Go Fly a Kite

Kids playing with kites in Kabul, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Vanessa R. Bowman/Released)

Children in  many cultures around the world build and fly kites. They make for wonderful interdisciplinary — and worldly — afterschool projects.

Kites can be used to demonstrate math concepts, such as symmetry, surface area, ratios, and angles, as well as scientific principles like lift.

Kite flying is a sport in some cultures, for example, in Afghanistan. In other places, kite flying is associated with a holiday, like Basant in South Asia. Challenge young learners to research where and when kite flying is popular.

Books can help young people relate to the passion for kite flying around the world. Read Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, set in Afghanistan, with older students. The Kite Fighters, by Linda Sue Park, is set in fifteenth century Korea and The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCaughrean, set in late 13th century China, are appropriate for younger children. The Roxhill Elementary School in Settle used the latter two books to figure out how to build Korean and Chinese kite prototypes. They tested their plans and built kites to fly.

There are a number of web-based resources that help put kite flying in historical, mathematical, and scientific context. 

The Drachen Foundation features educational materials on kite-flying traditions in Cambodia, China, Guatamala, India, Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand.

PBS.org's feature on Benjamin Franklin includes his famous kite-making plan. But remember, history teaches us not to fly a kite during an electrical storm!

How to Make a Fly a Kite features detailed plans for nearly 20 types of kites. They offer great practice for understanding angles and symmetry, and the mechanics of building and flying a kite.

Have you used kites in your afterschool program? Tell other readers about it.