History of Kites

Kites and kite flying have been around for many centuries. Although many stories claim to tell the origin of the first kite there is no proof to validate one story over another.

Taking on a variety of shapes and sizes kites can be made to look like birds, people, dragons, or any number of animals or things. Many styles exist including box kites, stunt kites, tailess kites, and one surface kites such as the diamond-like kite most familiar to people living in the United States.

Kites can be made from many different materials. Some of the most common materials utilized include paper or a light weight material, wire, string, and wooden sticks. Most kites consist of several parts: the framing sticks, the surface material, the string (called a line) and reel, and a tail.

Kites have played an important role throughout history. Used for recreation, construction, and warfare kites have most often been used to lift and carry things. Kites have reportedly been used to carry lanterns, tow boats, carry rope for bridge construction across gorges and rivers, and even to carry people. During war as early as the seventeenth century both China and Japan used kites to lift men enabling them to see enemy positions.

Benjamin Franklin used kites in two different experiments. In 1718, as a twelve year old boy, he used a kite to pull himself across a small lake in Boston, Massachusetts. Thirty-four years later in 1752, Franklin, believing lighting to be an electrical energy, tied a key to the wire of a kite. He then fastened a ribbon to the line so as not to be electrocuted. Franklin flew his kite during a thunderstorm and it attracted the lighting. The electricity was conducted down the line to the ground, proving his theory.

Although Franklin was laughed at for announcing his success in the experiment, people later admitted he was correct. Building upon the information from this kite experiment, Benjamin Franklin created a lighting conductor one year later playing an important role in electrical safety even today.

As late as the 1930s kites were used to collect weather data and they had a critical place in the development of aviation, carrying both people and motors aloft.

A Kite Craft

You will need:

Fold an 8 " x 11" piece of computer or typing paper lengthwise. Fold the top third of the paper down. Unfold the top third, leaving the paper folded in half with a crease marking off 1/3. Using scissors cut a straight line diagonally from the top of the fold to the open edge at the crease mark. Cut a straight line again from the open edge at the crease diagonally to the bottom of the fold. Now unfold the paper and you should have a basic kite shape.

Using markers, crayons, or colored pencils draw a simple design on the kite.

Using scissors or a hole punch, punch one hole down the vertical fold one half inch above the horizontal crease and another hole one half inch below the crease. Thread a 24" piece of string through the two holes, tying the end of the string to itself creating a kite "line".

Punch another hole " from the bottom of the kite. Thread a 12" piece of string through this hole and tie it to itself to leave a long tail. Select a color of 1" wide gift ribbon and cut off a piece 4" in length. Give the ribbon a twist in the middle and tie it to the kite tail approximately 3 " from the end.

Find a place inside or out where you can run slowly. Hold the kite upright with one hand while grasping the kite line in the other hand. As you begin to run, let go of the kite and it will sail along behind as you move.

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