Archery: Using Media To Get Kids Outside, Into STEM, and More

Aug. 20, 2016 Update Adding this report on the acceleration of archery as a sport for young girls, from the resource rich data gleaned from the fabulous Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

Also loved how STEM and physics entered into the 2016 Rio Olympics special interest stories, even the sponsored ones like the science of swimming via Twitter hashtag #HumanEnergyStories. 

Update Feb. 14, 2015 Used a “Groupon” to try out a fun mother/daughter archery lesson, alas, it was INdoors. Nevertheless, great physics fun and STEM sports that will have us both coming back for more! Maybe even for “Galentine’s Day!”  Look out, Cupid.

Original Post Jan. 1, 2014 Hollywood seems to have a fascination with archery lately that has turned the sport white hot. Movies with characters like Merida in Brave, Katniss in Hunger Games, The Avengers, The Hobbit, and stalwart classics like Robin Hood and Disney spin-offs like Keira Knightley’s Princess of Thieves add to the appeal.

There are also real life “sheroes” like actress Geena Davis who took aim at the Olympics and ended up as an archery semi-finalist, and many more arrow-wielding stars than I recalled until viewing Archery in Film (fun video after the jump). Thankfully, the archery zeitgeist extends way beyond blitzing the marketplace with kiddie toys and opportunistic merchandising…

Part of the allure is the powerful confidence, grace, and beauty that extends from the release of the bow to the mark (and as many have pointed out, the sheroes wielding those bows evoke similar qualities) but to me, it speaks to a much larger potential…How to use media in fun fresh ways to get kids outside and engaged holistically in full mind, body, spirit with nature.

For a generation of youth raised on short bursts of media that play out like popcorn in the brain, there’s a huge opportunity for recasting the focus onto archery’s concentration, discipline, control and finesse. It’s not only a perfect counterbalance for the notion of partial attention deficit, there are lessons of safety and responsibility,  teaching tools from math to physics and a sense of connectedness with nature, history, and the environment at outdoor ranges.

The media groundswell is a win for the sport itself too, as CEO of USA Archery and three-time Olympian Denise Parker reports, ”membership has more than doubled in the past two years” since the Hunger Games have been catching fire:

“…It is inevitable that the wider the pyramid of people the greater chance you will have champions come through the ranks. It raises the whole level overall.

In a few years we will hopefully have Olympic champions who fell in love with the sport through these movies. It is very exciting.” –Denise Parker, USA Archery

Seguing out of the shadows of summer camp activities and into a full blown resurgence at public parks and private ranges, archery is just the tip of a trend that has the potential to play out with positive influences if producers would leverage the power of the pop culture zeitgeist for GOOD. (Heads up on ‘eww’ violence in media/use of archery in film below)

What if we used popular media trends

to springboard into multiple solutions?

I’ve written before about how movies, online games, apps, and screen time can be leveraged as purposeful bridges to outdoor play and fitness via partnerships and promos…

I also feel there’s strong potential to embed bigger health messages into prime time hit TV shows to educate en masse (my favorite research shows how Grey’s Anatomy debunked myths and reinforced prevention of HIV/AIDS via health education)

But this archery surge makes me think of how we could specifically wield the goodness quotient of the sport’s popularity if we targeted the ‘trouble spots’ where progress has been impeded, like with gender barriers in STEM studies (science, technology, engineering and math) as we work to encourage girls and bridge the persistent and widening gaps…

What if we use archery’s popularity to solve math problems using velocity and gravity and physics principles with scenes from the movie as springboards?

Kerry Cue, who writes the excellent Mathspig blog (archery screenshot at left) did just that, offering a free, fun “Hunger Games Maths series” using stats, probabilities and movie snippets that use innovation for education in amazingly clever ways.

Extending the STEM theme and math ideas to mass media networks…

What if we cast an über-resourceful female into a remake of the MacGyver’ hit TV series, as she uses her STEM skills to make something out of nothing with each episode, imparting knowledge along the way? (think of all the new forensics students jump-starting their career paths with CSI!)

What if Hollywood embraced a lead film or series character modeled off of the “black girls code” sheroes in real life to apply “makers” magic to creative, solution-based design? Or within a show that already exists?

What if STEM portrayals were “More X-files Agent Scully and Less Big Bang Theory” with women in science stereotypes?

I recently came across some like-minded souls via social media who are running “The What If Conference” in March 2014.

Their site describes their purpose is to “ask questions that matter and do something about them” which resonates strongly with me.

Of course now I can’t stop thinking about “what ifs” to add to the conversational hashtag on Twitter…So I’ll keep on with my ‘what ifs’

“What if…” we extend this line of thinking beyond STEM to tackle other persistent problems in the national dialogue?

What if…we use media to create a STEM reality TV concept using math and measurement in Project Runway style as we did with this all girls teens team of eco-racecar builders in this post I titled “Project Raceway?”

Here’s more about the Granite Falls High School ShopGirls eco-team making math relevant as they built and tweaked their design for the Shell Eco-Marthon.

What if …we shift out of STEM and look toward embedding health literacy and ‘ewww’ chem cuisine/junk food versus ‘ahh’ whole food cues into kids’ media plotlines to impart wellness and combat childhood obesity?? (we have a whole hands-on counter-marketing game that does this in a fun format called “Dare to Compare: A Gross Out Game for Good Nutrition”)

What if…we use the hit Disney/Pixar film Frozen to teach kids about climate change, eco-literacy and winter topics? Or even just to inspire kids to get outside in the winter to snow sled, ice-skate or play hockey amidst our culture of ‘nature deficit disorder?’

What if we seed nature immersive experiences by pitching a media show set with a forestry location?

Or a national park service themed sitcom or drama? Or a teen/summer camp ensemble cast? Or an eco-warrior race against time spinoff?

Or ANY depiction of a fun wilderness and wildlife experience with coolness cache that celebrates the outdoors with respect instead of belittling it? (Right now we have media that mocks nature in “tween TV” and throws nature under the bus in Toys R Us commercials…)

What if…we change the channel of media influence and promote the positive?

See where I’m going with this? The options are endless…

There’s so much potential to take a ‘small and mighty’ niche area of interest (like archery) and set it up to purposely ‘catch fire’ and ignite enthusiasm with mass appeal. As Denise Parker points out about the influence of mass media blockbusters on her own sport:

“There is just a different feeling around the archery community…Previously all our attention was focused on maximizing the small window of opportunity around the Olympics every four years because that was the only time there was any television coverage…With these developments people see archery in a different way.

People are coming to ranges on dates, for parties or just to hang out. It is very exciting and in time I am confident we will see the impact in future Olympics.–Denise Parker”

Just imagine how we could use the power of media for positive change beyond archery to target behavioral cues for health and wellness instead of the bottom dwelling sludgefest that media perpetuates and reinforces in the name of ‘edgy.’

THAT would be a bullseye. Fwooosh!

Visual credits: Katniss Everdeen photo via Lionsgate, archery/math screenshot from Mathspig blog, archery target:



  1. Received this email from none other than our geek/chic/tech guru Dr. James Schuyler aka Sky:

    “Amy, you need to get another archery shot. That photo of Jennifer Lawrence with the bow is incredibly wrong and in fact dangerous. She doesn’t have the arrow notched correctly at the center of the bowstring (it’s way high) and she has her index finger over the arrow, so when she lets go of the bowstring the feathers on the arrow are going to neatly slice her finger. I have seen it happen and it’s bloody. Perhaps they have a better photo that shows her using the bow correctly?”

    So on behalf of the LionsGate PR/photog folks who no doubt did an override on the technical directors on set…be hereby advised! “Do not try this at home”

  2. Archery has become increasingly popular among children. There are 8 year olds who are shooting better than 30 year olds! When you ask a child why they like archery so much, they tell you it’s FUN and they love hitting the mark dead on! As you stated, it’s a great for concentration, discipline, control and finesse for these young ones. Great post yet again!

  3. Thanks, yes, I really like the physics side of it too…so much to learn with hands-on sports…

  4. P.S. I keep thinking gun lobbyists are going to ‘target’ this post and try to make the same point, which I’ll first strike against and swiftly say, while skeet and shooting ranges might apply as an outdoor/precision sport, given the societal costs of access/violence/fatalities/crime a corollary does not remotely apply. (you don’t see archery enthusiasts randomly taking out innocent school kids) ugh.

  5. John Smith says

    This is great know Using Media To Get Kids Outside. This must be helpful for those who learn archery.

    Thank you Amy Jussel 🙂

  6. Great post. Actually, archery is a game that helps a kid in multiple ways. This post is very helpful for them who are keenly interested with archery. Thanks a lot for your informative post.

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