Feet set beneath her shoulders, body turned sideways from the target, left arm straight and high, right arm pulled back to her cheek. Nan Davenport squinted and let an arrow fly – directly into the center of the target.
“It makes me feel like Katniss,” she said. “It makes me feel outdoorsy, like one of those people that lives in the woods.”
The 10-year-old isn’t old enough to have read the books in “The Hunger Games” series or even seen the movies, but she said she admires the fictional heroine Katniss Everdeen for her wilderness survival skills and, of course, her mastery of archery.
Nan, who loves “being outside and exploring stuff,” joined her best friend, 10-year-old Lucy Mills Sammataro, and two dozen other elementary and middle school students this week at an archery and outdoor skills camp hosted by Heathwood Hall Episcopal School.
In addition to bow-and-arrow target practice, campers have spent a week fishing, canoeing, hiking, foraging and mountain biking, among other outdoor activities.
The camp is a way for children to learn by doing, said Stan Wood, director of Heathwood Hall’s PEAK program for outdoor education, which oversees the school’s summer adventure camps.
“It’s important for kids to be outdoors, and we’ve got the perfect environment here,” Wood said. “... It’s a nice alternative from sitting in their rooms playing video games.
“There’s probably an archery on the Wii, but this is real.”
Betsy Bradley sent her three sons to the camp because the family has enjoyed reading the “Ranger’s Apprentice” adventure book series. Inspired by the archery-themed books, her sons were “extremely excited” for what they considered a “mini-Ranger program,” she said.
Her 9-year-old son, Christopher, said he hopes that by improving his archery skills, he can help teach fellow members of his Cub Scout troop how to shoot, too. He’s learned so far that a proper stance helps to improve his aim.
By the third day of camp, very few arrows were straying off target. It’s a skill the children improve very quickly, Wood said.
“I think it’s fun,” said 11-year-old Ava Arnold. “The way you hold the bow, when you release it, it’s like you’re releasing energy at the target.”
Davenport’s mother, Hiller Davenport, said Heathwood’s summer adventure programs are a good way for children to experience “the lost art” of enjoying the outdoors.
“As they’re getting older, there are not as many activities the children do outside that keep them entertained, engaged and actually teach them about a way of life that we do not do as much,” Davenport said.
Calhoun McCullough said he’s enjoyed learning outdoor skills like archery and finding edible plants this week.
“I mean, you’re probably not going to get stuck in the wilderness, but it’s good to have those skills,” said Calhoun, 10. “I just like shooting arrows because I think it’s really fun to just practice and see how much better you can get.”
Ryan Shelley, 10, agreed: “Practice makes perfect.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s getting easier, but I would say I’m getting better at it,” he said.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.