WARREN, NJ - Archery is not a typical gym experience that elementary schools offer, but at Warren's Angelo L. Tomaso (ALT) school, the program has been offered since 2013. Students and Physical Education teacher Douglas Clark showcased the program for the Board of Education at its last meeting.
In addition to a physical education unit of study, archery is also offered as an after school club at ALT for students in grades four and five.
The ALT program has met with national recognition, winning the New Jersey NASP (National Archery in the Schools Program) State Championship each of the four years since its inception and competing in the National Championship in Kentucky.
First year Angelo L. Tomaso School Principal Christine Smith said she was amazed with how well the students do everything off of whistle commands.
Board Vice President Len DeMontagnac said, "I'd like to say that from a parent standpoint, this program does fantastic things for the kids, and from a pride standpoint, it does fantastic things for the kids in the town to have won four state championships."
The students will find out soon if they qualify this year. State scoring points are due on March 17.
Clark said he sometimes hears some concern about safety but archery is, "the third safest sport- bested only by badminton and ping pong." Some people think it’s all about shooting, but there’s more to it than that, it’s a life-time skill. It helps kids with focus and attention."
Clark explained that he first determines whether a student is right or left eye dominant as that determines whether they use a right-handed or left-handed bow. Then they learn how to use a string bow- a tied piece of string- no arrows- that they can use to practice at home to build muscle memory. On using the string bow he said, " I do this myself. It does work, my archery skills have gotten better."
The program is set up so that once the basics are taught, the students do all the work, " from soup to nuts," responding to Clark’s whistle commands from preparation through collecting the arrows after shooting and returning the arrows and bow to their stands.
Clark said the students can have the entire gym set up, targets and backdrop in place, arrows and bows out, and be ready to shoot in under five minutes.
Some ALT students and alumni in the audience excitedly demonstrated their skill after the presentation to the board and then the students became teachers, instructing some board members and audience members, including Superintendent Dr. Matthew Mingle, Principal Smith and board president Tia Allocco.
Clark has introduced the program to the physical education teachers at Watchung Hills where it is expected to be introduced in the fourth quarter.