HUNTSVILLE — When Scott High physical education teacher Jordan Jeffers dropped the arrow from his bow and onto the hardwood floor at Huntsville Middle School Gymnasium, his hand immediately went up, a whistle sounded, and all activity paused.
Jeffers, who is also the head basketball coach at Scott High, was the demonstration subject as part of a live simulation during Monday’s National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) in-service training at HMS. Physical education teachers from throughout the county were putting their training to the test as they prepare to implemented archery into the county’s P.E. curriculum, and it’s training that included a key emphasis on student safety.
“They’ll actually be tested at the end of the day; they have to do that to be certified,” said Brent Shoemaker, the county school system’s Coordinated School Health program coordinator.
It was Shoemaker and his program that initiated the archery program, which will be implemented for students in grades 4 through 12 this fall.
At Monday’s in-service training, led by NASP instructor Kevin Lee, P.E. teachers were learning everything from how to pull an arrow from the quiver to how to load it onto a bow to how to retrieve arrows during a break in the action.
As the demonstration subject, Jeffers was playing the part of a student on the firing line. Under Lee’s direction, there are protocols for everything, from how students pull arrows from the quiver to avoid striking another student on the firing line as they do so to what to do if an arrow falls to the ground. (The specific answer: students aren’t allowed to stoop over to pick up the arrow; instead, all action ceases while the instructor provides another arrow.)
“It’s designed to put student safety first,” Shoemaker said.
As part of the training, each teacher was equipped with a special whistle, designed to sound different from the sports whistles that P.E. teachers typically use, that is used to signal a start and stop to the action.
Lee, an enthusiastic instructor who bounced about as he provided instruction to teachers, said the program will make a big difference in schools.
“I can’t wait for you to begin to see results as you put the things we’re learning here today into use with your students,” he said.
NASP is a partnership between state departments of education and departments of natural resources. In Tennessee, the TN Wildlife Resources Agency is the partnering agency. Students are taught to shoot at bulls-eye targets placed in front of an arrow-resistant net in their gymnasium, and the course’s core content covers the history of archery, safety, technique and equipment, with a focus on mental concentration, core strengthening, physical fitness and self-improvement.
“The program requires you to shoot with your left or right hand depending on which eye is your dominant eye,” Shoemaker said. “The first thing we did was determine which eye is our dominant eye and we were all blown away by that technique. We’d never done anything like that.”
NASP adopts its safety and instructional guidelines from the National Archery Association. It is intended to help keep kids motivated to stay in school by being involved in a school-sponsored activity.
The Scott County School System is investing $3,000 per set into the archery setups, which includes the bows, arrows, targets and backstop. Each school will receive a set (Scott High will receive two), and P.E. teachers from each school were present for Monday’s training, including Shay Newport from Burchfield, Brittany Young from Fairview, Steven Burress and Mark Proffitt from Huntsville, Johnny West from Robbins, Kim King from Winfield and Jeffers and Boyatt from Scott High.
It wasn’t just P.E. teachers from the county system present at Monday’s in-service. Oneida P.E. teacher Phil Newport was there, too. Shoemaker said the Oneida Special School District is feeling out the program to determine whether it’s a good fit for their students, as well.
The county school system became interested in the program as it has grown in popularity in East Tennessee. Morgan County Schools have implemented the program, and Union County is starting it, as well.
“We did some investigation and spoke to our teachers about it,” Shoemaker said. “Every one of them jumped on it. We are in an area where hunting is big, so it’s a natural fit.”
Shoemaker said the Coordinated School Health staff talked to other East Tennessee school districts that have implemented the program.
“They love it,” he said. “Students love it. Some students who can’t play basketball excel at archery.”