/Teaching the Trépanier Trapezoid Kite: Primary

Teaching the Trépanier Trapezoid Kite: Primary



Level: Primary (K-2)

Grade From: K

Grade To: 2


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 30 minutes (minimal decoration and no flying time).


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 the readings 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; understands that things are made of parts that go together; understands how to ask a question about objects 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: Wood and Paper (FOSS); Air and Weather (FOSS); Amazing Air (Delta); Weather Watching (Delta); Weather (STC).

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; describes two dimensional shapes based on their geometric characteristics; 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 the roles and responsibilities of community members; identifies goods and services in a community; identifies examples of cultural universals.

Visual Arts: identifies line direction, geometric 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 text; 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

Student Reading: Making a Kite (PDF file)

Extension Activities: Making a Kite: Writing & Discussing (PDF file)

Student Reading: Flying a Kite (PDF file)

Extension Activities: Flying a Kite: 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)

Materials You Supply: 2 pieces of 11”x17” bond paper, 4 - 8 bamboo skewers, flying line, winder, per student

Printable Kite Instructions: Trépanier Trapezoid Kite Instructions (PDF file)

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: 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; design solutions) provided.

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

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: 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.

The Kite Festival by Leyla Torres (2004) nicely complements these activities because it emphasizes the simple materials from which kites can be made. The book includes instructions for making a simple hexagonal kite. Through the narrative, the story also addresses, in context, other aspects of kite flying: 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. 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 purchase 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.

The spare text and bright illustrations of Grace Lin’s Kite Flying (2002) tell the story of a young girl whose family helps her make and fly a dragon kite. The kite making materials, pictured in the frontispiece, are more sophisticated than those in Torres’ story: they include such tools as joining tubes and a craft knife, and this family goes to a crafts store to purchase them. Pages after the story ends provide a short history of kites and show a variety of Chinese animal kites, with associated virtues, such as wisdom and joy.

The Sea-Breeze Hotel by Marcia Vaughan, illustrated by Patricia Mullins (1992) is a charming story, with lively language and illustrations. 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.”

A Sky Full of Kites by Osmond Molarsky (1996) can also extend a discussion of the work of kite maker Robert Trépanier and the challenges of sizing his kites for gallery display. In a twist on Robert’s situation, the young Chinese American boy in Molarsky’s book makes an enormous painting. No one—not at the school, the firehouse, the department store, the bank, the church, the museum—will make room to display it until he makes the painting into a “huge, huge kite” and attracts newspaper and television attention when he flies it. It’s not the author’s intention to convey any realistic advice about kite making or flying; nonetheless, students can pick up valuable pointers about the pulling power of a large kite and the advisability of flying in a large, comparatively empty space. The hero’s ethnicity is also simply a matter-of-fact part of the story, not its focus—a welcome stance for storytelling in a multicultural society.

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