PORTLAND — Kite flying has a long and storied history.

Kites have also been used for military and scientific purposes, from signaling and observation to measuring atmospheric conditions.

Last week students at Lyman Moore Middle School learned all this and more as they built their own kites, part of a day dedicated to allowing students the chance to explore interests not covered by the regular curriculum.

Called Short Courses, the day-long explorations were first introduced at the end of last school year, according to Lyman Moore Principal Ben Donaldson.

On June 13 all of the students at the school were put in small groups to engage in hands-on learning and make discoveries of their own.

In addition to kite making, students could participate in ocean studies, jewelry making, beekeeping, storytelling, hiking and orienteering, gardening, or playing a variety of sports from Frisbee golf to squash, among other activities.

Teachers Andrea Logan and Alison Hinkley led the kite-making project.

Originally students were encouraged to design kites that reflected their spirit animals, but Logan said many of them asked to create a design that had meaning to them personally instead.

For instance, one student did a Minion kite in homage to the characters from the “Despicable Me” animated movie franchise, while several others wanted to create a dragon.

Several other students, though, stuck with the animal theme, with one designing an Arctic fox and another a snow leopard.

Logan said she “loved flying kites as a kid” and wanted to share that joy with her students. In addition, she said, building and flying a kite incorporates skills such as math, logic and creativity.

What Logan also likes about kites is that they’re easy to build and the materials used don’t have to be expensive. For instance, the students at Lyman Moore used items that included plastic straws, tape and fishing line.

Along with teaching the kids to make two types of very simple kites – delta and sled – Logan and Hinkley also gave them a short history lesson on kites and discussed the four forces of flight.

Logan said she chose the simplest kite design because of concerns about having enough wind to lift them and keep the kites flying. Unfortunately, due to the rainy weather last week a plan to go to Payson Park to fly the kites didn’t happen.

Logan said although the exact origin of kites is not known, it’s believed that they were flown in China and the Malay Archipelago 2,000-3,000 years ago.

Since then they’ve been used for a variety of different purposes, she told the students, including carrying equipment that allowed the first transatlantic transmission. Now, Logan said, underwater kites are being developed to harvest renewable power.

Gloria Sebit chose to do a zebra design, saying she chose the kite-making class because “I thought it would be interesting and fun.”

Student Abdul Shueib, who created a geometric design, said he also joined the class because “it looked fun.”

Natalie Chan chose a dragon design for her kite, because “I really like drawing dragons.” She chose the kite-making short course because of the originality and creativity involved.

“I’ll be happy if I can complete my vision,” Chan said.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Lyman Moore Middle School teacher Andrea Logan, right, helps student Abdul Shueib build a kite during the Portland school’s second annual Short Courses day June 13.

Lyman Moore Middle School student Natalie Chan said she’d be happy if she could execute her vision for a dragon-themed kite. The Portland school held its second annual Short Courses day last week.

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