When I first arrived in Bali, thirteen years ago, I remember whispering in my four-year-old daughter’s ear “Gaia, Bali is the island of the Gods, but most importantly, it is the island of the kites!” It was the dry, sunny and windy season, and the blue sky was dotted with hundreds of black and red kites, the music of their strings played by the wind was everywhere.
The origins of the kite tradition in Bali are unclear. However, it is known to be connected to Balinese agriculture; as an action of gratitude and joy for the blessing of a successful harvest, farmers would spend their spare time by making and flying kites in the wide open rice fields free of crops. Balinese people believe that flying kites is a form of worship to Shiva, the third god in the Hindu triumvirate.
As in past years, our preschool students at Montessori School Bali were looking forward to building and flying their very own kites. But this year was very special! As we all are now on the same campus, for the first time, the Primary students joined the Preschool Extended Day students in making and flying our Montessori kites.
The two Lower Primary classes worked together, and the Upper Primary students assisted and guided the Preschool five-year-old students who are soon going to reach the second plane of development. On this stage of development, children have a strong drive to be social and to collaborate. Therefore, learning how to work well with the different personalities and characteristics of other children in the classroom community is a significant life lesson that we, at Montessori School Bali, want to offer to our students.
Our “Kite Project” started with lessons in the classrooms, browsing every area of knowledge this topic could offer our students. They have had Practical Life lessons on how to build mini kites. They researched the history of kites around the world, then more specifically about flying kites and kite competitions in the Balinese culture. They understood the Geometric differences between a common quadrilateral and the specific quadrilateral called kite. They learnt about the Physics of kite flying, the lift and drag motion. They have discovered how kites have been used through Human History, to fish for example (the use of kite to catch fish is a very old technique, possibly dating back to the Stone Age, but it can still be seen in selected regions of Southeast Asia where it remains a daily activity) or for the discovery of many inventions, including planes, space crafts and, sadly, weapons.
Once the exploration of this topic had exhausted all the resources offered by our classrooms, it was time for what we call “Going Out.” Going out is an important component of the Primary program. Children must “go out” beyond the limits of the classroom to find the information or resource that they need. Our students, with their directresses’ help, scheduled the outing, arranged for their own transportation and supervision by parent volunteers and prepared themselves for the experience. Making and flying our kites became an entire course of study on independence, responsibility, and good citizenship, to say nothing of the intellectual rewards and the deeply personal memories that the children got from such experience.
There are three kinds of traditional kites in Bali: the Bebean that has a fish shape, the Pecukan, a simple form reminiscent of a leaf blown by the wind, and the Jangan that has the shape of a dragon with a long tail.
Pak Arya, our ‘undagi’ or kite specialist choce the Bebean shape for our kites. Be-bean comes from the word ‘be’ which means ‘fish’. Bebean kites, with their fins and tails, fly and move in the sky like fishes swim and sway in the water.
Kites in Bali are made from a variety of materials. Frames are made of bamboo; sails of cotton fabric, paper, foil, waxed paper, leafs or cassava paper. Under Pak Arya’s guidance, the children assembled bamboo sticks together to create the frames, and then they sewed red and white fabric on the frames to create the bodies, the fins and the tails of the Bebean kites.
When the kites were perfectly ready, we all went to fly them on Berawa beach. How blessed we are to live on such a beautiful island! By the Berawa temple, our Montessori students could run by the sea and their screams of excitement when each kite took off was a moment of pure joy!