KENTWOOD — Students at Sumner Middle School used math skills to create flyable kites during a lesson about tetrahedrons.
Seventh-grade students in Elaine Switzer’s class crafted kites using straws, string and Mylar, following strict guidelines and learning about what shapes make up the geometric shape.
On Friday, the students completed their creations — crafted in the school’s colors of red and blue — and took to the school’s baseball field to fly the kites.
While the wind remained calm, a few students managed to get their kites in the air, if even for only a few seconds.
Chelsey Kent, 13, said the project helped her learn about geometry and more about 3-D shapes, while Michael Martin, 13, said the lesson turned math and science into something “usable.”
Switzer said her goal was to help students understand that “geometry and math are everywhere around you.”
“We learned how many triangles fill a tetrahedron,” said Riley Seals, 14. “We learned how to work together, and about the fractions it took to make it (the kite.)”
Switzer, who taught high school math in Florida before returning to her hometown to teach at Sumner, modified the former high school lesson to teach middle-school youths about shapes.
When she taught high school students about the project, Switzer said, she used the kites as a way for students to determine how many feet in the air the kite had flown. The task, she said, used trigonometry skills to determine height.
Since the middle-schoolers haven’t learned about trigonometry, Switzer used the project as a way for them to learn how to follow directions.
“Plus, it’s a fun activity for the end of the year,” Switzer said.
In addition to crafting kites, Switzer engaged the students in other projects throughout the school year. For example, she tasked students with measuring the height of the school’s flagpole by having them stand near it and measure the height of its shadow and their own. The students then measured their height, then filled in the missing part of the proportion by determining the flagpole’s height.