The Virtual Kite Zoo
Kites in the Classroom.
If you are a teacher, or a leader of any sort of childrens' or youth group,
and if you work with children or young people of any age from pre-school
upwards, you may like to consider a kite-building project.
Quite regularly, someone posts a query to rec.kites saying something like
"Where can I find plans to make kites with some kids?" There are numerous
kite plans on the net ranging from extreemly sketchy and suitable only for
experienced kite builders, to highly detailed and suitable for a range of
ages and abilities. To save you a lot of time downloading different plans,
here is a list grouped according to suitability.
- In a science class, kite building can demonstrate basic aerodynamic
principles such as the aerofoil and the dihedral, and factors affecting
stability of flight.
- In art classes, kites can be decorated with paints or crayons, or
various other techniques such as marbling.
- In craft or sewing classes, kite-making can be used as an introduction to
machine sewing and appliqué, and can be used to draw boys into a field
traditionally dominated by girls.
- In childrens' groups, kite-making can be included as a useful creative
activity with the reward, at the end, of a fun-thing to take home. It can be
geared to almost any age and ability with greater or lesser amounts of
preparation and supervision.
All paper kite plans lend themselves to decoration, which may form a
significant part of the aim of the activity. They are also useful in developing
basic manual skills such as use of scissors and sticky tape etc.
- Uncle Jonathan's
20 Kids - 20 Kites - 20 Minutes
is a design especially aimed at classrooms and childrens' groups. The main
requirements for each kite are a sheet of A4 paper and an 8" barbeque
shishkabab stick. It is suitable for pre-school upwards, depending on the
amount of assistance given.
- John Staplehurst's
Basic Sled Kite
also uses barbeque sticks, with an A3 sheet of paper. Children from about age
7 should have little trouble, and it could be used for younger children with
a bit more assistance, for example, with tying the bridle and flying line.
Paper Kite plan
is given by Merlito Crespo. This doesn't even need the barbeque
sticks, though he does suggest a toothpick for making the holes to
attach the bridle (but a sharp pencil would do!)
Sun Kite, the
Sugar Glider Kite
are both very simple, using drinking straws for spars, but will both need
greater care in cutting out than the previous kites.
Plastic Bag and Foil Gift-wrap Kites
Polythene sheeting makes a good kite sail, but can't be decorated as easily
as paper except with permanent markers, which may not be suitable for
younger children who may get them on their clothes.
However, different colours are available in the form of supermarket bags.
The "crinkley" ones are best; they are made of high-density polythene which
is less stretchy.
Mylar foil gift-wrap makes attractive kite material, and is available in many
designs and colours, including holographic patterns. Its main disadvantage is
its tendency for tears to propagate unchecked.
- Kel Krosschell's
Mini-Sled is made out of a
plastic bag and 2 drinking straws. Make sure you get the non-bendy type
of straw. (It seems they instantly went out of fashion as soon as I
started looking for them, but you'll find them out there somewhere!) Kel
suggests heat-tacking the straws to the polythene, but an easier and safer
method with children is to use several small slivers of double sided
adhesive tape. That's the only part that might challenge the dexterity
of 7 - 11 year olds.
- Again from Kel Krosschell, the
One Square Inch Microkite
takes some dexterity and so would prove tricky for children under 11, but can
be built in only a few minutes. Basically a miniature Eddy kite
(what's an Eddy??) it nicely
demonstrates the principal of the dihedral.
- A traditional box kite can be made from these
plans, with a
very limited budget. A large kitchen garbage bag and around 18ft of
dowelling are the main requirements. Age range is around 9 - 12.
- If you took the construction method and materials from the above
box kite, you could adapt Carolyn Weir's
for a dancing cube - a real
fun kite to fly!
- Ford Middle School's
is an easily made version of Bell's tetrahedral kite
(Bell's what??). Normally
considered a fairly formidable proposition to build, this version uses
drinking straws for spars and contains many photos to make all the
steps absolutely clear. Although aimed at 7th grade students, it could
be used with older or younger children, adjusting the adult supervision
should be within the grasp of an 11 year old. Flying a fighter
is quite different from flying normal single line kites -
great fun for a beginner but with enormous scope for the development of
skill. (More on fighters.)
- The circoflex is the
ultimate no-sew kite, which would make a good technology project for a
15 year old. Athough it will take a certain amount of patience and care
to build, the results are stunning. Anthony Thyssen has
plans and lots of info and photos.
Picnic Plate Kites
- If you really want a spectacle, think about making a
out of 30 or so disposable foam picnic plates! You can get children to
decorate them with felt-tips or paint before stringing them all
- Using foam meat-trays, you can make a
kite, which can likewise be decorated.
Ripstop Nylon Kites
The final category is suitable for 13 - 16 year olds in developing basic
skills with a sewing machine. Some of them can be decorated with
Ripstop nylon, fibreglass rod, and other kite-making materials are
available from kiteshops everywhere, many of which are happy to deal
mail-order. In the UK, consult the
KSGB address list,
or elsewhere, try the
AKA and search their
list of member merchants.
- Buck Childer's Ram-Air Pocket Sled is very easily made but long
since disappeared from the
Internet. Fortunately I managed to save a copy to my
I've made several as Christmas presents, each
appliquéd with the recipient's initial. No woodwork is required since
it has no spars.
- A rok
is easily made (what's a rok?),
consisting of a hexagonal sail and three (dowel or
fibreglass) spars. Purely as a sewing project, it would hardly be taxing, but
it has a large flat surface that can be used for appiqué in as
sophisticated a pattern as you like. Charlie Charlton's
plan is very comprehensive.
plan is equally comprehensive. This
consists of a patchwork of 22 panels sewn together to represent a gemstone,
and looks great in the sky.
- Dave Ellis'
Kites, kids and education
page is well worth exploring.
- Glenn Davison's
Kites in the Classroom
contains a wealth of material, whether you want to do a school project
or a youth group activity, including 14 simple kite plans.
- And if you really want a professional justification for introducing
kites into your curriculum to show to your head teacher, go and see Peter
Kites in the
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Copyright © 1999 Philip Le Riche