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Windham students get different sort of math lesson

posted Nov 6, 2009, 8:33 AM by Gary Mark   [ updated Nov 7, 2009, 10:12 PM ]
Learning about geometry can involve more than just classroom lectures and textbooks. Flying kites can help, too.

Glenn Davison, a kite flyer, maker, lecturer and workshop leader from Chelmsford, Mass., spoke to two honors geometry classes at Windham High School on Tuesday, Oct. 20, and Wednesday, Oct. 21. His talks with students helped tie together – in a fun way – aspects of math and science and art.

Davison’s presentations, held in the auditorium, covered the importance of symmetry in kites, flight angle, some of the physics involved in kite flight, methods of stability and the importance of sail loading – the ratio of sail area to weight. He had been invited to speak by math teacher Kristin Miller.

Davison had attended the Kites Over Windham kite-flying event during the town’s Harvest Festival during the previous Saturday. Some of Miller’s students were there, too, flying kites. Miller had instructed all of her geometry students to research various kite designs, create a sketch of their design choice and make a kite including required geometry components.

The students worked in pairs using their own materials, and those who had time attended the festival to fly their kites.

“During the kite festival, Glenn provided very valuable feedback to the kite designs of the students,” said Miller. “After his recommendations and a little more work on the part of the students, their kites flew. Glenn was so knowledgeable about kite design and what makes kites fly. I thought his feedback would be valuable to all the students in the class.”

The kite-flying event, held at Griffin Park, was hosted by the Windham Initiative for Renewal Energy. The organization’s mission is to inspire citizens and educate students about the benefits of renewable energy. WIRE also seeks to install a wind turbine, solar photovoltaic array and weather station monitoring system at the high school.

Davison has participated in kite festivals throughout the world, including events in Taiwan, Colombia, Nova Scotia and India. Kites Over New England, a club for kite flyers of all ages that Davison serves as vice president, had been invited by WIRE to participate in the local kite-flying event.

During his presentations at the school, Davison showed a variety of kites to the students, including box kites, a Pelicanstyle kite made in China that is about 30 feet long, a serpent tail-style kite and a large kite that looks like the legs of a soccer player.

“As it flies, the soccer player kicks his legs,” Davison told them.

Students took turns showing their kites to Davison, who gave them pointers on how to improve them.

According to Miller, her students were impressed by Davison’s knowledge of kite design and many of them were eager to make improvements to their kites based on what they had learned from him. Miller has instructed her students to write an essay describing their kite design, the geometry components involved and their kite-flying experience.

“They will use Glenn’s information to discuss why their kite flew or didn’t fly and what they would do differently to improve the experience,” she said.