Saturday, May 8, 2010


This past week we enjoyed studying the history of kites and kite-making.  Kites originated in China and spread to Indonesia, Japan, and on from there.  We discovered that kites were used to offer prayer requests up to the gods.  Certain symbols represented particular requests, such as a dragon for wealth and power or an egret for good luck. 

On September 9th, Chinese families celebrate The Double Ninth Festival (Ch'ing Yang), also called the Festival of Kites.  On this day, kite-flying is a symbol of rising higher and higher, being better and better at everything one does.  Chinese families enter this contest hoping to win first prize- a cow, second prize- a pig, or third prize- a sheep.  Unfortunately, after doing more research, we discovered that some contestants treat their strings with powdered glass.  The glass strings can cut the strings of other kites, causing them to fall.  We followed up the conversation by discussing sportsmanship, honesty, and fairness. 

The children showed interest in making their own kites.  Our year is winding down here, so we are not able to make kites in school.  If you would like to make your own kite at home, here are some directions found in the book Kites: Magic Wishes that Fly up to the Sky:

Supplies you'll need:
  • lightweight paper, 3' x 3'
  • 2 round wood dowels (1/8" thick); one 36" long and one 32" long
  • kite string
  • thread
  • glue twist tab (optional)
  • paint
  • scissors
  • tape
  • ruler
  • reinforcement rings (for use on binder paper)
  • crepe paper
  1. Take the lightweight paper and lay it on the floor.
  2. Paint a big picture on it that can be seen from far away. Let the paint dry.
  3. Cross the shorter dowel a quarter of the way down the long dowel.  The longer dowel is called the mast, and the point where the two dowels cross is called the joint.
  4. Fasten the dowels securely at a right angle with kite string or thread and glue, or with a twist tab.
  5. Outline the kite with string tied to the four dowel ends.  Don't pull the string so tightly that the dowels bend--they should be straight.  Hint:  Making a notch at the end of each dowel will help to hold the string in place.
  6. Place your kite frame on the back of your picture, and hold it in place with tape.  Hint: There should be at least 1 inch of paper beyond the frame of your kite.  Trace the outline of your kite on the paper.
  7. Make another outline 1 inch wider all around so you can fold the paper over the outlining string, and paste it down.  Spaces must be cut in the paper where it matches up to the wood dowels.
  8. To attach your flying line, first make two holes in your kite diagonally across the mast: one above the joint, one below the joint--use reinforcements on the holes to prevent the paper from ripping.  The string should go through the other hole.  Tie securely so that the knot is visible from the front of the kite.
  9. Adding a tail will help balance the kite so it will fly straight.  Cut a hole on each side of the mast, just above the bottom hems of the kite; again, use reinforcements to keep the holes from ripping.
  10. Now you are ready to make the tail.  First cut a piece of string that measures 10 ft. to 12 ft.  Then tie 6-inch crepe paper bows along the line, one per foot.  Now tie the tail string through the holes you made at the bottom of the kite in Step 9.
  11. Stretch the kite tail on the ground.  If the wind isn't at least 8 miles per hour, you may need a friend to hold your kite up off the ground to get it airborne.
  12. Run into the wind with your kite behind you.  The wind will catch your kite!  Let it fly!  Let the string out so the kite can go higher--hooray!

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