Soar into Spring with Kites

Soar into Spring with KitesIf warmer weather has your homeschool family itching for a change, perk up your daily schedule with an exciting, springtime unit study on kites. Not only can you learn names for kites from around the world, the history and development of kites, and the uses of kites in scientific discoveries, but you can also awaken fresh artistic talents and study math and geometry while you design your own handcrafted, aerodynamic kite. Best of all, you can watch your kids get "high" on homeschooling again as you go outside on a sunny and breezy day to try out your new design!

To create memorable moments of learning enjoyment during April's National Kite Month®, get started now with these fun-filled facts and kite-flying ideas:

Which Type of Kite Is Best?
As you begin to think about building a kite with your child, you'll discover that kites come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. However, most fall into these five basic types:

Delta - Delta kits are triangular in shape and have a keel that is perpendicular to the surface and attached to the flying line.

Flat - Often constructed in a diamond or rectangle shape, this traditional design needs a tail seven times its diagonal length to supply enough drag to keep the kite pointed toward the sky.

Bowed - Curved on its face to make an angle into the wind, this shape doesn't require a tail for stability.

Box - This kite design is made of 3-D units whose sides are rectangles, triangles, or squares.

Flexible -With no rigid frame, this parafoil or parachute design takes its shape from the wind.

Of these types, delta, flat, and bowed shapes fly best in light to moderate winds (6-15 mph), while the box and flexible shapes perform better in moderate to strong winds (8-25 mph).

What Are the Parts of a Kite?
Give your child the right terminology when working with kites. Here's a handy list of spelling and vocabulary words you may want to incorporate into your child's Monarch™, Switched-On Schoolhouse® or LIFEPAC® Language Arts lessons from Alpha Omega Publications®:

Spine - The vertical stick around which your kite is built.
Spar - The curved or bowed support stick(s) placed crossways or at a slant over the spine.
Frame - The joined spine and spars that form the kite's shape and support the cover.
Cover - The paper, plastic, or cloth that covers the frame to make your kite.
Bridle - One or more strings that are attached to the spine or spars to control the kite in the air.
Flying Line - The string that runs from the kite's bridle to your reel.
Tail - A long strip of paper, plastic, or ribbon that balances the kite in flight.
Reel - The object your flying line is wrapped around to keep it from getting tangled and what you hold to keep your kite from flying away in the sky.

What Makes a Kite Fly?
The aerodynamics of kite flight can best be explained to your child by Newton's Third Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In other words, as a kite flies on an inclined plane in one spot, it exerts a downward force upon the air. Air has weight, and as it passes over the top edge of the kite, it goes down the kite's upper surface. Pushing downward, the kite also gets an equal push upward by the air. When the potential air lift is greater than the kite's weight, the kite flies!

How Do You Make a Kite?
Depending on the ages and abilities of your children, these are some things you'll need to consider before you begin building your homemade kite:

-What type of kite do you want to build? (Click on the links above for kite plans).
-What sticks will you use (balsa wood, wooden dolls, plastic, etc.), and how will you design the frame?
-What cover material will you use? Remember, your kite needs to be strong, but lightweight.
-If needed, how you will stabilize your kite? Will you make a tail, use a wind cup to catch the air and act as an anchor, or bow your kite with a smooth curve or an angle at the center of the kite? (Bowed kites can also have angles somewhere else on the kite, resulting in a subtle or exaggerated bowing).
-Will you vent your kite? A vent is a deliberate opening in the covering material of the kite that allows some air to go through the kite and add stability.

How Do You Fly a Kite?
Using the Beaufort Wind Scale, check to see if the wind speed is appropriate for launching your kite. If conditions are favorable for your kite's liftoff, make sure you're in a large open area free from trees, electrical and telephone lines, buildings, and traffic. Start by standing with your back to the wind, holding the kite with one hand and the reel of string with the other. Allow the wind to lift the kite and feed out your flying line to the height you desire. Continue walking toward the direction of the wind, while you feed out more and more of the line. If the kite doesn't seem to climb correctly, try reducing the angle of your kite's bridle. To land your kite, walk toward the kite and wrap the line back onto the reel.

Ready to Host a Homeschool Kite Competition?
Whether you have 20 or 200 families in your homeschool co-op, organizing a kite flying festival is a great idea that's exciting for everyone and easy to do. Pick the perfect location, recruit volunteers, publicize your event, construct your own kites, and get your fellow homeschooling friends together for a day of friendly competition and fun.

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