The arrows are flying at Spanish Immersion School — and that’s a good thing.

Anna Slade steadied her aim, drew back on her bow string and let her third arrow fly toward the target nearly 20 feet away. It landed where the first two had, virtually dead center, so close that all three arrow points were touching.

“Whoa, we’ve got a Robin Hood here!” exclaimed Darcie Broom, Spanish Immersion physical education teacher.

Slade, a seventh-grader, was as surprised as anyone. “I used a bow and arrow only once at a camp before we started this program here two weeks ago,” she said.

Archery is now a twice-weekly physical education class for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at Spanish Immersion. Part of Ohio’s National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP), it teaches equipment, technique and mental concentration, all within a strict safety regimen.

“I wanted something different, something challenging as part of the curriculum,” Broom said. “Out of a brainstorming meeting came the idea for introducing archery. Some people said, ‘Are you crazy?’ I won’t lie, I was a little nervous at first, but the kids are respectful and safety-minded. Everything is working fine.”

To start, Broom and Principal Gabe Costa completed archery instruction certification through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

A NASP grant paid 75 percent of the cost of establishing the program, which includes 10 state-of-the-art Genesis bows with 11- to 20-pound pulls, steel-tipped arrows, targets and a huge Kevlar fiber curtain placed behind the targets. Ohio chapters of Safari Club International donated funds and school parents raised $500 by raffling a $250 gift card from Fin Feather Fur Outfitters.

Broom doesn’t mince words about the equipment. “This is a weapon,” she said, holding out a bow and an arrow with a steel point. “That’s why we have strict safety procedures.”

Shooters stand behind a blue line on the gym floor. Those waiting to shoot remain behind another blue line farther back. There are no verbal commands; everything is done on sharp blasts from Broom’s whistle. Three whistles mean get arrows, two instruct to get bows and one allows shooting to begin.

“The students know that five sharp whistles mean to stop everything immediately because there is an emergency,” Broom said. “We’ve only had that once and it wasn’t really an emergency. Another teacher entered the gym from a side door. She was far from the targets but we stopped everything immediately.”

When not in use, bows hang on a rack that is locked. Bows and arrows also are kept in a locked closet. “Archery teaches discipline and eye-hand coordination,” Broom said. “It’s something positive for all students, including those who aren’t skilled in running sports. It also can be used by special-needs students.”

Costa agreed. “For some kids, archery lets them shine. There’s a lot more to it than hitting the bulls-eye,” he said. “There’s practice, discipline, concentration and, for sure, a lot of fun.”

Source, Photo: Mansfield City Schools

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