Members of Olney Cadette Girl Scout Troop 519 have their eyes on a target — to bring archery programs more available, through the physical education curriculum and as an after-school activity.
The troop, which has been together since kindergarten, has done archery at several scout camps and events.
When the girls began talking about a project to earn their Silver Award, the answer was easy.
The Silver Award is the highest award Cadettes can earn and the last award the girls can earn collectively as a troop.
“I told them to think about something they felt strongly about or believed in, something that would make a difference in their community or in the world,” Troop Leader Carole Levy said. “They knew they wanted to pursue archery.”
Sydney Abramowitz, 14, said that archery is a lot of fun and really cool.
“You can be blind, deaf, mentally challenged and still participate in it,” she said.
Abaigael Murphy, 14, agreed, saying even people who are in wheelchairs can participate in archery.
A fan of the popular book and movie, “The Hunger Games,” Abramowitz talked about the main female character Katniss, who was an archer.
“She was very strong and brave,” she said.
Levy pointed out to her scouts that with those qualities, Katniss would have made a good Girl Scout.
The girls planned to talk to the principal and after school activities coordinator at Rosa Parks Middle School, where they all attend. They expected the main obstacle would be the cost of the equipment but were prepared to do some fundraising.
Instead, they were basically shut down.
“I don’t understand why they said no, since it is a great experience for everybody, and it’s a lot safer than other sports like football and cheerleading,” Abramowitz said.
The girls did some online research and found out that it does exist in a few county schools, and one school, Rocky Hill Middle School, even has an archery team.
“All MCPS secondary schools have the option to provide instruction in tactical target games like archery to meet standards outlined in the curriculum,” Montgomery County Public Schools spokeswoman Gboyinde Onijala said. “In the past, voluntary training has been provided on archery instruction for secondary education physical education teachers. Archery equipment is approved and available for purchase and instructional use in MCPS middle and high schools.”
Onijala said at least 21 county middle schools provide archery instruction. While most high schools do not use archery as a means for teaching tactical target games, Watkins Mill High School does provide archery instruction.
The girls’ online research led them to the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP), which promotes international-style target archery as part of the in-school curriculum, to improve educational performance and participation in the shooting sports among students in grades 4-12.
The organization provides free certified training for teachers, and helps the programs secure standardized equipment through their reduced-cost program and by helping to identify additional funding sources.
Lou Compton, the Maryland NASP coordinator, said the program works with schools in 47 states, including 62 in Maryland. Rocky Hill Middle School is the only Montgomery County school affiliated with NASP.
“More and more are coming on board every day,” he said. “In 2012, we exposed over 2,055,000 kids to NASP archery classes during their school day, which is bigger than Little League baseball. And, we did that with a perfect safety record.”
The scouts have set up a petition and even attended the NASP tournament in Hagerstown last weekend to get support. Thus far, they have about 300 signatures. They are going door to door, approaching classmates, and contacting friends and family through email and Facebook to garner support.
By the end of April, they plan to print out their petition and meet with Rosa Parks staff and MCPS officials to present their case again.
If it doesn’t work out this year, Levy said one of the girls might continue to pursue it for her Gold Award.
“It’s more about the experience,” Levy said. “They are trying to make a change, but it doesn’t even have to be successful for the girls to learn something that they can use in the future.”
To sign the petition, go to www.ipetitions.com/petition/archery/.