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Kite making Manu aute

Learning experience 5, Activity 1

Intended outcome(s)

The students could:

  • explore shape and line and use construction techniques with customary materials to make a kite (Visual Arts 1 PK)
  • apply knowledge of line, shape, and proportion and use construction techniques with customary materials to make and fly a kite (Visual Arts 4 PK)
  • talk about their own and others' kites (Visual Arts 1 CI)
  • talk about why people make kites and what they use them for (Visual Arts 1 UC)
  • demonstrate a willingness to accept the challenges in learning how to fly kites made from natural materials (HPE 4 B2)
  • investigate a variety of ways kites have been constructed using different media and talk about the different ideas they convey (Visual Arts 4 CI)
  • develop ideas in response to research and use their imagination to apply them to making a kite from customary materials (Visual Arts 4 DI)
  • investigate the purposes of customary Māori kites and when and where they were used (Visual Arts 4 UC)

Suggested approach

In this activity, the students can experience the fun and challenge of creating and using objects made from natural materials. They can investigate and reflect upon customary ways of making such objects and consider their purposes in earlier Māori and other societies and today.

They think about what resources they can use from Our natural environment Te taiao to make a customary kite. Using knowledge from local Māori, or other resources, the students discuss tikanga associated with the collection of local environmental resources.

Level 1

The students listen to stories about kites and look at images of different types of customary Māori kites. They talk about the range of shapes and what the shapes remind them of in their own world. They talk about the materials that were used to make kites and share their own experiences of kites. They consider the differences, for example, the materials used then and now, and the reasons for these differences.

Talk to them about the small, easily managed kites that were made for children to fly. Look carefully at images of kites to see the parts that make up a kite. Talk about the materials used then that are still available today, for example, toetoe (sedge grass) for the frame, raupō (bulrush) leaves sewn together for the skin, and harakeke (flax) strips knotted together to make a string for lashing and flying.

Try to access customary materials such as raupō, harakeke, and toetoe. Where this is not possible, select substitutes with the students' help, such as string, paper, plastic, and bamboo, or make rods from rolled newspaper.

In pairs, the students will build a frame for a manu taratahi (kite). For instructions, see pages 104–106 of Te Manu Tukutuku, the Māori Kite (Maysmor, 2001).

  • Lay two pieces of toetoe into a V shape, then a third lengthwise in the middle of the V.
  • Place a fourth toetoe piece across the other three, about 60 centimetres down the middle stem, to form a triangle.
  • Use four pieces of wool/string to lash the toetoe pieces securely as a frame. This is the manu taratahi shape.
  • Lay the raupō leaves on top of the framework. Discuss ways of joining the raupō leaves together to make a surface that will hold air.
  • Discuss the need for a tail and what it could be made of.

The students talk about their kites; the way lines and shapes can be seen. They discuss the materials they used and what it was like to make the kites. They discuss why people make kites.

The students will see the fragility of the frame, its skin, and the string that keeps it tethered to the earth. They could think about the effects of rain and strong winds on a kite. The kite will need to be handled carefully, and you can relate this to the need to care for and respect the environment.

Level 4

The students look at images of different types of customary Māori kites and talk about the components, scale, range of shapes, and details. They investigate the range of materials used and how kites were used to convey different ideas. They research how customary kites were constructed and flown, why they were made, and what significance they had for Māori.

The students brainstorm ideas they would like their kite to convey and make drawings of possible approaches, with notes about suitable materials, construction methods, and other details. Talk with them about the materials used in the past, that are still available today, for example, toetoe for the frame, raupō leaves sewn together for the skin, and harakeke strips knotted together to make a string for lashing and flying.

Try to access customary materials such as raupō, harakeke, toetoe, manuka, and feathers. Where this is not possible, select substitutes with the students' help, such as string, paper, plastic and bamboo, or make rods from rolled newspaper.

Possible kite forms the students could consider include the manu taratahi (as for level 1) or the one-point kite, named after the plume that projects out of the top.

The construction methods and materials will depend on the type of kite the students choose to make.

For instructions, see Te Manu Tukutuku, the Māori Kite (Maysmor, 2001): the manu taratahi (page 104), images of the horewai (page 41), and the manu patiki (the flatfish or flounder kite on page 44). The students could even consider making a bird man kite (pages 42 and 43).

Once they select a type of kite to make, the students will need to draw its shape, adding notes on materials, approaches to construction, and any details they will include on their kite.

  • They will need to gather materials, trial methods of lashing, make strings, and so on.
  • They make their kite and trial its flying ability.
  • They experiment with it by holding the middle strut and tossing it with a pushing action into a glide path. If the kite glides in a reasonably straight line and floats, then the kite is ready for its string. If not, then the student needs to work out where the kite is imbalanced and make minor adjustments to it.
  • Once the student has balanced the kite, the next phase is tying the string and taking the kite outside for final flight.

The students talk about their experience of making a kite; how they managed the materials and construction techniques. They talk about the ideas their own and others' kites convey and think about the reasons people have made kites over time and in different societies.

The flying of the kite could be used as a starting point for looking at the movements associated with flight, and dance activities could centre on this.

Further activities

  • The students can show their kites to children in junior classes and explain how natural materials were traditionally used to construct kites. The students can use peer tutoring – tuakana/teina (older/younger) – to help younger students construct a kite.
  • Kite building can also be linked to aspects of the technology curriculum or used as a school technology challenge.

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