GREAT FALLS — Inside Paris Gibson Education Center in Great Falls, archery practice is underway as students prepare for an archery competition in February. This is a relatively new program for the school district but one that's proving very popular.
"We're trying to get started with the National Archery in our Schools Program, NASP, and we're just starting and inviting kids to come in and learn how to shoot,” explained Dugan Coburn, Great Falls Public Schools Indigenous Education Director.
Around a dozen kids picked up bows and arrows and took aim at targets on Tuesday, guided by Coburn.
"It's one of the safest programs you can have,” Coburn said. "This is another way to get a different group of kids into participating in a sport."
Kids like ninth-grader Alayna Shedd.
"I'd never tried archery before and I thought it'd be a new experience, especially living in Montana. I came from Washington, D.C., which is a big difference from here, and I thought I might try something that was new,” Shedd said.
She was enjoying the experience, even after only shooting a few arrows: "It's definitely been fun. It's definitely challenging but I'm so glad I tried this."
The school district actually joined NASP in the spring of 2022 but was finally at the point Tuesday of being able to prepare for competition.
"There were quite a few Great Falls teachers (who) took the instructor programming training. Once we got that done, it was, like, 'Well, now we need to start getting that out to the students in our community. There's over 120 schools, it might be 140 schools now, in Montana that are doing archery in their schools,” Coburn explained.
At least two of those schools were expected to participate in the February 17 tournament hosted at Paris Gibson Education Center.
Aside from local tournaments, there is also a state tournament held in Helena each year.
GFPS students in grades 7-12 are eligible to participate. A second day of practice will be held at the education center on Thursday, December 29, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Click here to learn more about NASP.
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