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May 1, 2019

How to Build a Kite

By Michelle Gay

Use a fun engineering challenge to teach aerodynamics.

Grades 3–5, 6–8

    Key Takeaways:  

    • Utilizing science and engineering together keeps students engaged throughout the learning process.
    • Requiring students to collaborate and use critical thinking helps them comprehend and retain science concepts.
    • Using high-quality text from Scholastic’s SuperScience magazine engages students in scientific practices with real-life application and reasoning skills.

    It’s springtime and students are excited to get outdoors and release energy! I take full advantage of sunny days to teach my third- and fourth-grade gifted students different science concepts. Recently, I used the SuperScience article “Go Fly a Kite!” to teach them about flight, aerodynamics and design engineering.

    This article is from an archived issue of SuperScience, which, as a subscriber, I get online access to. That means it’s incredibly easy to have years of issues and activities at my fingertips. I go back to this activity every year because students love it so much. The story is about how kite builders use science concepts to fly their beautiful kites. Many designers compete in the American Kitefliers Association Grand Nationals, where the kites are judged on flight, beauty and structure. My students were amazed that the large kites, some more than 100 feet across, could fly!

    Aerodynamic concepts like lift, acceleration and gravity were introduced and defined throughout the article so that students could follow easily. My students thought the diagram on how to fly a kite was a great resource to use as a guide to flying ones of their own.

    Before students read the story, I had them watch the accompanying video, “Blossom Kite Festival,” independently on Chromebooks. The video helped grab their attention and start a class discussion on kites. Next, students read and discussed the article in small groups.

    After reading the article, my students built a prototype kite following the engineering challenge called “Taking Flight.” Students built the prototypes following directions independently and tested their kites outside. Most kites were able to fly, but then I asked my students to follow the design and engineering process to improve their kites. For example, they could add different-size streamers where they thought they’d give their kites more lift.

    Then the students tested their new designs! They discovered that they were able to get the kites to fly longer if they flew them in the right direction. Lastly, students discussed other ways to improve their designs, like changing the shape and size, adding lighter materials, increasing the length of the string and others.

    This lesson was fun and energizing for my third and fourth graders.

    Teacher Tips for This Lesson

    • Although I could complete this lesson in a three-hour period, I would recommend spreading it over three to five days.
    •  Let students make their own kites so they can discover what changes they need to make in their designs.
    • Be prepared to give background information on flight and aerodynamics. My students had been studying flight history and aerodynamics for a few months.

    If you’re looking for more ways to connect science concepts to your students’ lives, I highly recommend SuperScience. You can even try it free for 30 days when you place an order for the 2019–2020 school year. I’m sure your students will love all the fascinating articles and team-building activities as much as mine do!

    Michelle Gay has been an educator for more than 20 years. A lifelong lover of science, she serves as the Gifted Specialist at Foley Elementary School in Foley, Alabama.

    Key Takeaways:  

    • Utilizing science and engineering together keeps students engaged throughout the learning process.
    • Requiring students to collaborate and use critical thinking helps them comprehend and retain science concepts.
    • Using high-quality text from Scholastic’s SuperScience magazine engages students in scientific practices with real-life application and reasoning skills.

    It’s springtime and students are excited to get outdoors and release energy! I take full advantage of sunny days to teach my third- and fourth-grade gifted students different science concepts. Recently, I used the SuperScience article “Go Fly a Kite!” to teach them about flight, aerodynamics and design engineering.

    This article is from an archived issue of SuperScience, which, as a subscriber, I get online access to. That means it’s incredibly easy to have years of issues and activities at my fingertips. I go back to this activity every year because students love it so much. The story is about how kite builders use science concepts to fly their beautiful kites. Many designers compete in the American Kitefliers Association Grand Nationals, where the kites are judged on flight, beauty and structure. My students were amazed that the large kites, some more than 100 feet across, could fly!

    Aerodynamic concepts like lift, acceleration and gravity were introduced and defined throughout the article so that students could follow easily. My students thought the diagram on how to fly a kite was a great resource to use as a guide to flying ones of their own.

    Before students read the story, I had them watch the accompanying video, “Blossom Kite Festival,” independently on Chromebooks. The video helped grab their attention and start a class discussion on kites. Next, students read and discussed the article in small groups.

    After reading the article, my students built a prototype kite following the engineering challenge called “Taking Flight.” Students built the prototypes following directions independently and tested their kites outside. Most kites were able to fly, but then I asked my students to follow the design and engineering process to improve their kites. For example, they could add different-size streamers where they thought they’d give their kites more lift.

    Then the students tested their new designs! They discovered that they were able to get the kites to fly longer if they flew them in the right direction. Lastly, students discussed other ways to improve their designs, like changing the shape and size, adding lighter materials, increasing the length of the string and others.

    This lesson was fun and energizing for my third and fourth graders.

    Teacher Tips for This Lesson

    • Although I could complete this lesson in a three-hour period, I would recommend spreading it over three to five days.
    •  Let students make their own kites so they can discover what changes they need to make in their designs.
    • Be prepared to give background information on flight and aerodynamics. My students had been studying flight history and aerodynamics for a few months.

    If you’re looking for more ways to connect science concepts to your students’ lives, I highly recommend SuperScience. You can even try it free for 30 days when you place an order for the 2019–2020 school year. I’m sure your students will love all the fascinating articles and team-building activities as much as mine do!

    Michelle Gay has been an educator for more than 20 years. A lifelong lover of science, she serves as the Gifted Specialist at Foley Elementary School in Foley, Alabama.

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