Teaching the Trépanier Trapezoid Kite: Intermediate

Level: Intermediate (3-5/6)
Grade from: 3
Grade to: 6
Length: 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 20 minutes (minimal decoration and no flying time).
Cultural Studies Integration:


These readings and activities introduce vocabulary and concepts about the forces that affect a kite’s flight. They also profile the life and skills of a kite maker. Students construct the simple kite pictured.

The sequence in which they 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 forces 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 forces in terms of strength and direction; observe, measures, and describes weather indicators; describes the common conditions or properties of air; 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 measurements; understands and applies strategies to obtain reasonable estimates of length, angles and areas; applies understanding of congruence to 2D shapes and figures; understands properties of angles and polygons; applies understanding of reflections to congruent figures.

Social Studies: describes how differing environments both provide varying opportunities and set limits for human activity; recognize that economies distribute and exchange goods and services in different ways depending on laws, values, and customs; 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; demonstrates proper care of tools and materials; develops work using a creative process with instructor direction; explains how personal aesthetic criteria is reflected in artwork; demonstrates arts skills used in the world of work.

Language Arts: applies vocabulary strategies in grade-level text; understands and applies content vocabulary critical to the meaning of the text; states the main idea of a passage and provides several text-based details supporting it; 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: Forces of Flight (PDF file)

Extension Activities: Forces of Flight: Writing & Discussing (PDF file)

Student Reading: Meet the Kite Maker: Robert Trépanier (PDF file)

Extension Activities: Meet the Kite Maker: Writing & Discussing (PDF file)

Purchase Kite Kits:Trépanier Trapezoid 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


Printable Kite Template:Trépanier Trapezoid Kite Template (PDF file) (requires 2 pieces of 11”x17” bond paper, per student) and Instructions (PDF file) for Trépanier Trapezoid, plus 4-8 bamboo skewers (depending on length), flying line and winder, per student

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

Use the reading Forces of Flight to discuss the topic; analyze any factors at the place where you plan to fly your kites that will affect these forces (for example, wind turbulence around buildings that can affect lift). For an 11”x17” version of the graphic about forces of flight, click here. Extension activities (contemporary kite making materials; traction kiting) provided.

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

Use the reading Meet the Kite Maker: Robert Trépanier to introduce some of the challenges of kite design and to discuss the usefulness of arts skills in different jobs. Extension activities (map skills; roles of family and community; cultural universals) provided.

Sessions Three - Four: Decorating, Constructing, and Flying the Trépanier Trapezoid (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, from a download or from a video.

If you wish, speed the process of cutting the tails by using 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: using line (diagonals), pattern, and/or geometric shape; decorating by sponge printing with a stencil; making a transfer print to emphasize symmetry.

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

Additional Resources: 

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.

Teachers accustomed to using picture books with intermediate-level students may also find useful The Sea-Breeze Hotel by Marcia Vaughan, illustrated by Patricia Mullins (1992). Young Sam has an idea for attracting more guests to a hotel where the heavy wind deters swimmers, fishermen, beachcombers, and sitters-on-the-balcony from visiting. Sam makes a kite and puts it in the hands of Mrs. Pearson, the hotel owner. “This is the most fun I’ve had in years,” she says. The staff sets to making kites, and visitors come “from near and far” to the “kite-flying hotel.” Through the narrative, the story addresses many aspects of kite making and flying: variety of styles; different construction techniques (scrap materials; sewing; building; designing); seasonal changes in the wind (the sea breeze dies during April). The story could also extend a discussion of kite maker Robert Trépanier’s life: like Robert, the hotel guests tie off their kites at the end of the day so that they fly “all night in the moonlight.”

To learn more about the experiences and construction techniques of kite artist Robert Trépanier, read the interview conducted with him in 2003 while he was participating in an arts residency at the Panama Hotel, Seattle.