Kites can be canvases for drawings or paintings. Kites can be sculptural. Kites can be functional works of art. For our kite-making unit, I offered my students a variety of kite styles to choose from. Then they decided if it made more sense to use wooden dowels or straws as the support. They chose whether to make the body from plastic, paper, tissue paper, wax paper or fabric and decided whether or not to draw using oil pastels, markers, or colored pencils. Art making is about choice making.
It seems like a big stretch to tie this into American History, but we did probably spend forty minutes discussing the accomplishments of Benjamin Franklin. He was famous for his electricity experiment using a kite and key, but when he was much younger, he also tied a kite to his toe, curious to see if it would pull him across a pond if he were to float on his back. It worked! I suppose you could say we studied aerodynamics too when we tried to fly them with some success.
The tissue paper didn't hold up very well for the box kite or tetrahedron kite, and had to be remade using bulletin board paper. Live and learn.
Some students re-purposed their batik assignment and the acrylic that had soaked into the fabric gave it a little more wind resistance than plain fabric.
You may recognize the motorcycle on the kite below from Prince's Purple Rain Album. Everyone has to bring their own ideas to the project.
Four people who made tetrahedron kites put them together to make a much larger one. This kite wasn't finished until the weather got too wet to fly, but we may try it out if the sun ever comes out. The blue on the top was originally one kite with four tetrahedron components, each component requiring 6 straws. String is pushed through the straws and tied together before gluing paper around two sides.