NEW PALESTINE — Matthew Barada straightened out his left arm as he lifted the bow and arrow at eye level to take aim. He made sure the arrow was secure and in proper position with his right hand before pulling the cord back as far as he could preparing to let it go.

Barada, a seventh-grader at Doe Creek Middle School, stood in line across the north side of the school’s gym with other students who were all doing the same thing with their arrows on target.

“It’s something fun because it’s new,” Barada said.

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It’s a little more complicated than the other sport he plays, football, he said. In archery, a shooter has to pay attention and really know what they’re doing.

After more than a year of research, planning, buying equipment, and earning certification, Michelle Bloomer, the school’s physical education teacher, was finally able to introduce a new sport to the middle school students during the second semester.

Thanks to a $2,000 grant from National Archery in the Schools Program, two-thirds of the cost to start up the activity has been covered, providing students with new skills during physical education class instead of playing simple games like dodge-ball.

School officials and parents put forth the rest of the funding, $1,200 to help Bloomer purchase bows, arrow, nets, targets and pay for up to four teaching certifications through NASP.

They started the archery lessons with hopes of creating an archery club for anyone in the Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County to take part in after school next year.

Starting the sport was a great investment, Bloomer said, noting everything the school received for being part of the NASP. They received 12 brand new bows with 60 new arrows, five targets, a safety net, and accessories for repairs, all for a total of $3,200.

“The quality of equipment we got is just amazing because the bows retail for a lot higher than what we had to pay,” Bloomer said.

In order to get the grant, the school did have to agree to a five-year agreement with NASP to teach archery lessons in the school. The investment will allow Bloomer, a certified teacher, to expand the program over the next several years and create an after-school club.

For Bloomer, who used to be a Sugar Creek Elementary School teacher and is also a parent, she’s always looking for ways to teach children something new. When she learned about NASP and their grant program, she immediately did more research to squash safety concerns and discovered archery could be a good skill for middle school students to learn.

After a parent information meeting, she found there are many students who already enjoy bow hunting with their parents and therefore had some prior knowledge of the sport.

Students are asked to stand just inches beside each other during the shooting process, helping the young teens learn about respecting a person’s private space, Bloomer said.

Students straddle a line while in formation and they all take aim at the target and shoot at the same time.

There are 11 different steps to shooting students have to learn and process from the time they pick up their bow and arrow until they actually shoot.

Many of the students take the safety measures so seriously they even call their classmates out if they see them breaking rules such as holding the arrow the wrong way or pointing the bow in a direction they should not.

“There is just a lot to go through their minds each time they shoot,” Bloomer said.

Students also have learned about point values and how hitting different rings on the target can earn them different rewards. After each session they were able to see who the top shooters were from the tally sheet hanging on the gym wall.

Bloomer began to slowly introduce the sport to the students at the beginning of the year, but the catch-net didn’t go up until this spring giving students their first chance to actually shoot after months of learning safety measures. Bloomer also held several shooting sessions in April and May after school for students who couldn’t get enough of the sport.

“It’s hard to pull back the string, but it’s kind of cool,” Demi Waitt, seventh grade said. “I’m glad we have it.”

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Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or kdeer@greenfieldreporter.com.