Tag Archives: archery

15 year-old Georgia Roberts takes a bow as a national qualifier

One day of practice at the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge led to a year of success for 15 year-old Georgia Roberts, a White Knoll High School athlete and qualifier for archery National’s. Roberts began shooting with the Refuge Complex Administrative Support Assistant Stacie Allison four years ago, justifying that one day at a National Wildlife Refuge can spark genuine interest and passion in the life of a teenager.

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“I had always seen the movies and the cool archers on tv and thought, ‘oh that looks pretty cool,’” Roberts began to tell me, “but I never actually tried it until that day.”

It was 2010 and Roberts was staying with her grandparents during a hot, summer month close to the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge. Beverley, Georgia’s grandmother, had a close relationship to Stacie Allison at the complex, and asked if Allison would be willing to give Georgia and her cousin Tessa a lesson, too. “Georgia was a natural and caught on right away” said Allison, “An impressive display of caring from someone that young.”

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This September, Roberts will be going into her Sophomore year of high school and into her second year on the high school archery team. In March, the Archery team at White Knoll High School qualified as the only public school to compete in Nationals this year.

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Unfortunately, due to large transportation costs and rising scheduling issues, the team was unable to compete. “We have to raise money on our own. To do that, we’ve hosted tournaments.” Most of the financial success from the fundraisers come from parents, family, and friends.

Roberts has not since visited the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge, but still recalls that first day of practice perfectly. Roberts is the epitome of how just one day, one session, and one hit can spark an uncharted passion in people of all ages.

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“I guess I haven’t seen [the Hunger Games] in a while, but I bet I could critique everything she was doing wrong if I watched it again” said Roberts about The Hunger Games series’ protagonist Katniss Everdeen. She continued, “I do like Hawkeye though, he’s pretty cool.”

The Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge consists of three refuges: The Refuge Complex is located at the Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck refuge, while the Occoquan Bay refuge and the Featherstone refuge complete the remainder. To get involved with a National Wildlife Refuge complex program click here.

Archery in Philadelphia: BYO Action Star

Have you ever seen an archer in an action movie and thought, “I bet I would look really cool doing that”? Turns out you’re not alone. Although archery is one of the world’s oldest forms of hunting, it’s still one of the most dreamed about pastimes, especially in the greater Philadelphia area. That’s why we stepped up at America’s first urban refuge, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, and started an open-to-the-public archery program, with an overwhelmingly positive response.

Back in April, the refuge staff took an all-day training course to become USA Archery level 1 certified. This training included archery safety, form, and an overall “how-to” for teaching methods. We figured that by becoming certified we could offer a fun way for students to learn a new skill that fits in with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s mission.

The rest of that school year was a blast. We taught archery to over 200 Philadelphia students, most of whom had never done it before. Just so you can picture a student’s face while trying archery for the first time, imagine seeing your favorite action star in real life, and then realizing you ARE that action star.

Public programming for refuge visitors came that summer, with two pilot classes titled “Youth Archery” and “Adult Archery”. These two classes were each an hour long, and were a basic introduction to the sport. We also scheduled a couple events called “Pop-Up Archery” where our full range was set up for the public to receive personalized coaching from refuge staff on a walk-up basis. This way, visitors could spend as much or little time as they wanted on the range.

Posing with their targets; Rangers with one of our school groups after an archery lesson

The morning after I came into work from these events being posted on social media, I had received over 170 emails inquiring about registration. When I checked the Facebook event, over 1.9 thousand people were interested. Although there were only 19 spots in each class, I was THRILLED that I could tell so many people to come back for Pop-Up Archery. And boy, did they ever. The next Pop-Up event we had almost 200 people line up to try archery, most of them for the very first time.

I’ve been living in Philadelphia for the past eight years; I know from experience that there aren’t too many places to try out archery. Most clubs in or around the city exist for serious archers and there’s usually some sort of fee for classes. I always believed trying archery for the first time — especially when you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing— was incredibly intimidating.

When spring rolls around, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum will offer free archery programming to anyone over the age of 10 that wants to try it. There will be a ranger right next to each person for their very first shot, so it’s always a personalized, safe, and engaging experience.

To me, the most powerful part of the archery program, isn’t the archery itself, but it’s connecting people to a green space often times they didn’t know existed. “Wow, I didn’t know all of this was out here” is a phrase I hear quite often. Now, I get to see those same faces over and over again. There are dozens of kids and adults I see at every archery event, that I see now on the refuge hiking, bird watching or riding their bikes. Most of the rangers know them by name. It’s rewarding to know that our community has the opportunity to experience the outdoors through being their own archery action star at John Heinz NWR.

An entertaining way to learn!

If you’ve been meaning to brush up on those archery skills or your knowledge about wildlife trafficking, today might serve as some inspiration. Hear from a volunteer at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia, Denny J. Padilla Rivera, about how an archery program and a lesson about endangered species at the refuge inspired youth.

While volunteering, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with birders, tourists, scientists, wildlife aficionados and students. We offer a variety of programs for people to enjoy the outdoors such as environmental education, hunting, fishing, summer camps, public programs and more.

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Students learning archery at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia.

Warmer temperatures can always translate to outdoor activities and there are some students who have already started to take advantage. The first group I worked with this year were students from Pocomoke Middle School. Aubrey Hall, a park ranger at the refuge, and I worked with 10 kids and four adults, learning about endangered species and archery during our fun and educational afternoon.

Aubrey taught the basics of archery, which includes posture, safety measurements, and the benefits of the sport. I discussed endangered species, the human impact on those animals and what we can do to reduce our impact. Students were able to see and touch several endangered species trafficking items that were confiscated, such as zebra hide, African elephant ivory carving, cobra’s skin wallet, black coral necklace, sea turtle bracelets and more.

Learn more about what we do to stop wildlife trafficking

They learned about the work the Service does to warn travelers about buying these objects abroad and how the agency works to stop illegal wildlife trade. I could tell it was an eye-opening experience for the students to see the effects of wildlife trafficking. “I always wanted to see a zebra, but not like this,” one student said.

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The target after a few practice rounds.

Meanwhile, the archery group was positively competitive against their teachers and each other, but still cheered each other on every time someone got close to the bull’s eye. The lesson for this group: the importance of strength and exercise! The students quickly realized how much strength and focus the sport of archery takes.

At the end of the day, I knew the students learned some great lessons and better understood the work of the Service. That is enough for me to continue to lead useful and meaningful activities for visitors, connect people with the outdoors and get more people involved with wildlife conservation.