READY, AIM — Archery has quickly become a favorite PE option at IPS schools. 

There’s a physical education (PE) option at Indianapolis Public Schools that’s hitting the bull’s-eye with both students and teachers.


Archery, historically used for hunting and combat but widely seen today as a recreational activity and competitive sport, is offered to students at 25 IPS schools through the National Archery in the Schools Program.

The in-school program is aimed at improving educational performance in students and is made possible through a grant from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR works with IPS to provide archery equipment for students in Grades 4-12, along with training certification courses that allow adults to serve as instructors.

Kathy Langdon, the district’s physical education and health wellness instructional coach, said archery has given students an opportunity to learn a new activity and develop skills without the issues of exclusion other sports have.

“It’s an activity that doesn’t discriminate based on popularity, athletic skill, gender, size or academic ability,” said Langdon. “It’s a different kind of team sport, open to any student.”

The archery units are designed to run for 10 days and are part of the school’s PE curriculum. The program is run by whistle commands, in which students respond to whistle tweets. Training is intensive and precise, and there is no room for error.

William Crawford, a PE and wellness teacher at Lew Wallace School 107, enjoys hunting in his spare time, and jumped at the opportunity to participate as an instructor in the archery program.

“I was all in from Day One,” Crawford said. “The kids get a new and exciting experience, and it is an opportunity for them to develop empowerment and focus.”

The nature of the sport means students who participate are developing skills including discipline, self-control, self-motivation, listening and following directions, work ethic, focus, patience, skill repetition, and — above all — safety.

The commitment to safety extends to the adults in charge. Anyone who becomes an instructor must take the required training certification. The DNR conducts the course and waives the $300 fee through the grant program. The schools cannot receive the equipment until the instructor passes the certification course.

That insistence on caution trickles down to students, too.

“Before the shooting begins, students help take the responsibility of making sure that each gym door has the ‘Do not enter’ sign in place,” said Julie Herdman, PE instructor at James Whitcomb Riley School 43. “Rules are specific and strict, and reviewed before each session. There is zero tolerance for breaking a rule no matter how small it is. If you break a rule, you are done shooting for that day.”

Although rules are involved, students seem to love the sport.

“I can enjoy time with my friends and classmates that enjoy participating in Archery,” said Francisco B., a sixth-grade student at Lew Wallace School 107. “The comradery and the relaxed setting makes me comfortable. I have learned to be patient, how to stay focused, and perseverance.”

The National Archery in the Schools program holds an annual tournament in March, giving students of varying athletic abilities and experience levels the chance to compete. The popularity of the program has also led schools to discuss the idea of expanding archery offerings through a program called Archery on the Go, which can be implemented after school.

“I have to say archery is one of my favorite units to teach,” Herdman said. “The first time anyone hits the target, and especially the bull’s-eye, they literally scream with joy and emotion. And as they gain success, they just want to work harder and harder to keep getting better. I have students begging to come to the gym on my prep period and lunch period to get extra practice and instruction.”

Jerryn S., an eighth-grader at James Whitcomb Riley School 43, enjoys the skills he’s learning through the sport (concentration, focus and patience).

“I like archery because you have to focus to stay still so that your shot will be perfect. It is fun because I am so good at it because I take it very seriously and I love to practice,” said Jerryn. “I actually split an arrow, that I had already shot in half. My favorite part was when Ms. Herdman put a balloon on the center of the target and we got to see if we could pop it from 25 feet away.”