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Archery part of enrichment offerings

December 3, 2017 GMT

Along with the traditional tutorials and interventions during advisory periods, Bonham Middle School is offering art, origami and archery.

In archery, which lasts about 30 minutes, students line up in the girls’ gym to try their hand at shooting arrows into hay bales. It’s an orderly process where the only students standing are the ones shooting.

Assistant Principal Shannon Griffith said when Ector County Independent School District adopted the middle school concept about three years ago, the schools had an advisory period and it was up to each campus to decide what to do with the time.

“Over the last two years, we’ve done leadership, character building activities, lots of community service projects and we’ve also used the time for tutorials. This year, we decided to kind of encompass all of that together into what we call flex time,” Griffith said.

“We have some students that are in need of intervention … and some students who did very well on STAAR testing and unit assessments … so they didn’t necessarily need tutoring or interventions. They are in what we call the enrichment classes, so all of it together is flex time,” she added.

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STAAR stands for State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness test.

When the second period bell rings, students rotate to their teacher for flex time. Some of the students are doing math, science or English and others are creating art projects.

“We’ve got one teacher doing mythological tales. We’ve got one teacher doing origami. Then coach (Pete) Mauro and coach (Katherine) Roberts teamed up together to do archery,” Griffith said.

Griffith said the school conducted an NBA-style draft where every student was available to teachers for what they would be offering at flex time. Teachers drafted students who were in need of intervention and each teacher had a specific day when they could draft their certain number of students.

Most of the intervention classes have about 15 students and the enrichment classes include 20 to 25 students each, she added. Regular advisory period, called Parliament is Monday and Friday and the enrichment classes are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The school mascot is the Owls and a group of owls is a parliament.

The students will stay in their groups until Christmas. When they return from Christmas, there will be a new rotation. Griffith said there will be another draft about mid-semester, so in probably between the fourth and fifth six weeks, they’ll have another draft to round out the school year.

Teachers chose activities that they were passionate about and something they thought would be fun for the students and engage them, Griffith said.

Griffith said the school has received donations and help from Brush Mountain Outfitters and Circle P Ranch Supply.

She added that she’s also working to obtain targets. Students are currently shooting into hay bales covered in black plastic garbage bags.

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Griffith said the students learned archery quickly and became good, surprising even themselves.

“The thought of middle schoolers with bows and arrows can be a little intimidating, but they get excited and they cheer each other on. The first few days of them actually shooting the bows, it took them a minute to get used to. The coaches did an excellent job of walking them through. They had to learn all the parts of the bows the arrows; the proper names of what everything is. You can see they’re very procedural,” Griffith said.

“Only the kids that are shooting are allowed to be standing. They have to put their bows down when they go to pick up their arrows. Each kid gets to shoot two arrows. They all shoot at once. They’re very regulated with how they do it. It’s not chaos,” she added.

She noted that the first few days were exciting. When someone hit a hay bale, they cheered each other on, which was nice to see because these are students from all different grade levels and they don’t have classes together.

“The girls especially are very supportive of each other. The boys are competitive,” Griffith said.

Damian Escobedo, a 13-year-old eighth-grader, and Tianna Calicutt, an 11-year-old sixth-grader, are both enjoying themselves and the challenge of the sport. Neither youngster had tried it before.

Escobedo said the hardest part is holding the arrow on.

“I started off bad and then I got better,” Escobedo said. “I thought it was going to be easy, but it was really hard.”

Calicutt said archery is fun and different.

“I didn’t think it was going to be so hard, but it could be hard because you hurt your hand a lot,” she said. She added that pulling the bow and arrow back to her cheek is the hardest part, but she has been able to hit the targets, which makes her feel good.

Mauro expressed thanks to Brush Mountain Outfitters for putting the nocks on their bows for free. The stringing was done by a teacher at George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa.

Roberts said some of the archery equipment had been in storage for at least 13 years and they were recently told they could use it.

“We’re trying to update our materials. Some are outdated. We have had gracious donors and we’re really pleased to have the help,” Roberts said.

She added that the students have been amazing. At first, they didn’t know if the smaller students would be able to pull the bows back, but they succeeded.

“We’ve got some hitting in the middle of the target already. That’s just been with a couple of weeks of practice,” Roberts said.

She added that the school is hoping to offer archery as part of physical education and wants to purchase a net to catch the arrows and obtain the traditional targets.

Roberts said the program has taught the students responsibility.

“… They feel like we’re entrusting them with something that normally would be an adult sport. It is a youth sport, but they feel like they’re being given a chance to actually prove themselves,” Roberts said.

She added that some teachers have tried the sport during their conference periods.