KETCHIKAN — A collection of Point Higgins Elementary School students are voluntarily following strict instructions, stretching their focus and heeding direction outside the classroom.
The group of students are young archers who practice target-shooting one day a week under the supervision and direction of physical education teacher Sam Hernandez. Shortly after winter break, Hernandez started the weekly archery program, which includes approximately 24 students who have passed the safety test and are allowed to handle bows and arrows.
The program is part of the National Archery in the Schools Program, which started in 2002. Students at Point Higgins use NASP-approved equipment to learn how to string the bow, nock the arrow and release the arrow at the target, according to NASP’s website.
Hernandez taught archery in his previous job in Florida, and helped students advance to national competitions. Parent volunteer Brian Elliot has completed NASP training and is certified to instruct the program, which has a heavy focus on safety and methodical shooting.
“Kids have to maintain a good GPA and things have to be turned in on time,” said Elliot, whose son participates in the program. “We make sure they understand that school comes first and this is an after-school program they have to earn.”
On Monday, 16 students attended the practice in the gym. The group was divided into two groups, each taking turns at the shooting line. After reminders about safety rules and what to do in case something unexpected happened — such as a distraction or someone disobeying the rules — each student nocked and shot three full-length aluminum arrows using an NASP-approved bow.
Elliot said in addition to learning safety and following directions, the young archers learn camaraderie and how to be part of a team.
Lindsay Byron, a third-grade student, said she likes the after school program because she feels inspired.
“It made me like it more, once I started doing it,” she said. “It helped me with hunting (which she does with her grandpa).”
Katelyn Trugon, a third-grade student, has been shooting a bow and arrow for a couple years outside of school, and said her dad wanted her to learn to shoot because it would make her stronger.
“I like it because it helps me get better grades and helps me focus,” Trugon said.
Monday was third-grade student Noah Monrean’s second week participating.
“It’s awesome,” he said, showing a huge smile. “I love it. It’s so much fun.”
NASP teaches 11 specific steps to learning how to shoot a bow and arrows, so there are a few differences between the after-school program and recreational shooting, but Elliot said the differences are in process, and the basic mechanics are the same.