On Friday I taught my first ever design technology class with two groups of Grade 7 students. I've been an IT teacher for 10 years, but have never taught all the components of MYP technology (information, materials and systems) before - so now that we are half way through the year it's time to stop teaching the information technology and start teaching the materials and systems. For the students this is also the first time they have ever had to construct anything from scratch themselves, all the other technology lessons up to now being entirely information technology. For materials I decided to try something that sounded relatively easy and that didn't use resistant materials like wood and metal (for sure I am not up to giving students lessons in how to use power tools like drills and electric saws!) Having racked my brains and been given several suggestions by colleagues, some of which included making go-carts or which involved food (a definite no-no), I settled on kites. Since I know nothing at all about the design of kites, this is a project where I am learning alongside my students.
The first thing we did was to discuss the history of kites - they were first built in China about 3,000 years ago - and the materials these first kites were made out of - bamboo and silk. We talked about the sorts of materials that were easy to get hold of and that we might like to try to use today such as different sorts of fabrics and plastics, wooden barbeque sticks, straws and so on. Next we used the internet to identify different kinds of kites. We talked about the fact that here in Switzerland it is not very windy (though as luck would have it, it was EXTREMELY windy here on Friday afternoon with branches being blown off trees and one of the playground benches being blown over - definitely not a day for kite flying!). Some shapes of kites are better suited to light winds and some are better suited to strong winds - we definitely want to try to make the ones that are most suited to gentle breezes - and in fact will probably have to run down the hill the school is on in order to get these kites airborne. We tried to identify all the different parts of a kite (the frame, covering or sail, tail, line and bridle) and think about what we might use to construct them.
It was an interesting afternoon, and we all came up with more questions than answers. Why, we wondered, do some kites have 2 strings and others only one? What is the purpose of the tail of a kite? Most seemed to have one but we didn't really know why so we had to do some research to find out that a tail keeps a kite stable and oriented to the wind. We're still a little fuzzy about the exact role of the bridle.
Next week we will start to sketch out some design ideas and plan how we will make the kites. We'll then start to construct the kites and finally at the end of next month we'll participate in a kite flying activity. I'm hoping the students will be able to launch and fly their kites successfully, and if not I'm hoping that they will be able to identify what the problems are and suggest some improvements or modifications that could be made to the kites.
Just like the last assignment using Web 2.0 tools, I'm giving the students an entirely free choice of what kind of kite they design and make. I'm really interested to see what the students come up with.
Photo Credit: Better Days by Tripleman