Level: Intermediate (3-5/6)

Grade From: 3

Grade To: 6


1-4 sessions, including student readings, kite making, and kite flying. Sessions can be taught in a different order, with some combined or omitted. The kite alone can be constructed in 30 minutes (minimal decoration and no flying time).


These readings and activities introduce new vocabulary and concepts about principles of flight their influence on kites and their design. They also profile the life and skills of a kite maker. Students construct the bowed salmon kite pictured. 

The sequence in which these activities can be presented is flexible. For example, students may work on one reading per week over the course of two weeks (or one reading per day over two days), then decorate, make and fly their kites in one session. Or the sequence could be: reading about the principles of flight; students’ decorating and making their kites; students’ flying their kites; reading about the kite maker as a culminating activity.


Curriculum Integration: 

Science: analyzes how the parts of a system go together and how these parts depend on each other; understands how to ask a question about objects in the environment; analyzes how well a design or a product solves a problem; analyzes the use of science, math, and technology within occupational / career areas of interest.

Mathematics: understands the concept of area; understands the concept of angle measurement; understands and applies strategies to obtain reasonable estimates of length, angles and areas.

Social Studies: describes how differing environments both provide varying opportunities and set limits for human activity; analyzes the impact of technology and tools on the production of goods and services; describes how one person can make a difference in the school or local community; identifies the ways cultural traditions are expressed through artistic creations and use of the environment.

Visual Arts: understands and demonstrates the use of line through direction, type, and quality; identifies and uses color and form in a 3D artwork; identifies and demonstrates asymmetrical balance in 3 dimensions; combines art elements for expressive purposes; uses proportion to analyze size relationships in an artwork; balances forms and uses emphasis in an artwork; develops work using a creative process with instructor assistance.

Language Arts: applies vocabulary strategies in grade-level text; understands and applies content vocabulary critical to the meaning of the text; summarizes the information in an expository text; reads to learn new information; reads to perform a task; writes for different purposes; writes in a variety of forms/genres (answers to questions).

Cultural Integration: North America


Student Reading: Meet the Kite Maker: Greg Kono

Extension Activities: Meet the Kite Maker: Writing & Discussing

Materials You Supply: Scissors; Scotch tape; markers, pens, crayons, and/or watercolors, per student

Session One: Student Reading/Activities (30-50 minutes)

Learn about the forces that affect a kite’s flight by reading Forces of Flight, with extension activities.

Session Two: Student Reading/Activities (30-50 minutes)

Use the reading Meet the Kite Maker: Greg Kono to introduce some of the challenges of kite design and to discuss the usefulness of arts skills in different jobs. Extension activities provided.

Sessions Three - Four: Decorating, Constructing, and Flying the Kono Salmon Kite (50-100 minutes)

Combine the activities of cutting out and decorating the sail, constructing the kite, and flying the kite into one or two sessions. 

Follow assembly instructions from the kite kit.

Remind students that large, bold, colorful designs will be more readily visible in the sky. Tails can also be decorated.

Decorating the kite sail can be integrated with more sustained visual arts instruction in: using line (parallel and/or perpendicular) and/or pattern, decorating by sponge printing with a stencil, or making a transfer print to emphasize symmetry.

Extra tail pieces, blue and cut with curves, can simulate water that the fish “swims” through. Consider, however, the effect of added weight and/or drag on the kite’s flyability.

Take extra tails and spars, plus tape, to the flying field for repairs or additions in heavy winds.

If this is the first experience of making and flying a kite for intermediate-level students, a picture book, The Kite Festival by Leyla Torres (2004), can be useful for introducing, through the context of the narrative, several aspects of flying a kite: how to launch a kite; how to add a tail for stability; how to disentangle from another flier’s line; how to protect one’s hands. The book also includes instructions for making a simple hexagonal kite. Three generations of the Flórez family set off on a Sunday drive, encounter a kite festival, and join in the fun by creating a kite from found materials (luckily, a booth is open to see bamboo from which a frame can be built). The string from little sister’s pull toy, a map, crayons, bandaids, napkins, and a fabric belt all contribute to the kite, and reinforce the point that kites can be made from everyday materials. The grandfather also models the kind of improvisatory persistence that kite fliers call on to overcome problems with bridles or trees.

To integrate making this kite with the study of salmon and the environment, consider the following resources:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offers many resources useful for general background about salmon and healthy habitat. Link here to download “The Pacific Salmon and Steelhead Coloring Book,” a fifteen-page overview of the topic appropriate for intermediate-level students: it includes a “Salmon Activity Page” and a map of salmon viewing sites in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and northern California. Its Pacific region publishes a flyer, “Salmon of the Pacific Coast,” with color illustrations by Shari Erickson, useful for students who want to give their kites a naturalistic design.

The many recent books about salmon for young readers (many in science series) include: Pacific Salmon by Cooper Jason (2003; 24 pp); Salmon by Deborah Hodge (2002; 32 pp; about the Atlantic salmon); Salmon by Ron Hirschi (2001; 48 pp); The Life of a Salmon by Clare Hibbert (2005; 32 pp); Life Cycle of a Salmon by Angela Royston (2000; 32 pp); Salmon Stream by Carol Reed-Jones (2001; unpaged). John Baxter’s Salmon (2000; 72 pp) looks at the fish from a worldwide perspective. Salmon Creek by Annette LeBox & Karen Reczuch (2002; 48 pp) uses beautiful illustrations and a lyrical text to tell the story of salmon migration from the point of view of Sumi, a Pacific coho: it would make an excellent read-aloud for students preparing to design their fish kites. Ron Hirschi has also written People of Salmon and Cedar, with illustrations by Deborah Cooper (1996; 42 pp), which emphasizes the cultures of Northwest Coast Indians, “the salmon people,” where “every river has its people.” Discovering Salmon by Nancy Field and Sally Machlis (1984; 32 pp) is an activity book still in print that includes activities and games, plus salmon stickers useful for students considering their kite designs. For teacher background reading, Totem Salmon: Life Lessons from Another Species by Freeman House (1999) deals with efforts to restore a wild salmon run on the Klamath River in northern California; Silver Summer by Richard Buck (1993) covers similar territory regarding the Atlantic salmon.

A Last Wild Salmon is a documentary by filmmaker Ken Jubenvill (Watervisions, 1997) about the life of a Pacific salmon, “from egg to extinction.” It is recommended for grade 7 and up, but could easily be used by teachers of younger students. Link here for a teachers’ guide.

For teachers in the Puget Sound region of Washington State (home base for The Drachen Foundation), King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks produces many helpful resources (videos, posters, handouts). Among them are the poster “Making our Watershed Fit for a King” (with a play on the King salmon and the name of the county), the flyer “The Fish Who Could Climb Mountains,” and the poster “Ancients of the Green” (a reference to the Green and Duwamish Rivers watershed). Link here to the organization’s web page.