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Maori Bird Kite

Explore the traditional Maori culture of New Zealand. Then create a bird kite that really flies.

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Kites may have originated in the South Sea Islands where people used them to fish. In China, kites lifted people for military purposes. The Maori people of New Zealand used kites to celebrate their belief that birds could carry messages between people and the gods. Their god Rehua is depicted as a bird, and is considered to be the ancestor of all kites. Invite students to conduct an exploration of the Maori culture, as well as the use of kites in their culture. Student research will be used to create an original kite.
    2. Construction of kites begins with the spine and spar. With Crayola® School Glue, students attach the edges of two or more sheets of newspaper to create one large sheet. You can also use craft paper. Use a 30-inch (76 cm) long dowel as the vertical spine of your kite. Place a second, somewhat shorter dowel over the spine, about one-third of the way down. This horizontal dowel is called the spar. Use light, strong string to tie the pieces together. Glue the string and air-dry it.
    3. An adult will cut a small notch in each end of student crossed dowels. Tie a loop in the end of a long string. Slide the string into the notch at the top of the crossed dowels and wrap it around the top of the dowel a few times. Pull the string snugly across the notch on one side of the spar and then through the bottom notch of the spine. Make a loop. Wrap the string around the bottom of the spine a few times, and then bring it up to the other side of the spar. Place it snugly in the notch, and then return it to the top of the spine. Wrap the string around the top a few times. Glue the string at the ends of each dowel. The crossed dowels should lay flat and have a loop at both the top and the bottom.
    4. Students place crossed dowels on the newspaper. With Crayola Erasable Colored Pencils, trace the outline of the kite, using the string as a guideline. Draw a second line 2 inches (5 cm) outside the outline. Use Crayola Scissors to cut out the kite on the outside line.
    5. Students paint their selected birds. Cover art area with recycled newspaper. Sketch the flying bird on the kite with colored pencils. Use Crayola Tempera Paint and brushes to paint the bird. Air-dry completely.
    6. Assemble the kite. Turn the painted bird over. Place the dowel frame on the back of the kite. Fold the extra newspaper over the string and glue it in place. Air-dry the glue before continuing.
    7. Turn the kite over. Cut a string longer than the kite’s height. Tie this string to the loop at the top. Tie a small loop in the string, slightly above the point where the two dowels cross each other. This string is called the bridle of the kite. Then tie the bridle to the loop at the bottom.
    8. Tie another string, for the tail, to the bottom loop of the kite. Tie small strips of tissue paper to the string. (Traditional Maori kites did not have tails, so this step can be omitted.) Tie kite string to the bridle, and it's ready to fly! While flying kites, remind students to adjust the spacing of the loop on the bridle and the length of the tail to increase the kite’s stability.
  • Standards

    LA: Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

    LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of grade level text's complexity band independently and proficiently.

    LA: Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    MATH: Solve problems involving measurement and estimation of intervals of time, liquid volumes, and masses of objects.

    SCI: Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information about the roles of science and technology in the design process for developing and refining devices to understand the universe.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

    VA: Use subjects, themes, and symbols that demonstrate knowledge of contexts, values, and aesthetics that communicate intended meaning in artworks.

    VA: Describe and place a variety of art objects in historical and cultural contexts.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Kite Flying by Grace Lin; Kites: Magic Wishes That Fly Up to the Sky by Demi; The Kite Surprise by Bill & Katie Frederick

    Encourage students to research the Maori culture and traditions. What popular movies were filmed in New Zealand? How accurately do these movies represent the Maori? What influence do the Maori have in New Zealand today?

    Use a world map to locate New Zealand. What landforms are located in this country? Look for mud pools, volcanoes, glaciers, and other phenomena. Why are these islands such a popular tourist destination?

    Research kites from various cultures? Create an original kite from each culture that you investigate. How does your kite reflect the culture?

    Windsocks are related to kites. Japan's windsocks are often made in the shape of car, which signify good luck in the Japanese culture. Create a fish-shaped windsock and hang it outside your classroom for good luck!


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