The following essay was written by a school teacher who has found kites a useful teaching tool in her classes in the Alpes de Haute Provence of southern France. It appeared in the journal of Au Fil des Vents, an international kite research organization headquartered in nearby Reilanne, and is used by permission.
The Key to Opening Doors by Christine Ricatte
Kiting is an excellent form of expression. If a playful and original approach is used by the teacher, students learn useful skills. They learn to know materials, use tools, engage with nature, discover distant civilizations. Some find kiting soothing, indeed even therapeutic.
Teaching kite making and kite flying is one of my major teaching tools. From early on, I came to see kites as a field to be explored as an alternate way for children to learn. The kite gives a child a new approach to knowledge-a spiritual dimension, if you will.
Children take to kites very quickly. They like to dream and to escape and kites lead naturally in these directions. Kites open doors to thoughts of travel, to other horizons, cultures, ways of life.
While maintaining its manual and playful character, the world of the kite is cultural, artistic, and sensory. It has this specific quality: it breaks the traditional constraints of schooling and gives children a brighter perspective. School subjects take on a higher meaning. History, geography, arithmetic, science, geometry, and physical education are seen in a different light. Kites become a bridge between children and these subjects.
Children never stop wondering about kites-origins, shapes, colors, materials. This is one reason why adults using kites as a teaching tool need a body of reference documentation. Constructing a kite is a form of self expression. Children put a lot into it, as if this object which takes to the air in their hands awakens a notion of things to come, a secret corner of their souls. "It flies!" This moment in time, almost miraculous, is gratifying to the child. Having constructed a kite and expressed himself through it, the child is able to feel a thread leading him to new places of discovery. His creation offered to the wind, the student is far away from school.
The relationship between child and kite is both personal and collective, personal in the learning and the way of making and flying, collective in sharing with others.
The kite is movement. It dances in the sky as the child on the ground invents choreography: forward, back, hold the line steady, pull, feed out, run together. It is not unusual to hear a child inventing an imaginary world as he flies, identifying with the kite by giving it a name, character, a role in the great theater of the sky.