NWTF Targets School Archery Program for Support

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With an eye to the future, the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) has made a major commitment to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) burgeoning Archery in the Schools program.

During awards ceremonies at the 10th Annual NWTF State Convention in Rochester, NWTF CEO Rob Keck and state president Dave Mahlke presented a $12,000 check to the DNR to continue its efforts to get target archery programs into Minnesota physical education classes.

The donation from the Minnesota NWTF is the second contribution the organization has made in the last year, bringing its support of the program to $25,000.

NWTF members aim to help DNR share this healthy life-long sport with young people in communities throughout the state.

According to Ryan Bronson, the DNR's coordinator of the Archery in Schools Program, the donation from NWTF will be used to underwrite equipment costs for schools enrolled in the program. The DNR has provided grants to 54 participating schools to reduce equipment costs during the program's pilot phase.

The National Archery in the Schools Program was developed in Kentucky to overcome barriers to implementing school archery programs. After extensive research, educators and archery advocates in Kentucky developed an equipment package, curriculum and training regimen that addressed most major concerns of administrators.

With an emphasis on safety and versatility, the National Archery in the Schools Program utilizes universal draw length Genesis Bows, full-length aluminum arrows, Olympic-style bulls-eye field targets, Kevlar backstop nets and a basic repair kit. Through support from the archery industry and national conservation partners, the equipment is available at very low costs. A complete school archery package can be purchased for about $2,400. Schools that apply and receive a DNR grant pay only $1,300.

"Most of our schools are getting support from local conservation and shooting clubs to pay for the equipment," Bronson said. "They see the value of introducing young people to a disciplined sport like archery."

Physical education teachers are provided the National Archery Association level one training course. This one-day certification program provides teachers with the knowledge and skill to teach introductory archery safely and effectively.

In conjunction with the training, teachers are provided the On-Target-For-Life curriculum. This educational tool enables teachers to provide instruction that exceeds the national physical education standard, with a core content that meets the rigorous academic expectations of school administrators.

With more than 50 schools participating in the pilot phase of the program, the DNR hopes Minnesota will become a national leader in youth archery programs.

"With help from the National Wild Turkey Federation and Archery Trade Association, Minnesota will have the largest first-year program of any state in the nation," Bronson said. "Other partners are helping deliver programs in their communities, including the YMCA, the Outdoor Heritage Education Center, and countless local conservation organizations."

While the DNR's long-term goal is to increase participation in archery, and consequently increase funding for conservation programs funded by excise taxes on archery equipment, schools have more urgent short-term goals they hope to achieve. Studies in Kentucky indicate that student behavior and attendance improve during archery units.

Many students who don't feel engaged by other school programs, or who can't compete in more traditional athletic activities may excel in archery. The education benefits carry over into the classroom from the gymnasium.

Minnesota schools and organizations interested in starting archery programs or improving their existing school programs can contact Ryan Bronson at (651) 296-0776 or ryan.bronson@dnr.state.mn.us.

For information about the Archery in the Schools Program, visit the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.usa or the NASP Web site at www.nasparchery.com.