For a varied group of committed elementary students, archery seems to fill a valuable niche.
Two years ago, PE teachers Mike Duncan and Raeann Melvin became convinced that the sport would give their students at Nolanville Elementary School an edge in math and provide a fun activity for the less athletic.
The school’s archery club has reached far more students in far more ways.
The two teachers completed state and national training and won a KISD Education Foundation grant to purchase supplies.
That allowed them to offer a math unit to third- through fifth-graders using archery to help reinforce geometry concepts like figuring area and perimeter.
It was challenging at first with its demands for discipline and stringent safety requirements, as well as the needed arm strength.
Students caught on, and many enjoyed it more than typical sports.
Duncan and Melvin attended the state championship for school archery programs last spring. It was held at the Bell County Expo Center.
They decided the event was too great and too convenient to pass up.
This school year, the pair offered up a fall archery club so students could
start training early for the competition next March, again down the road at the Expo Center.
Competition teams are composed of 16 to 24 archers.
The two teachers hoped 30 or so students would show interest.
The first day of archery club, 100 students showed up.
“We had to come up with different arrangements,” Melvin said.
The PE teachers managed to recruit the school’s music teachers and the four worked out a schedule to handle morning bus duty and the archery club together.
With so much interest, Duncan and Melvin decided to choose top fourth- and fifth-graders to train in an after-school club, too.
That group meets for 45 minutes twice a week.
There is a standard 11 steps to archery success that the students learn prior to shooting an arrow.
When they do begin, they fire at a target turned the wrong way so all they hit is a big white rectangle.
The process of improvement in the sport is slow and combines upper body development and discipline to aim carefully and make adjustments.
The same might be said of students who stepped up their game to make sure they meet the academic, attendance and discipline requirements their teachers set.
Each student has to take concious effort to maintain or improve in school in order to remain on the team.
“These are the ones who know what to do and have worked hard at it,” Melvin said of the after-school group.
Fifth-grader Amy Miseli started with archery as a third-grader and saw her skills develop, both in the gym where the archers shoot and in the classroom.
“It’s fun,” she said. “It definitely helps in school because it uses the math part of the brain,” she said, noting that distance is an important factor when aiming down targets or working on math problems.
As a third-grader, Miseli said she finished 12th in the school’s competition and last year was the first-place archer.
Fifth-grader Riley Martin said he also improved at an activity he said is more difficult than it might appear.
“It’s challenging,” he said. “It’s not just aim and release. It takes time and you have to make adjustments after you see where you hit.”
He said he now rarely fires an arrow that doesn’t hit the yellow bull’s eye or the red border immediately outside the innermost target.
“It’s an athletic event,” said fifth-grader Latrell Jenkins. “It’s good exercise for the arms. When I got a bull’s eye, it made my mom proud.”
The students began in the morning group shooting from 6 meters.
The after-school group moved to 10 meters. For competition they will shoot from 15 meters.
In December, the Nolanville Elementary archery students will shoot in a virtual tryout, turning in their top results to qualify for state championship competition.