On Target Teaching

My family is one of the lucky ones.   Our neighborhood elementary school is fantastic– from the academic teachers to the librarian to the music teachers to the PE coaches, my boys are taught by educators committed to making learning interesting, fun, and meaningful.

We are also fortunate to have tremendous parental and community support of the school’s programs.  Last fall I helped organize the Second Annual Fall Fitness Festival, an free afternoon of sports activities that also raised money for the PE program through business sponsorships and donations.  The goal of last years Festival was to raise $8000 to buy archery equipment, and with with help of an exciting and impressive demonstration by Paralymic Bronze Medalist Lindsey Carmichael, we did just that.

The archery equipment arrived to the school last month, and PE Coach Jim DeLine organized a daylong workshop for interested parents to become a certified Basic Archery Instructor through NASP- the National Archery in the Schools Program.  Former Texas Parks & Wildlife employee Steve Hall ran the training, assisted by Teresa Ramirez, faculty member of the Physical Education department at the University of Texas at Austin.  To say those of us in the training were in good hands is quite an understatement!

We began the day by learning about the basics of archery and the nomenclature of the sport and its equipment.  For someone who hasn’t picked up a bow and arrow since day camp in 1985, this was a much needed introduction.   We also learned about setting up a safe range in the gymnasium and all of the protocols for keeping children safe while learning the sport.

Did you know the only ball sport safer than archery is ping-pong?  Me, neither.

Once we got the basics down, we learned to make and use a string bow.

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This method allows archers to think through NASP’s Eleven Steps to Archery Success before ever picking up a bow and arrow.  One of the fantastic parts of the NASP protocol is that it is very process focused– all of the language used by instructors and all of the feedback the children receive is to be about the process of shooting and not the result.  Because there is no result when using a string bow, archers can really solidify the process used and build appropriate muscle memory and focus that will translate to the range.

Finally, it was time to pick up a bow.  I felt much like I suspect my fourth grader will feel when the archery unit begins in a few weeks: GIMME, GIMME, GIMME!!  I WANT A TURN!

For our first few shots, Steve and Teresa followed NASP protocol and worked with us individually.  I was surprised by how hard it was to hold the bow steady at full draw.  When I released the arrow the first time, it as a real thrill to hear the  *THWACK* of the tip into the target.  Even though we were focusing on the process of shooting, I couldn’t help but be pleased with the results of my first quiver:

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(The arrow on the floor was a demo arrow to teach us: “If the arrow falls down, it stays on the ground!”  No kids in the range while shooting!!)

After lunch, we took turns team teaching the rest of our group the Eleven Steps to Archery Success and coaching students through their first few shots.  We also took turns evaluating each others’ teaching, providing compliments and constructive criticism.  NASP has very clear steps in the teaching process to keep the range running smoothly, and I think we all left feeling confident we can translate those steps to a PE class.  Our day concluded with a 100 question exam to confirm our understanding of NASP’s protocol.

In May, we will put our Basic Archery Instructor certification to work by assisting Coach DeLine as we teach the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders archery.  Just knowing how excited I am to learn something new makes me look forward to sharing it with the kids.  I’m especially excited to work with the kids who aren’t normally PE superstars– archery doesn’t care if you are tall or short or fast or slow or a boy or a girl.  Everyone can succeed.

I’m grateful to Coach DeLine for his commitment to our children’s physical education and recognizing that even elementary-aged kids can be thinking about life-long activity.

You’ve hit the target again, Coach.

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