March 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Trend Alert: Kite-Making Workshops

We’ve caught wind of a new trend—kite-making workshops taking place in public libraries across the country. We asked around to see what’s up—and away!

Seasonally inspired in Larchmont, NY

larchmont kites

Program participants test their homemade kites. Photo courtesy of Larchmont Public Library

Kite-making workshops at the Larchmont (NY) Public Library are an annual favorite. For six years, the library has offered this program for kids during April, national kite flying month. The program has become so popular that it is now offered at other times of year, and for expanded age groups.

Rebecca Teglas, head of the children’s department, has always loved kites. “I was inspired to start the kite program because flying kites forces people to slow down in a busy world,” she says. “Also, there’s a lot to learn about science and math when it comes to flying kites.”

Teglas uses a recycled paper kite project she found online as the core of the program, and she begins with an inspiring video of a kite flying festival. The kite-making activity incorporates STEM skills such as measuring precisely and understanding the concept of lift. Plus, she always starts the program with an age-appropriate story—about kites, of course.

Crafty customers in Madison County, GA

baseball kite

The proud maker of a baseball kite. Photo courtesy of Madison County Library

The Madison County (GA) Library’s program began as a patron’s idea. She suggested the library try a kite making workshop—and offered to lead it. The library paid for the materials and provided staff assistance, but the patron planned the activity, making paper kites with a wooden dowel structure, decorated with paint and tissue paper. The program was offered as part of the library’s summer reading activities and was filled to capacity.

The experience was overwhelmingly positive for the library and reminded the staff that successful program ideas can come from anyone. Branch manager Jennifer Ivey reflects, “We paid attention to what our patrons are asking for, and if they really want something, maybe they can help make it happen! I don’t see any reason not to repeat this program.”

Science in the sky in Brooklyn, NY

The Clinton Hill branch of the Brooklyn (NY) Public Library was awarded a grant from the JM Kaplan Fund last year to spend on presenters and supplies, which allowed it to experiment with new programs. The branch is very close to a park with wide open spaces—perfect for flying kites—so they gave it a try.

brooklyn kite

A plastic bag kite in progress. Photo courtesy Brooklyn Public Library

Library supervisor Tracey Mantrone recalls the inspiration. “Living in an urban area, kids and families are clamoring to learn about science and nature,” she says. “We were working with a local summer camp on developing nature walks, and we thought this would tie in well.” She used the book Kites for Everyone: How to Make and Fly Them by Margaret Greger and Del Greger (Dover, 2006) to find instructions for a simple kite that would fly well, and developed a program for two groups of seven- to 12-year-old campers. Participants cut and decorated durable colored plastic trash bags and fit them over a dowel frame. The library provided kite string and a device to prevent tangling, and with simple safety instructions, the campers went straight from the library to the park to fly their kites. “The best part was that the kids got to actually use something they’d made from scratch, and it worked!” says Mantrone. Books about wind, lift, and flight deepened the science connection, and the library repeated the program in April to celebrate national kite flying month.

Arts and culture in Madison, WI


Artist Julio Flores with his own kite. Photo courtesy Madison Public Library

Madison (WI) Public Library’s recent kite program stood out because it is for adults. Led by artist Julio Flores, the program incorporated art, culture, and spiritual history. Flores led a series of workshops on kite-making, as he learned it from his grandfather as a child growing up in Cataño, Puerto Rico. The workshops were offered through the library’s maker space, the Bubbler, and were part of a series of craft programs representing diverse cultures.

Flores specializes in traditional Puerto Rican paper crafts, particularly masks and kites. This workshop, like most Bubbler programs, was artist-initiated. The library provided space and materials and handled all the promotion and other logistical arrangements, while the artist developed and led the workshop.

Like many of the library’s programs for adults, this one began as a workshop for kids. Adults accompanying their children requested a more in-depth version for older participants, and Flores was happy to oblige. “We see adults as an underserved population when it comes to maker programs, so we were excited to host this,” says Rebecca Millerjohn, whose title is deputy bubblerarian. “These experiences can help adults understand that maker spaces are for all ages.”

So are kites. There are a lot more library kite programs out there. Clearly, something is in the air!

Melanie Baron is the marketing and communications specialist for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation in North Carolina. She has consulted with libraries and museums around the country, and is proud to have been a founding staff member of ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center.

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  1. Thanks so much for spreading the good news regarding the educational and fun value of kite making!