fent, Chandler, 289; 3, Emilee Manning, Chandler, 288; 4, Hayli Mauro, Chandler, 285; 5, Brittany Alexander, Chickasha, 282.