Learning Survival Skills in Williamsburg

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Kids build their own bows and arrows at L'Ecole des Beaux Arts. Photo: Sara Moffat

Kids build their own bows and arrows at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts. Photo: Sara Moffat

Four prospective warriors gather in a line, dressed in uniform, facing a bullseye. They shift from foot to foot, impatient and ready to fashion a real bow and arrow out of found wood, and then aim and shoot at a target. When asked who the most famous archer in history is, they all answer “Me, Me!” Their self-confidence is unwavering. Let the Hunger Games Begin!

Actually, this is no movie set (or even the forest.) We’re in a bright, airy loft space in Williamsburg where my son has been invited by Sara Moffat, owner of L’Ecole des Beaux Arts, to participate in their “Make Your Own Bow and Arrow” class. Oh, and didn’t I mention these warriors are only ages four through seven–and yes, they are about to learn how to make and shoot real weapons.

When we first arrived, I briefly thought this might be the kind of class that parents love and children find boring. But that’s because I didn’t realize that a la The Dangerous Book for Boys and The Daring Book for Girls, the kids would actually be really participating. First, Sara gave all the kids straight sticks (which had been lovingly found by her in McCarren Park) and a variety of paint, markers and tape to decorate with. Everyone jumped into the experience. Next, an array of feathers were passed around for the choosing. The kids learned how to splice and glue the feather spine to one end of the stick and sharpen the other end with a pencil sharpener. Each child also got a real arrowhead to take home. When Sara demonstrated how to bend a branch into the bow and tie it off, everyone (including the adults) was riveted.

The pride was universal over the next half hour, as the kids learned the art of archery with their own actual bow and arrow. Although there was a general silliness overtaking the class, there was always an emphasis on safety. Sara’s patience as a teacher was remarkable. The most impressive thing though, was that you could see in real time a skill being learned. My son preferred throwing the entire bow at the target, but another 4-year-old was hitting the bullseye by himself by the end of the class. Another day of practice, and these kids could definitely fend for themselves in the woods!

This unusual class comes at a steeper price than your average playspace ($75 for a one-and-a-half hour class), but these hand-crafted “objets d’art” are seriously heirloom quality. We’ve actually hung our son’s bow and arrow on his wall and probably would’ve spent more to purchase it at a high-end decor shop. Additionally, and most importantly, this experience was absolutely unique (especially in New York City), and will be remembered by my son for years to come–unlike the blur of playspaces and ball pits.

This spring, L’Ecole des Beaux Arts will open their own brick-and-mortar store/classroom space, selling fine art supplies, holding adult courses, and running the LDBA Children’s Conservatory. Upcoming classes include knot-tying, mask making and dyeing with flowers and the next bow and arrow class is March 15. And for summer, there’s Farm Camp, a 5-day camping expedition on a real working farm in Massachusetts, where kids 7 and up will learn to care for animals, identify plants, build fires, and of course, make art!  And for those who want to stay closer to home, there’s the LDBA Day Camp where kids will explore New York with off-the-beaten-path field trips and activities based on the arts.

L’Ecole des Beaux Arts is looking for teachers, artists, employees, volunteers to be part of the new space. For more information or investment opportunities, please contact ldbabrooklyn@gmail.com.

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