﻿ Popcorn K-12 Experiments for Lesson Plans & Science Fair Projects
Popcorn K-12 Experiments
For Science Labs, Lesson Plans, Class Activities & Science Fair Projects
For Middle School Students & Teachers

 This experiment is courtesy of

## Interdisciplinary Approach to Investigating Popcorn

Developers:

Barbara C. Rosenzweig
Upper Moreland Middle School
Hatboro, PA 19040

Dr. Charles Jones
Rohm and Haas Company
Spring House, PA

Levels:

Middle School (5 - 8)

Disciplines:

General Science (Life Science and/or Physical Science), Language Arts, Math, Reading, Social Studies (These activities may also be used in self-contained Special Education Classes.)

Goals:

To use a model investigation to introduce and integrate the teaching of the scientific method into the math, reading, social studies, and language arts programs.

1. Students will learn and demonstrate the process of the scientific method of investigation.

2. Students will use this knowledge in designing an experiment.

3. Students will use skills in math, language arts, and reading to design and explain the experiment.

4. Students may use the format presented to design experiments to test common household products.

Specific
Objectives:

If you are unable to use the following investigations in a multidisciplinary setting, they can be easily adapted for regular classroom instruction.

• Students will learn proper testing procedures.
• Students will research the topic of "Popcorn" in reading class.
• Students will formulate a hypothesis and test it.
• Students will collect data and record information in charts and graphs in math class.
• Students will evaluate the validity of the results.
• Students will draw a conclusion based on the results and write it in a coherent fashion in language arts class.

Background:

Why Popcorn Pops

Not only is it the steam trying to escape that makes popcorn pop, but it is also the special construction of the pericarp or hull (outer covering), the amount of moisture in the kernel, and the microscopic structure of the endosperm ( the starch granules which expand) that are key to its popping ability. The extra strong pericarp must be tough enough to seal in the steam until the pressure is great enough for the kernel to explode.

Material:

Popcorn Experiment

White Popcorn
Yellow Popcorn
Hot Air Poppers
Paper bags for collecting the popped popcorn

Curriculum
Activities:

The following sequence of activities is designed to enhance the understanding of major scientific testing concepts. For most effective learning, the activities should be performed in the sequence presented below.

* The following pages include a sample chart and an outline which may be copied and used as student guides.

### General Experiment Outline Guide

The following explanation can be used for teaching the concept of "controls" from the Experiment Guide. If you were testing to find out which fertilizer makes petunia plants grow taller, it would be important to know what would happen if one of your plant sets has no fertilizer added. Then you could compare the results to those of the fertilized plants. The set with plain water and no fertilizer would be considered your control set.

*

Popcorn Experiment Sample:

For this classroom experiment, each group of students should pop a portion of the 10 trials, testing at least one sample of yellow and white corn and placing its data on the class chart.

I.

Title
Will yellow corn kernels pop more than white?

II.

Purpose
To see if the color of the corn kernel (white or yellow) affects the amount of popped popcorn kernels.

Before formulating the hypothesis, students should record their observations of each sample of 100 unpopped kernels; note weight (mass), size and shape variations, etc. to help make the hypothesis.

III.

Hypothesis
If both yellow and white varieties of corn are popped, then I predict that a higher percentage of white will pop than yellow, because the white ones are larger on average than the yellow ones.

IV.

Experimental Variable
The color of the corn (white and yellow)

V.

Controlled Variables
A. Same number of kernels tested for each trial
B. Same popping procedure
C. Same brand of popcorn
D. Both sets of colored kernels are without salt or butter
E. Kernels are kept at the same temperature and humidity
F. Same time popcorn popped
G. Same temperature at which popcorn is popped

VI.

Procedure
A. Prepare the two samples of kernels by counting out 100 of each type of popcorn and recording the approximate volume of each in a graduated cylinder.

B. Pop the first sample using a hot-air popper for 2 minutes.

C. Collect all of the popcorn flakes and unpopped kernels. (You may need to turn the popper upside down to get them all out.)

D. Record the volume of the flakes in a graduated cylinder or beaker.

E. Repeat for a total of 10 trials.

Since this will be done in the classroom (electric outlets are necessary), you can have as many groups testing as you wish, depending on the amount of available time and hot air poppers (preferably 4 or more for a class of 28). Caution: Be careful not to overload outlets. Know where the circuit breakers are before you begin.

VII.

Materials
 A. Yellow and white popcorn kernels B. Hot air poppers C. Paper bags for collecting the flakes and unpopped kernels D. Metric ruler E. Graduated cylinder (for finding the volume of the kernels) F. 600-mL beaker (for finding the volume of the flakes) G. Triple beam balance

VIII.

Results (Observations)
Here students develop a chart for recording the collected data. A large class chart should be made to reflect at least 10 trials so that an average may be taken. They should also keep a record of everything observed as anecdotal information to help in reaching their conclusions.

IX.

Conclusion
A. What was proved? Analyze what your results meant. What were the differences between the factors or products you tested? Check the ingredients or makeup of your variable. (Be careful not to confuse close results with a major difference. Is it close enough to be considered of "no significant difference" due to possible experimental error?

B. What conditions may have affected your results causing an experimental error?

C. How would you change the design of the experiment to eliminate the problems and make it a better test?

D. What were some of the conditions that were impossible to control?

E. What did you learn from your experiment that you did not expect?

F. If your results are accurate, what recommendations would you make as a result of your experiment?

Comparing the Volume of White and Yellow Popcorn

 White Corn Yellow Corn Trials # Popped Flakes Volume of Flakes # Popped Flakes Volume of Flakes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Total Average
Journal:

Sample Results:

Yellow Corn

 Trials Mass in grams Size range (in cm) Volume (in grad. cyl.) # Unpopped Kernels # Popped Flakes Volume of Popped Flakes 1 11.45 .6 - 1.0 14cc 12 (1.12g) 88 (9.13g) 375cc 2 11.78 .7 - .8 14cc 19 (1.85g) 81 (8.60g) 310cc 3 11.48 .6 - .8 14cc 16 (1.57g) 84 (8.70g) 310cc

White Corn

 Trials Mass in grams Size range (in cm) Volume (in grad. cyl.) # Unpopped Kernels # Popped Flakes Volume of Popped Flakes 1 11.57 .6 - .9 14cc 23 (2.38g) 77 (8.01g) 350cc 2 11.86 .4 - 1.1 15cc 20 (2.01g) 80 (8.58g) 400cc 3 12.00 .6 - .9 15cc 23 (2.38g) 76 (8.50g) 350cc

1. If there is a difference between the initial mass of the corn and the popped corn, what happened to account for this change?

2. How much variability is there in the samples of each kind of corn? Why do you think this is true?

3. What happens to the reliability of the results as the sample size is increased?

4. What practical problems are there in the unpopped kernels and the popped corn? How can you limit these?

Special Note:

Although comparing results in microwave ovens to those in hot air poppers may sound like a good idea, there are a lot of practical considerations that may make it prohibitive. The factors of "time" and "temperature" are difficult to control for the small sample size of 100 kernels. Since a microwave may be used to make popcorn, it is suggested that prior to the students' investigation, the teacher should determine the correct power level and time needed.

Suggested
Extensions:

Other variables can be tested, such as kernel size, flake size, volume, profitability (comparing the ratio of the volume of flakes to the weight of the kernels), using the same outline form. Since the main purpose of these activities is to provide students with a model for controlled scientific investigation, students should be encouraged to test many of the household products they use.

References:

Education Division of the American Chemical Society, Ideas in Science, "Popping Corn" Science Resources for Schools, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Vol.3 No.3, 1986.

Eldredge, J.C. and Thomas, W. I., Popcorn - Its Production, Processing and Utilization, Iowa State University of Science and Technology, Bulletin P127, Ames, Iowa. July 1959

Hoseney, R.C., Zeleznak, K., and Abdelrahman, A., "Mechanism of Popcorn Popping", Journal of Cereal Science, Vol. N.1, Academic Press Inc. London, 1983.

Sibley, Lynn K., "Popcorn", Chem Matters, American Chemical Society, Washington, D.C., October 1984.

 This experiment is courtesy of