Kites make a terrific classroom theme to wind up the year, or for summer school.
Kites were used before written history in many places in the Pacific, from the Solomon Islands to New Zealand. Archaeological evidence and oral history suggest that kites were used for fishing and for ceremonial purposes in Malaysia, Indonesia, and among the Maori of New Zealand. But it is in China that we find the first record of kites, in about 200 BC. Kites were made from bamboo and silk, and were used for military purposes from measuring distances to communication by coded signals to carrying gunpowder — paintings even show people flying on kites. Buddhist monks brought kites to Japan in the 7th century, and they were in use in Korea and India by that time as well.
Kite fighting, in which players attempt to catch and bring down one another’s kites, is a popular sport in Thailand and in India. Kite fighting can now be found around the world.
Marco Polo brought kites to Europe, and by the 1700s they were in use for scientific study of temperature, flight, and other matters — including Ben Franklin’s famous electrical experiments. Numerous experiments were made with the idea of using kites for human flight, and in the early 20th century one man actually flew across the English Channel with a kite.
The combination of serious purpose and fun makes kites ideal for the end of the school year.
Kite bulletin boards can be easy. Let each student post his or her best paper with a kite cutout in the corner for a nice wrap-up activity. The students reflect on the things they’ve learned this year, you have your classroom refreshed for the end of the year.
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On the other hand, actual kites make fantastic bulletin boards. Drape it over some blue paper. Have students make their own, and use those, or carefully pin up a ready-made kite and you can go fly it over summer vacation.
Slogans for kite bulletin boards:
- “Up, Up, and Away!”
- “Flying High”
- “Reaching New Heights”
- “Taking Flight”
Set up a classroom library with books about kites:
- Kites for Everyone: How to Make and Fly Them
- Kite Flying by Grace Lin
- Curious George and the Kite
- The Emperor and the Kite by Jane Yolen and Ed Young
- Ben Franklin and His First Kite by Stephen Krensky
- Kites Sail High by Ruth Heller — a book about verbs
- The Legend of the Kite: A Story of China
- The Dragon Kite by Nancy Luenn
Get some kites in the students’ hands:
- Instructions on how to make a kite bring your lesson from the ordinary to the sublime!
- Instructions for making kites from garbage bags or old shower curtains make a point about recycling.
- Big Wind Kites has a kitemaking video to show how to make easy, tiny kites. Hang these from the ceiling to finish up your kite room.
- Advanced kite makers can try these special shapes.
- Print, cut, and assemble beautiful Japanese koi kites from The Toymaker.
You can bring in some nice science lessons as well:
- NASA’s site on kite science looks at the physics of kite flying.
- Rough Science introduces Newton and Bernoulli.
- Wired Science reports an interesting idea for new kite-based technology.
- The Science of Flying a Kite looks at ways to apply the science to successful kite flying.
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