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Design, Build and Test a Kite

Students will design and build their own kites. They will test the kites to see how well they fly. Then they will analyze the results of those tests to see how changes in measurements or the kite's dimensions affected its ability to fly.

PROCESS:

  1. Prior to conducting this activity, you may wish to make copies of the National Museum of American History's "Make Your Own Fish Kite" activity. You will also need to gather a variety of kite-making supplies.
  2. Draw a generic picture of a kite on the board. It should be diamond shaped with a cross in the middle and a long tail. Poll the class to see how many students have seen pictures of kites that look like this. Then encourage students to think about the last time they saw a kite. Did that kite look like the one you drew? If not, how was it different?
  3. Remind the class that, as the article pointed out, kites went through a developmental phase in the '80s and '90s. They got better as newer, lighter, stronger materials were being developed. That made it possible for designers to build new types of kites in all sorts of shapes.
  4. Give students a copy of the "Make Your Own Fish Kite" activity or have students conduct research to find a kite-making plan of their own. Provide the necessary supplies and give students time to design and create their own kites. Tell students that they can follow the instructions they found or they can make modifications. But warn them that each change they make could affect how well their kite can fly.

ASSESSMENT:

Once all kites are complete, invite students to put them to the test. Do some kites fly better than others? If so, challenge students to analyze their kites to figure out why. Encourage them to pay particular attention to any changes they made to the measurements or dimensions called for in their kite-making plans.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:

Grades 3-4:
Provide the necessary supplies and give each student a copy of the "Make Your Own Fish Kite" activity. Provide assistance as needed as students design and build their own kites.
Grades 5-6:
Provide supplies and give each student a copy of the "Make Your Own Fish Kite" activity. Challenge students to modify the instructions so the kite they create is half as big as the one called for in the instructions. Give students time to design and build their own kites.
Grades 7-8:
Divide the class into small groups. Instruct groups to conduct research to find a simple plan for making a kite. Provide the necessary supplies. Then encourage each group member to design and build his or her own kite.
Grades 9-10:
Divide the class into small groups. Instruct groups to conduct research to find a simple plan for making a kite. No two groups should follow the same plan. Provide the necessary supplies. Then encourage each group member to design and build his or her own kite. As students test their kites, challenge them to explain how changing the size or dimensions of a kite could affect its ability to fly.