P.E.I. Wildlife Federation pull strings to bring archery in schools
ABRAM VILLAGE – Aim. Pull. Release. “Thwack!” Aim. Pull. Release. “Thud!”
Over and over again, the same three motions followed by that strangely satisfying noise.
This was Jason Arsenault’s physical education class at École Évangéline earlier this week.
A group of kids were lined up in the middle of the gym, each holding a brightly coloured bow with a quiver of arrows at their feet.
With a shrill “toot” from his whistle Arsenault signaled the kids that they were clear to start shooting and, each at his or her own pace, they raised their bows and lined up their shots.
Aim. Pull. Release. “Thwack!”
Archery isn’t exactly new to Arsenault’s class – but a recent gift has made all the difference in the world for the sport in, not only his school, but six others across P.E.I.
“It’s been great,” said Arsenault.
“The kids love it. The success rate has gone up through the roof,” he added.
That gift is from the National Archery In Schools Program (NASP) and it includes more than $18,000 in archery equipment for each facility.
The schools that received gear are École Évangéline, Kensington Intermediate School, Colonel Gray, Vernon River Consolidated and Souris High School/Souris Consolidated.
Each kit includes a bow stand, 12 bows, 60 arrows, five targets, a safety net, maintenance kit, safety gear and an instructional package. Each kit is worth about $4,000.
At École Évangéline, the gear is being put to good use.
Arsenault, a certified archery instructor, has had an archery component in his curriculum in the past, but he had to use outdated and worn gear. Some of the old bows were so tough to pull that the smaller kids couldn’t even use them.
“I did like two classes and the kids hated it. They were bored,” he said.
But with the NASP gear, the students are eager, he added.
“I just think it opens the doors to new possibilities.”
“A small population are athletes in the real sense of the word. They’re competitive and all this stuff. But I find archery opens the doors to kids who really aren’t the soccer players, aren’t softball players … but man, they can hit the bull’s eye just as well as the guy who can sprint the 100-metres.”
Student Damien Gallant was one of the kids who had trouble with the old equipment. But he loves using the new gear.
“I think it’s really fun, because the kids who have trouble at other sports like soccer and volleyball – archery, you just need to know your position and how you’re pulling. It’s really fun. I like it,” said Gallant.
Arsenault said he plans on using the archery gear for a few weeks in each grade this fall and maybe move everything outside again in the spring.
Originally founded in the U.S. by the Kentucky Departments of Education and Fish and Wildlife Resources, in partnership with Mathews Archery, in 2001, the NASP has since spread to nearly every American state and five Canadian provinces.
The P.E.I. Wildlife Federation is coordinating the NASP locally.
Duncan Crawford, president of the federation, said his group was only too happy to help bring the program here.
“We’re constantly looking at new ways to engage youth in traditional and outdoor activities. That’s basically how the NASP came to be,” said Crawford.
A former competitive archer himself, he knows how rewarding an experience the sport can be for a child.
“As an avid outdoorsman and lifetime archer – I started at the same age as these kids, I was 12. It’s been a part of my life ever since,” he said.
He also said more Island schools are encouraged to take part in the NASP.
The federation received the first six equipment kits for free, however, any new schools would need to raise the money to buy their own gear. But his group is more than willing to help with any fundraising efforts, he added.
Anyone interested in bringing the program to their school should contact him at 672-1430 or Duncan@maritimemosquito.com.