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The Challenge: Make a kite from natural products

Ellen and kiteWith only the natural resources of the island how did botanist Ellen make a kite?

Ellen made her kite out of plant material — sticks and coconut fibers.

The plant kite Ellen made out of coconut fibers was rough, which caused a lot of skin friction drag.

The plant fiber is also heavier than the light materials kites are usually made from so the force needed to overcome gravity was greater. We therefore think we needed more wind than was present during our launch attempt for our kite to fly. That's our excuse anyway!

Web Links

The producers are not responsible for the content of external websites.

The Science of Kite Flying from the 2020: Old Books New Media site
Make a kite out of a garbage bag on the Science Museum of Minnesota site
Kite Making guide on the About site
Go Fly a Kite by Dennis Randall on the Learning Network site


The Magnificent Book of Kites : Explorations in Design, Construction, Enjoyment & Flight by Maxwell Eden, pub Sterling 2000; ISBN: 0806949902

Wild Color by Jenny Dean and Karen Diadick Casselman, Watson-Guptill Publications, 1999; ISBN: 0823057275

History and Practice of Eighteenth Century Dyeing by John Hamilton-Edmonds, J Edmonds 1999; ISBN: 0953413314 Colour for Textiles: a User's Handbook by W. Ingamells, 1993 Society of Dyers & Colourists; ISBN: 0901956562

Rope, Twine and Net Making by Anthony Sanctuary, Shire Publications Ltd 1988 ; ISBN: 085263918X

General information about tropical plants and their uses: Tropical Forests and Their Crops by Nigel J.H. Smith, J.T. Williams, Donald L. Plucknett and Jennifer P. Talbot, pub Cornell University Press 1992; ISBN: 0801427711(Discusses general groupings of useful plants)

Botany for Gardeners: An Introduction and Guide by Brian Capon, B.T. Batsford 1992; ISBN: 0713472529 (A good general text on how plants function)

A Field Guide to the Families and Genera of Woody Plants of Northwest South America: (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru): With Supplementary Notes) by Alwyn H. Gentry and Adrian B. Forsyth, University of Chicago Press1996; ISBN: 0226289443 (An excellent resource on learning to identify tropical plants in the field/forest)

Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics by Albert Y. Leung and Steven Foster. 1995 John Wiley & Sons Inc; ISBN: 0471508268

Fruits and Vegetables of the Caribbean by M.J.Bourne, G.W. Lennox, and S.A. Seddon, Caribbean Publishing 1988, ISBN: 0333453115

Trees of the Caribbean by S.A. Seddon, Caribbean Publishing 1980 ; ISBN: 0333287932

Nature of the Islands: Plants and Animals of the Eastern Caribbean by Virginia Barlow, Cruising Guide Publications 1993; ISBN: 0944428134 This book has all the plants we used, plus information about the ecology of the area.

A couple of children's books:

The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynn Cherry, pub 2000 Voyager Books; ISBN: 0152026142

El Gran Capoquero: UN Cuento De LA Selva Amazonica by Lynn Cherry, translated by Alma Ada, 1994 Harcourt; ISBN: 0152323201