“Wisdom is a blaze, kindled by a leaping spark.” — Plato
“A spark is a little thing, yet it may kindle the world.” — Martin Farquhar Tupper
Spark Arts is an enrichment program based in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn for children aged 5 and older. At Spark, we celebrate nature and cultural traditions through a holistic blend of artistic expression, culture study, mindfulness practice, outdoor adventure and play. Our hope is to spark in our children a sense of wonder and appreciation for all life on earth. We believe that each child, when inspired, has the creative force for positive impact in the world.
Spark is a creative arts enrichment program that explores various cultures and traditions from around the world and fosters children’s love of nature through outdoor activity, play, and art projects. We encourage an environment of curious inquiry, inspired creativity, harmonious exchange amongst peers, and deep connection to nature. First started as a summer program, Spark has now expanded to become an all year after school and weekend program. We founded our program in 2017. Click here to learn more about our teachers.
Cultural Study Through the Arts
Spark Arts uses creative art projects to introduce students to the rich traditions of the world, including the customs, lifestyles, festivals, architecture, beliefs and myths of different cultures. Some of our previously run projects have been inspired by the following traditions and crafts: Celtic leatherwork, Chinese papermaking, Spanish and Grecian mosaics, Indonesian batik, Cambodian shadow puppetry, Medieval European illuminated manuscripts, Japanese Suminagashi marbling on fabric, Inuit winter hood sewing, Aztec stamp design, Japanese calligraphy, Mexican huichol beadwork, Dakota Hoop and Arrow Game, Egyptian hieroglyphic art on papyrus, Indian Madhubani painting, Japanese Sumi-E painting, European bookbinding techniques, Lenape leather embroidery, Tibetan jewelry making, Peruvian gourd art, Indian rangoli design, Japanese sashiko embroidery.
We also look closely at architecture from around the world and draw inspiration from some of these traditional methods of building. Some of the many sites and structures that we have discussed have included Borobudur temple in Indonesia, Scandinavian stave churches and sod roof homes, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Mongolian yurts, Haudenosaunee longhouses, Bhutanese dzongs, Japanese Zen gardens, Saharan bedouin tents, and Moroccan mosques.
Nature study and appreciation in Prospect Park
We believe that connection to nature is an integral part of leading a healthy human life and we observe that children grow in confidence, joy, and peace of mind when given access to meaningful experiences in nature. Spark classes explore off-the-beaten-path forest trails and hidden wild sanctuaries in our 526 acre backyard of Prospect Park to give urban children a chance to feel entirely immersed in nature and apart from city life. Through hands on experience, we reintroduce children to the lost art of plant identification, survival skills, and traditional natural crafting techniques from around the world.
During our classes, we develop skills to confidently and safely identify plants that offer edible, medicinal and practical benefits. We also introduce the folkloric value of these plants and how they were regarded by different world cultures. Some valuable plants that our students have discovered in our environment include: mugwort, plantain, walnut, elder, garlic mustard, jewelweed, rose hips, hawthorn, sassafras. We also learn respectful and sustainable practices for foraging in the wild.
In our classes, we have plenty of opportunities to craft using natural materials. Some of our creations have included woven baskets and trays, tree bark containers, and egg tempera and watercolor paints made from found natural pigments.
In addition to learning about medicinal and edible plant benefits, we also teach children basic survival skills and ancestral skills in order to build up self reliance and confidence in the wild. Some of the classes that we have run have focused on the following topics: obtaining potable water in the wild, setting up a quick shelter, creating a fishing net and fishing hooks out of foraged materials, making a strong cordage from organic materials, making a duck decoy from grasses, making a stone hammer or cutting tool, processing clay from soil, and making adhesives from pine sap.
Where classes are held
Our indoor classroom is a spacious room in the historic Brooklyn Society For Ethical Culture (BSEC) at 53 Prospect Park West in Park Slope Brooklyn, directly across from Prospect Park. For outdoor classes, we meet in Prospect Park.