In recent years, Perry County Schools, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and a hunting conservation group have teamed up to introduce the sport of archery to young people.

“I want to bring my archery program to the school where my friends are having kids,” said Todd Holmes, the shooting sports awareness coordinator for the Game Commission.

Holmes, a West Perry High School alumnus, has worked with districts for the past five years to introduce students to archery. It started with Newport in 2016, then Greenwood and Susquenita added programs in 2017-18, he said. West Perry was the last school to form.

“I was impressed with the program,” said Taylor McCarney, physical education teacher at New Bloomfield Elementary School. “I was like, we have to bring this to West Perry.”

They piloted archery two years ago, but the pandemic struck, and they couldn’t do classes and clubs in 2020. But the programs are in full swing again, teaching young people the best. archery skills, which provides a new opportunity for a large sample of students.

Holmes said the commission’s program participates in the National School Archery Program (NASP), which has about 300 other Pennsylvania schools participating in grades four to 12. According to the NASP website, the program is active in 47 states, eight Canadian provinces, and 11 countries with more than 18 million participating students.

“One of the benefits of the NAS program is that anyone can participate, regardless of their age or if they have a disability,” said Holmes.

McCarney called the program “well thought out” and said that at the elementary level it offers a different activity for students during the winter months. Some students became so interested in archery that they then went out and bought their own equipment to continue the sport outside of school.

Archery is awesome, he says. It gets people out, exercises arm and core muscle groups, strengthens focus and hand-eye coordination, and helps students socialize with others. There is also a nominal walking exercise back and forth from the targets.

“It’s new to the majority of kids,” McCarney said. “Exposing them to an activity for life is rewarding. “

New Bloomfield also received a helping hand from the Perry County section of Whitetails Unlimited, a deer hunting and conservation group. The organization’s locals hold annual banquets with at least 50 percent of the proceeds going to organizations and programs in the county, said Terry Meek of the Perry County chapter.

Last year, through his virtual banquet, he was able to donate approximately $ 12,000 to four organizations, including $ 3,000 to the New Bloomfield Archery Program to purchase equipment. Whitetails Unlimited Perry County is hosting its 2021 Banquet on August 28 at the Dream at Top Notch Stables on Cold Storage Road in New Bloomfield. Tickets can be purchased at the door or by contacting Meek at [email protected]

“Hunting is something that fascinates me,” Meek said. “There are so many things that keep kids away from the hunt. Having archery in schools allows children to get started early. It’s another thing for them to get involved in addition to other school programs.

At Greenwood Middle-High School, archery is not just a physical education class, there is also an archery club for students who wish to continue the sport, said the professor of Brad Johnson gym. Due to the equipment available, the club must be limited to 20 children, but the school has almost always had that many participating children, he said.

“We haven’t been in any competitions yet, but we are working towards that,” Johnson said.

Holmes said there were regular competitions offered by NASP and other organizations, including regularly at the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg.

The archery class and club really help engage a cross section of students, from those who are avid hunters to those looking for something different to be a part of and students with special needs, said Johnson. All find socialization, exercise and skilled activities that enrich their learning experience and development.

“Kids who are not athletic, you can really touch them,” he said. “So far everything is going well.”

Jim T. Ryan can be contacted by email at [email protected]