One of the best programs that has come down the pike in a while is Archery in the Schools.
With a grant from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, about 60 state schools are teaching Olympic-style archery in physical education classes.
On Wednesday, 1,200 students from these 60 Oklahoma high schools, junior highs and elementary schools will be competing in Archery in the Schools State Tournament at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.
This is the fifth year for the state tournament. It’s grown each year.
State wildlife officials moved this year’s event to the Cox Convention Center because they had outgrown the University of Central Oklahoma gymnasiums where it had been held the past four years.
It’s easy for schools to get involved. All they need is a physical education teacher or coach willing to teach it. The state Wildlife Department will pay for half of the archery equipment needed and the schools pay for the other half, either through their general fund, fund raisers or private sponsors.
It’s not all altruistic on the part of the state Wildlife Department. The hope is that some of these students will become bow hunters one day and buy a hunting license.
But more importantly, the program seems to build the self-esteem of students who otherwise would be sitting on the sidelines watching other kids play the game.
I have written several stories on the program in the last five years, and all of the instructors I have interviewed just rave about it.
They all say the same thing. Archery has gotten students – who are not as gifted athletically as the school jocks - a reason to look forward to physical education class. Many of them have a great eye and excel at archery.
A kid may not be able to do 10 chin-ups, but he might be able to hit the bullseye with an arrow. The program raises the self-esteem and self-confidence of many students who are left off of the school’s athletic teams. Archery in the Schools also is a hit with some special education teachers.
In December, I interviewed Edgar Fowlkes, a physical education instructor at Moore’s Houchin Elementary School, who said archery actually had turned Houchin’s kids into better students.
If the students don’t keep their grades up and get their homework done on time, they can’t shoot the bow and arrow in physical education class.
Archery has been the incentive to make the students work harder in the classroom. He sees no downside to introducing kids to archery.
“Anything that develops a kid’s self-esteem, gets them coming to school and gets them to do their work is a good thing,” Fowkles said.
Hopefully, more Oklahoma schools will discover the same thing.