State wildlife agency helps expand archery in school, camps

Sep 14, 2015

P.E. teacher Donna White practices overseeing an archery class.
Credit Elise Thatcher

  Getting kids to play outside is a hot topic, and that also applies to youth living in the Roaring Fork Valley. Colorado’s wildlife agency is working to add archery to the list of options for kids and their P.E. teachers.

  Eleven men and women are shooting arrows at a row of yellow, blue and red targets. We’re in the cavernous ice rink at the Glenwood Springs Community Center. “They’re going through the eleven steps of archery,” says Kathleen Tadvick. She’s overseeing today’s class, which is put on by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife. “So this is the first opportunity that each of the teachers have to actually coach each other.”

“You’ll see all of them going through the eleven steps,” she continues, “the stance is particular, the way they put their arrow on the bow is very particular, the bow is always vertical, the arrow is always facing down range. You’re always shoulder to shoulder, because each quiver is only an arrow-length apart.”

Some of these teachers-turned-students normally run physical education classes, or P.E. Others coordinate summer camps. There’s folks from as far away as Steamboat Springs and as close as Glenwood Springs. They’re learning that running an archery class is regimented for maximum safety.

This is one of the increasingly common archery courses for PE and other teachers. The idea is to add to what physical activity kids can learn in school or in summer camps. Instructor Tadvick says yes, the “Hunger Games” movies have inspired more women, in particular, to try archery. “Yeah,” laughs Tadvick, “we’ve seen an influx in a lot of people wanting to try it, all because of Katniss,”

There’s been some increasing interest from parents and kids, but “it’s just hard for the schools to incorporate this with all the curriculum they have to do,” laments Tadvick. “There’s so many standards, and now this week you’ve got to teach this in the curriculum and it’s week by week. It leaves little room for [archery]. But luckily this meets standards for P.E, so [those] teachers can easily incorporate it. As long as they have the school’s support and the principal’s support.”

That likely will include P.E. teacher Donna White, who’s loving this class. “I think it’s great,” she beams.  White works at Olathe Middle and High Schools. “I replaced a teacher who brought [archery]  into the school, and I wasn’t certified, so I couldn’t use the equipment. So now I can, [and]  I just can’t wait to shoot arrows with my kids,” she exclaims.

Towards the end of this class, instructor Dick Severin explains what may end up being the most important part for kids taking archery in school: tallying up points and seeing who’s the best shot. “You always want to score your target before you pull any arrows. We’re going to look at this one… you got 17 points here.” Severin helps with hunter education in Northwest Colorado with the Division of Parks and Wildlife. “If you’re right on the line, with your arrow, you get a higher score.” Then, with careful precision, these teachers remove their arrows from the targets, remembering to look away from the target in order to position their body for maximum pulling strength.

Once this practice session is over, these educators file into an air conditioned lobby to study. They’ve got a big test on all the rules and regulations they learned today, before they can bring archery to their gyms, fields, or summer camps.