| May 11, 2016

Students at North Addington Education Centre (NAEC) are becoming adept target shooters thanks to a special program that is spreading quickly in schools across the country. The National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) teaches archery to intermediate and high school students and has been offered to students at NAEC for the last three years.

NAEC teacher Sarah Sproule, who runs the program, said that her school was one of the first in Ontario to adopt the program. That was due to Sproule's enthusiasm for outdoor learning (she also heads up the NAEC's outdoor program). Sproule is an avid bow hunter and back in 2014 she championed the program and approached the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters for their support. She pretty much single-handedly did the fundraising to acquire the equipment, which costs approximately $8000.

Not surprisingly, it is Sproule who travels to schools across Ontario to train other NASP instructors and also not surprisingly she strongly believes that NASP has a very positive influence on students, especially those at risk. The program shows students how to use a bow and arrow and how to shoot at targets from a number of distances. Participating students also compete in school-to-school tournaments. This year the NAEC 's archery students have competed in two tournaments and the last will be featured in the OFAH magazine. The older students, who were shooting in the gym on May 3 when I visited, are especially keen and together they set up the equipment, which includes bows, arrows and targets in just five minutes flat. The targets have international-style target faces, plus one deer and one bear.

Sproule leads the session using the verbal and whistle commands that meet all of the mandatory safety requirements. Many of the students said that archery has helped their focus and concentration and has opened up a whole new social element for them at the school. Nathan, a grade 12 student, said he loves the dexterity involved; the fact that the sport is practical; and how it helps him get out his frustrations, which otherwise might manifest in more negative ways. ”My confidence has also really improved as a result,” he said.

Brittany likes the fact that the sport attracts similar-minded kids and said she also loves the social element.

Four of the seven students said they asked for a bow for Christmas, which shows how the sport can easily become a part of their everyday lives. Younger students at the school are also taking up the bow and Sproule here reiterated the NASP motto, which is “Changing lives, one arrow at a time".

Of course there are so many fitting analogies associated with learning how to hit a target. Learning how to focus, how to calm both the body and mind to achieve the best results and persevering when things are going a bit off course are a few that come to mind.

Sproule's enthusiasm for the program is spreading and she just recently trained staff at Granite Ridge Education Centre in Sharbot Lake and at the Madawaska Valley District High School, who have both just adopted the program. In the short time that I was there I witnessed a few bulls-eyes and you can bet that the deer and the bear have seen much better days.

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