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FOR THE KIDS : School Principal Has High-Flying Hobby : Her passion is building kites, and she passes on her knowledge and skill in workshops for youngsters.


On weekdays, Principal Beverley Radloff is in charge of Simi Valley's Atherwood School. But on weekends, she's likely to be at the controls of a stunt kite zooming the skies with graceful power.

It's not that the kids at Atherwood don't know about Radloff's kite passion. Every spring, she holds a special kite day at the school when she teaches them how to build their own kites.

Radloff knows as much about building as flying them. She has been teaching kite-building workshops through the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District the last seven years.

She is doing two workshops March 19. The first, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., is for families. The second, from 1 to 3 p.m., is for teachers, Scout leaders and other adults who work with children.

So how is it that Radloff, who has a 24-year-old son, became a "kiter?" When her son was 8 years old, the family visited the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, where she picked up a book on kites.

"I got blown away," said Radloff, whose big, jovial laugh often punctuates her conversation.

During the trip, she bought her first kite, a small cotton job she still has. Soon after that, she started teaching her son's Scout troop as well as other kids.

She has lost count, she said, of the number of kites she has collected over the years. She has bought and flown them in Japan, Korea, Hawaii and Australia.

She has made quite a few too--a project that takes up the entire living room. One of her creations is a 9-by-10-foot jumbo kite, a design known as a "sled." Using a pattern, she sewed rainbow-colored nylon strips together, leaving a triangular-shaped opening in the center.

During the workshop, the kids will make a similar, simplified version that is about one-third that size, she said. Using a pattern, they'll make the kites from plastic trash bags or paper bags--not nylon. And, instead of sewing them, they'll use tape. By the end of the class, they'll have a ready-to-fly kite.

According to Radloff, flying a kite is simply a matter of using common sense. Nonetheless, she passed on some advice: "Everyone thinks you must run with a kite. You don't have to. In the right wind, you can launch it out of hand."

For parents interested in buying their child a kite, she offered this: "Don't buy a stunt kite." Buy something far less expensive that is less complicated and will fly reliably.

And lastly: If kite lines get tangled, don't bring the kites down and try to untangle them on the ground. Do it while they are aloft.

Of course, all this sounds simple, coming from a woman who knows kite parts as well as a mechanic knows cars. When she takes to the air, she likes to fly a double--two kites attached to each other.

She has never competed. "I fly for the joy of it," she said. She flies whenever she can, especially during the summer. Even when she takes a trip, she loads four or five kites into her special kite bag.

It's still a family sport, sort of. Her son flies with her, sometimes at the beach in Port Hueneme.

As for her husband: "He has a bad habit of dumping them in the ocean."


Storyteller Jim Woodard will be at Oxnard's Heritage Square on Sunday with a tale about a seal that becomes human and then reverts back to being a seal. He'll also be telling a story about a corn farmer who couldn't die.

The program, mainly for kids 6 to 12, starts at 2 p.m. in Heritage Square Hall, 7th and A streets downtown. Craig Newton of Simi Valley will provide the music. Admission is $2.


* WHAT: Kite-building workshops offered by the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District.

* WHEN: March 19. First session for families, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Second session for adults, 1 to 3 p.m.

* WHERE: 1692 Sycamore Drive, in the multipurpose room.

* COST: $10 for the family session (children under 8 must be assisted by an adult during the workshop); $5 for the adult session.

* FYI: To register for the workshop, call the district at 584-4400. All materials will be supplied.

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