by Colleen Blaine
Archery is a common physical education (P.E.) activity taught at K-12 schools; however, students with physical limitations are often unable to participate. The A.R.C.H.E.R (Accessible Recreational Creations to Highlight Educational Reach) Design Works Creative Inquiry project led by Meredith Owen, graduate student, and Dr. John DesJardins, both in the Department of Bioengineering, is working to make archery accessible for all. The team collaborates with Anderson School District 4 to allow elementary school students with physical limitations to fully participate in the archery program.
The A.R.C.H.E.R. team works with P.E. teachers and Amber Reeves, a physical therapist in the district, in order to create adaptive archery equipment. By using engineering solutions to devise accessible bow-and-arrow prototypes, the team gives students with physical limitations the chance to succeed in physical education. Each design is made to fit a specific student’s need. “An engineer’s job is to make things accessible whether it’s transportation, or refrigeration or sports equipment,” DesJardins said.
First, the team determines the range of the student’s abilities, from range of motion to strength capabilities. Then, they design the device and determine the best storage mechanism for that piece of equipment. The team has created 10 variations of these archery devices primarily to aid elementary school students. This Creative Inquiry team has truly made an impact in the district, thus far assisting 20 students in joining their peers in archery.
These devices allow students autonomy—no assistance is required. “[These are] lasting devices and they [create] lasting impacts for students,” Owen said. The ability for these elementary students to participate in a regular P.E. class creates a sense of freedom and excitement they might not have felt before.
There are several success stories attributed to this Creative Inquiry project. Jordan Martin, a freshman bioengineering major, and her teammates experienced a special relationship with one student in particular, an 11-yearold with Becker’s Muscular Dystrophy. “At first, [the student] told us that he did not like archery anymore. A few weeks later, we visited him again with the stand the group created last semester and some ideas to help him generate more force. After a few shots, he hit the target! It was his first time ever doing that. He told us that he likes archery now and can’t wait for us to come back,” Martin said.
When student are unable to participate in a core class such as physical education, they can feel alienated or discouraged. This Creative Inquiry project has made a lasting impact on students in this local district by creating devices that give the gift of independence. The A.R.C.H.E.R. team has shown that anyone can shoot a bow and arrow, some just need a little extra help.
Barbara J. Speziale