There is a shape that is the bane of my husband’s (the math teacher) existence. The shape is properly called a kite. However, most children have been taught that it is a diamond. According to my husband, all that students need to know is that diamonds are shiny, carbon-based gemstones that are rare and valuable – and not geometric shapes. For our Mathematics in Action, finishing the STEAM series about the letter K, we spent the day discovering kites.
We completed two activities while we talked about the properties of a kite. Kites are quadrilaterals with two pairs of congruent sides. Each pair of congruent sides shares a common vertex. Drawing lines through opposite vertices creates intersecting, perpendicular lines, creating 90-degree angles (this is known as the diagonals of the kite). The activities focused on helping the children understand what makes a kite a kite.
Activity One: Modeling Kites
When we started talking about kites, my children were sure we were just going to go to the park to fly kites. They were a bit confused when I got out the printables, craft glue, and toothpicks. I surprised them even more when I started cutting groups of toothpicks into pieces. They enjoyed, though, taking the theoretical discussion of angles and congruent sides and applying it in their models.
One copy of Modeling Kites Printable, available here, for each child
Start by explaining what a kite is. Be sure to emphasize the main points of the definition: Kites are quadrilaterals with two pairs of congruent sides. Each pair of congruent sides shares a common vertex. Drawing lines through opposite vertices creates intersecting, perpendicular lines, creating 90-degree angles.
After the discussion, ask the children to create kites out of the differently sized toothpicks. They eventually need to glue a few to the bottom of their paper, but they can practice building them without gluing them down.
My children asked me many times if the shape they had created was a kite or not. This was a good time to go back over the definition with them by asking questions.
Are both sides sharing the angle the same length?
Can you draw a straight line from top to bottom and from side to side that makes a cross in the middle of the kite?
Do you have four sides?
After the children have practiced making different kites, have them glue their favorite kite formation, and a few more (if they want), to the bottom of the page. This will become the model for the next activity.
Activity Two: Making Decorative Kites
This activity is an extension of the previous activity designed to give the children more experience making kites. The activity is hands on, a bit complicated – and requires close adult supervision. My children enjoyed building their kites based on the model they created in the earlier activity.
Wooden dowels, the smallest size available (two per child)
Tissue paper (two pieces per child)
Masking or fabric tape
Start by cutting the wooden dowel in four pieces, matching (on a larger scale) the dimensions of the kite the child has already created.
Help the child place the dowels together to form the angle for one of the vertices. Use the duct tape to hold the angle together. Repeat for the other vertex. Then, tape the two remaining angles in the kite.
Now, using the other wooden dowel, put in the cross supports (aka the diagonals), taping them to the angles of the kite. Don’t forget to tape the intersection of the two supports – this adds strength and stability to the kite.
The framework is finished, and it’s time to cover the frame with tissue paper. (Note: this kite is not designed to be flown. The tissue paper is too thin to withstand the rigors of flying. If a flying kite is desired, then stronger paper needs to be used – such as butcher paper.)
Lay the kite on top of the tissue paper and carefully wrap the paper around the edges of the kite. Start with a vertex, securing the paper with tape. Then, working down the edges from that vertex, fold the paper over the edges and secure with tape. Continue until the paper is secured around the framework of the kite. (It may be necessary to cut some of the tissue paper before taping the edge.)
The kite is complete. I told my children they could drop the kites to see if they would fly, but explained that the paper isn’t strong enough to support flying. They had a great time “testing” their kites. We ended up with five very different kites from this activity too. It was an entertaining, and amusing, activity to do together.