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Kites provide educational experience

| Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Kite flying has become a popular sport.

There are festivals dedicated to flying kites. There are competitions. People who refer to themselves as professional kite flyers have taken the enjoyable pastime to new heights.

Students from the Connellsville and Southmoreland school districts will be experiencing the thrill of the sport when they participate in the first kite-flying competition at West Overton Museums at 10 a.m. Friday.

"We think that this is a great idea and we hope to make this an annual event," said Grant Gerlich, West Overton's executive director. "We are pleased that Connellsville and Southmoreland are participating. We hope that more schools will become interested and compete next year."

There are three kite design categories in which the participants can enter. Kites can be of box or cellular design, flat or bowed design, or semi-rigid kites, such as a sled kite, which are flown on many beaches.

"You can build a kite out of anything -- trash or newspaper," said Jackie Polakovsky, Southmoreland Junior High School physical science teacher. "Even store-bought kites can be tweaked and used in the competition. This should be interesting because there are all different types of kites."

The students from Southmoreland will be competing on an individual basis as well as in teams. Seventh grade and eighth grade students are participating.

"I opened it up to the whole school. I'd like to get the seventh-grade students excited for next year," Polakovsky said.

Southmoreland student Syndey Stephenson likes to build kites. She's ready for Friday's competition. "I found a great design on the Internet for a

dragon kite," she said.

John Tremba, instructor for the gifted class at Connellsville Area Senior High School, has his students designing and constructing kites for the

competition.

Calling the kite-building project an "engineering challenge," Tremba is pleased at the interest shown by the students. In fact, he is considering doing it

again next year.

"Some of these students have never flown a kite before," he said, adding that they are all anxious for the competition.

The Connellsville teams are working on different types and designs as well as different fabrics and materials. They have purchased kites that they have

used as models. The students are working as individuals and as teams.

The competition will consist of two judging categories -- highest altitude and longest flight. The school with the overall most points scored will win the

"loving cup," complete with their school's name inscribed on a gold plate. The cup was donated by the Grable Foundation.

"There are 18 empty nameplates on the trophy," Gerlich said. "So we need to use them up over the years."

The trophy will remain at the winning school for the year and then move to the following year's winning school.

"This will be a learning experience," Gerlich said. "Working with kites deals with usage of math, trigonometry, art and graphic art. But then, of course, it will be fun."

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