Introduction: Build a Bird Kite

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Have you ever wondered how birds are able to fly or why kites soar so high? It can all be explained by science!

The four forces of flight are weight, lift, drag and thrust. These forces affect all flying things, including birds and kites! A force is a push or pull acting upon an object. Forces can help with flight, or make flight more difficult. Lift and Thrust are the forces that help flying things get off of the ground. Lift is a push upward and Thrust is a push forward. Kites get lift and thrust from strong winds that help push the kite upward into the sky. Birds get lift and thrust from flapping their wings and taking advantage of wind in a similar way to kites. The other forces of flight acting on objects are Weight and Drag. These forces pull objects down toward the ground (weight) and backward from the direction of flight (drag). In order for something to fly, whether it be a kite or a bird, its Lift and Thrust must be stronger than its Weight and Drag, kind of like a game of Tug-o-War!

Birds are able to overcome the forces of weight and drag when they fly because of special adaptations to their bodies. This means that their bodies have special differences from ours that help them fly. For example, birds have hollow bones, strong muscles, a beak instead of a jaw with teeth (much lighter), and a smooth body shape that reduces drag. The wings provide the force of lift, which is stronger the larger the wing is. Smaller-winged birds need to flap their wings faster to get the same amount of lift as those with larger wings. A bird’s feathers are also incredibly strong yet light, reducing the weight required to lift the bird off of the ground.

Today, we will be making flying bird kites that you can take outside and use to experiment with the forces of flight.


For this activity, you will need:

Two rectangular sheets of paper
a stapler
a glue stick
some string
either a hole puncher or a paper clip

Step 1: Fold Paper and Draw Eyes

Fold one of your papers in half as shown above and draw your bird’s eyes in one of the corners by the creased edge of the paper. Flip the paper over and draw another eye on the other side of the paper.

Step 2: Color Your Bird's Feathers

Open up the folded paper and color the inside.

One the kite is folded, these will be your bird’s feathers, so make them colorful!

Step 3: Fold and Staple Your Bird's Wings

This part may require some help from an adult!

Take the loose corners closest to the eyes and staple them to the creased edge of the paper, or the bird’s body, as shown above.

Step 4: Add a Beak

It’s not a bird without a beak! Draw a few different shapes on the edge of your scrap paper and choose a beak that fits your bird best. Color it, cut it out, and glue it onto your bird’s face.

Step 5: Make Some Tail Feathers

To make some tail feathers, place your hand on the edge of your paper and trace around your fingers. Color the feathers in, cut them out, fold them in half and glue them onto the back of your bird.

Step 6: Attach the String to Your Bird Kite

If you have a hole puncher, you can just punch a hole into your bird and tie your string through there. If you don’t have a hole puncher handy, use a paperclip to puncture a hole and tie the string to the paper clip as shown above!

Step 7: Take Your Bird Kite Outside for a Test Flight!

Take your bird outside and find a place with some space to run around a little. Think about the forces of flight, and how you can make your bird kite fly by increasing the lift and thrust to overcome weight and drag.

Here are a few things to try:

- Get a running start! If it isn’t a very windy day, you may need to create your own wind by running around a little

- Lift the kite up! Raise the kite above your head to give it a little lift