Teaching the Kono Beetle Kite

Level: Primary (K-2)
Grade from: K
Grade to: 2
Length: 1-6 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 40 minutes (minimal decoration and no flying time).
Cultural Studies Integration:

Focus: 

These readings and activities introduce basic vocabulary and techniques for making and flying a kite. They also profile the life and skills of a kite maker. Students construct the simple kite pictured.

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

Curriculum Integration: 

Science: understands simple properties of common natural and manufactured materials and objects; observes and describes characteristics of a living organism; understands that things are made of parts that go together; knows that living things are made of small parts; understands how to ask a question about objects, organisms, and events in the environment; knows that pushes and pulls can change the motion of common objects; understands that weather conditions change from season to season; knows how knowledge and skills of science, mathematics, and technology are used in common occupations; understands how well a design solves a problem. Note: readings and activities integrate with such Primary science modules as: Insects (FOSS); Animals Two by Two (FOSS); Organisms (STC); Ladybugs (GEMS).

Mathematics: understands meaning of addition and subtraction (cutting and taping tail pieces; more or fewer depending on wind conditions); understands attributes to describe and compare objects; understands concept of symmetry; estimates length using non-standard units.

Social Studies: locates places and cultural regions using maps and globes; identifies choices individuals have in how they interact with the environment; describes personal changes that occurred over time; explains the role of family in society; identifies goods and services in a community.

Visual Arts: identifies line direction, free-form shapes, and textures; uses art tools and materials safely and appropriately; applies a creative process in the arts; identifies personal aesthetic choices; identifies career roles in the arts.

Language Arts: uses context to predict and confirm meaning of unknown words; uses new vocabulary from informative/expository test; identifies important parts of informative/expository text; understands simple organizational structure of text; explains connections between self and characters and events encountered in culturally relevant 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 (Asian American emphasis possible)

Materials: 

Student Reading: Making a Kite (PDF file)

Extension Activities: Writing & Discussing (PDF file)

Student Reading: Flying a Kite (PDF file)

Extension Activities: Writing & Discussing (PDF file)

Student Reading: Meet the Kite Maker: Greg Kono (PDF file)

Extension Activities: Writing & Discussing (PDF file)

OR

Student Reading: Flying Fish and Radishes! Plant & Animal Kites by Greg Kono (PDF file)

Extension Activities: Flying Fish and Radishes!: Writing & Discussing (PDF file)

Purchase Kite Kits: Kono Beetle Kite Kit (with paper pattern, spars, flying line & winder), per student

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

Session One: Student Reading/Activities (30-45 minutes)

Use the reading Making a Kite to introduce kite vocabulary and concepts, specifically variety in materials for making kites and the need to match materials to different winds. Extension activities (estimating lengths; culturally various kites; characteristics of materials) provided.

Session Two: Student Reading/Activities (30-45 minutes)

Use the reading Flying a Kite to introduce basic concerns and techniques in flying a kite, including being safe and partnering with the wind. Extension activities (wind vocabulary and experiences, kite-eating tree; proverb) provided.

Session Three: Student Reading/Activities (30-45 minutes)

Use the reading Meet the Kite Maker: Greg Kono to introduce materials and tools of kite design and to discuss how personal experience and study contribute to the development of job skills. Extension activities (map skills; role of family; cultural background) provided. Or use the reading Flying Fish and Radishes! Plant & Animal Kites by Greg Kono to extend a discussion of materials and themes in kite design and different ways in which art objects are displayed.

Sessions Four - Six: Decorating, Constructing, and Flying the Kono Beetle (90-120 minutes)

These activities can be divided into two or three shorter sessions: cutting out and decorating the sail; constructing the kite; flying the kite.

Follow assembly instructions from the kite kit.

Cutting and taping the tails will take the most time for young students. Teachers/ adult helpers can speed this process with a paper cutter.

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: free-form shape; primary and secondary colors; symmetry in design.

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

Additional Resources: 

For primary level students, Peter Murray’s Beetles (2003; 32 pages) is very useful: each page of large type faces a full-color, high quality photo. The book is divided into chapters (“Meet the Beetle!” and “Are Beetles in Danger?” among them), with a glossary, index, and a link to the publisher’s website for follow-up links. The book reinforces the basic point that the beetle is a kind of insect, distinguished by its hard front wings, which work like armor to protect its thorax, rear wings, and abdomen. The Mexican bean beetle illustrates the four stages of beetle life. Supplement with two books by Eric Carle, The Very Clumsy Click Beetle (1998) and the classic The Grouchy Ladybug (1986). The University of Arizona Center for Insect Science Education Outreach makes available both a Beetle bibliography (http://insected.arizona.edu/beetlebib.htm) and a Lady Bird Beetle bibliography (http://insected.arizona.edu/ladybib.htm), both of which list older non-fiction, fiction, and poetry titles.

Harriet Ziefert’s Bugs, Beetles, and Butterflies (1998), in the Viking Science Easy-To-Read series, describes beetles in snappy, rhyming lines (“Beetles click / Beetles dance. / Did you ever have one crawl up your pants?”). Four pages of drawings illustrate individual beetles, with a key to the pages in the text where their pictures appear. Also in rhyme, two to four lines per page: Mia Posada’s Ladybugs: Red, Fiery, and Bright (2002), with the last four pages factual text about ladybugs. The book also includes good drawings of several of the four thousand species of lady bugs (or, properly, lady beetles). Find the Goliath Beetle (six inches, and can weigh as much as a rat!) and the Longhorn Harlequin Beetle (three inches) among “bugs” pictured in The Big Bug Book by Margery Facklam (1994); the title describes the size of its subjects (big bugs), not of the book itself.

The full-color, oversize Living Jewels: The Natural Design of Beetles by Poul Beckmann (2001) can provide examples for students seeking inspiration in designing their beetle kite sails. The book lives up to its billing as a “visual feast of beetles,” with the subjects “magnified and isolated against stark white backgrounds,” displaying “an encyclopedic vocabulary of ornament.” The introduction reminds readers that, although beetles “for the most part, lead their lives and go about their business unseen,” they represent one in five living species (350,000 identified so far) and one in four animal species. The introduction also provides good background for teachers on such topics as varieties, colors, “magic and mysticism,” and the use of beetles as jewels and as pets (the stag beetle in Japan , for example). The book also comes in a pocket version, useful for passing around to students. For more photographs: Buzz: The Intimate Bond Between Humans and Insects by Josie Glausiusz, with photographs by Volker Steger (2004).

Beetle Boy by Lawrence David (1999), inspired by Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, tells the surreal story of Gregory Samson, who turns into a beetle for a day—and no one notices, except his best friend. Although Gregory is himself a second-grader, the concept and vocabulary suggest an intermediate reading level. This book might work well for primary students as a teacher read-aloud, or in a “reading buddy” program, with older students reading to primary students who have made beetle kites.

In cyberspace FOSSWeb recommends the Amateur Entomologists’ Society “Bug Club” site, at http://www.projects.ex.ac.uk/bugclub/. Websites specifically about beetles abound. Primary students might enjoy Beetle Science from Cornell University , at http://explore.cornell.edu/scene.cfm?scene=Beetle%20Science. The “Species-Scape” shows in a child-friendly drawing style the relative abundance of life forms on earth: a giant black beetle dominates. The carbon dust illustrations of scientific illustrator Frances Fawcett are also featured. The pages on beetles from the Tree of Life web project by David R. Maddison, at http://tolweb.org/tree?group=Coleoptera, are cleanly organized with good photographs. Click on “Coleoptera [beetles] People” to give students a sense of collaborative and specialist work on this topic by scientists around the globe. The site www.fond4beetles.com is based on the book An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles.

Related Past Projects: 
Kite Curriculum Project