Morgan Walker wore the wide smile of success in the hallways of Rose Hill Middle School last week. She had just scored big in one of her favorite subjects.
"I got my first bull's-eye," the sixth-grader said as she left her physical education class. "I think I like archery more than any sport."
Rose Hill is one of about 150 Kansas school districts in the National Archery in the Schools Program.
Teachers see it as a chance for students to improve self-esteem, build enthusiasm for school and learn a hobby they can enjoy the rest of their lives.
"It's a great program for a lot of reasons," said Debbie Funke, Rose Hill physical education teacher. "The majority of the kids really like it. It's good to see a lot of these kids feel some success."
Roy Grimes, national program coordinator, said the concept began in 21 Kentucky schools in 2002. Last year about 1.2 million students in about 5,500 schools in 46 states and five countries participated.
The in-school shoots are regimented. Instructors are specially trained and follow a common routine.
In Funke's Wednesday classes, students split into two groups. One waited against a wall while others grabbed bows from a rack and stepped to a firing line.
Step by step, they followed her instructions. Arrows were always pointed down range. A large, arrow-proof backdrop stopped errant shots.
Bows were placed back on the rack before the students retrieved the arrows. All walked back and carefully put the arrows in quivers along the line.
Lori Heger, a physical education teacher at Maize Middle School, said behavioral problems within her classes have been rare.
"They know that if a kid acts up they're done," she said. "We don't have kids sitting out. Most love it that much."
That all schools use the same good equipment helps with the program's success.
Youth-sized compound bows come with cables and cams that help even the smallest kids comfortably draw and shoot. That enables the program to serve fourth-graders through high school.
"You don't have to be tall, strong or fast to have success in archery," Grimes said. "It's for kids of all sizes and backgrounds."
For some, it's their best success at school.
"It is fun to watch a kid who's never gone out for a sport or who's struggled with sports come in and get a bull's-eye," Funke said. "I love to see the look on their faces."
But getting to that look takes some money. Archery kits, which include bows, arrows, targets, backstop and more, cost about $3,000.
The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, the state agency that administers the program, offers some funding.
Some schools share equipment. Private groups and businesses have donated funds to help local schools.
Funke is concerned that tight school budgets could keep many from this year's state championship in Hays.
Grimes said the May national competition could have about 5,700 kids, making it the largest archery tournament in history.
But the program's main focus remains within the schools, where to some simply getting to shoot a bow is as celebrated as a championship.
"For a lot of these kids it's the first time they've gotten to do what they've seen other kids doing," said Judy Flaming, an instructor and adaptive physical education teacher at Newton High School.
Despite students with some severe physical challenges, she's never had a student who didn't enjoy archery. She's had students in wheelchairs shoot well on their own. A few have needed assistance.
"One student was blind so we helped point them in the right direction," Flaming said. "They'd shoot then we'd take them up and they'd use their hands to see close to the center of the target their arrows had landed. We see a lot of really big smiles."