Baton Elementary students compete on archery team

Feb. 21, 2014 @ 08:38 AM

A whistle sounds and they lift their bows to their shoulders, carefully selecting arrows and putting them in position, poised to shoot.

Then the arrows fly through the air and start hitting the targets, some directly in the center: Smack. Smack. Smack.

Once a week at Baton Elementary School, a 29-member archery team composed of fourth- and fifth-graders meets to practice. On Thursday, they competed in National Archery in Schools’ North Carolina state tournament.

Whether they’re on the team or not, every fourth- and fifth-grader at Baton gets to learn archery. It’s part of the National Archery in Schools program, which in North Carolina is administered by the state Wildlife Resources Commission.

Nationally, involvement in Archery in Schools is credited with improved classroom performance, increased student motivation and reduced dropout rates. It provides a chance to learn how to handle weapons safely and constructively – and a chance to belong, said Wes Blair, a hunter education specialist with the Wildlife Resources Commission.

“This program is for everyone,” Blair said. “For boys, for girls, for all age groups.”

Students who participate learn the basics of form and, of course, safety. There’s plenty of emphasis on the latter, from the way students gather their arrows into one careful, diagonal bunch, with their hand closed lightly over the points, to the sheet of Kevlar behind the targets.

They get to compete, too. Thursday’s tournament was a “virtual” one, meaning staff from the Wildlife Resources Commission recorded the Baton students’ scores and will compare them to scores they recorded at other participating schools in the state. Winners will attend a national tournament in Paducah, Ky.

Since implementing the program this fall, Baton principal Jason Teffeteller has seen an improvement in behavior and classroom performance from the kids involved. One student, he said, had behavior issues that made him a regular presence in the principal’s office last fall. Now, though, the promise of archery practice each week has made those behavior problems dissipate.

“This year, I’ve had zero problems with him,” Teffeteller said. “He wants to come do this.”