Kites can be used as educational tools. They could be used in many subjects, but would be of greatest benefit if used in a way which allowed students to synthesize knowledge from a number of subjects.
It is important that students have a clear understanding of the differences between science and technology. Science is often taught in terms of the physical advances of a particular technology, yet most technological advances do not rely on new scientific ideas, though the advance may be instrumental in the development of new theories. We should be teaching students about technology, and showing them how advances in technology have altered the world. This applies not only to scientific thought, but also to the historical, sociological and engineering disciplines.
I suggest that kites could be developed into a unit of work in a subject such as Technology Studies. Kites would make an excellent case study of the development of a technology, showing how innovation within a technology changes the way we view the world and may even alter our theories about it. Students would be able to examine the history of kites, and how they spread through the world. Their importance in a number of cultures could be studied and compared. The kite's contribution to the development of aerodynamic theory could also be studied. Some worksheets and plans for such a unit are included in chapter four.
I propose that a constructivist approach be used when examining the scientific principles of kite flying. By using the students' understanding of physics as a starting point, and then presenting situations which cannot be understood by the students' current comprehension of physics, it is possible to alter the students' view of the world to one which is more correct. This process can also be used to give students some understanding of the efforts of the aviation pioneers, who started with many misconceptions about the dynamics of flight, and whose practical experiences led to much original scientific thought.
Peter Batchelor, 1993