January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Lesson Plan: Ornamental Corn Inquiry (Grades K-2)

Posted: Monday, November 4th, 2013

by Valerie Joyner 

Ornamental corn

Ornamental corn

Ornamental corn, available this time of year, is great for setting up an inquiry activity for your primary (K-2) students to explore.  If the weather in your part of California is still warm, you can begin this activity right away.  However, due to the size and diversity of weather conditions around California, you may need to purchase a few ears of ornamental corn now and save the activity until the spring when the weather warms up. 

Focus Question:  What are the kernels on an ear of corn?

Materials you will need:

1 or more ears of dry (colorful) ornamental corn (available in the fall)

1 or more shoe box size plastic containers (1per ear of corn)

My Corn Book – 1 per student

Corn Book Sample

Corn Book Sample

Depending on your students’ writing ability, you may have to take dictation for the students, make sentence strips for them to copy using their words, or allow students to write on their own.

Access to water and sunlight

Chart paper and pens

ENGAGE:

Have your students sit as a group in a large circle.  Hold up an ear of ornamental corn and ask the students what they think it is.  Do not tell them it is an ear of corn.  Pass the corn around and ask students to touch and smell it.  Once everyone has had a chance to observe it, ask them what they think it is.  This can be confusing for some students as they may not understand why an ear of corn is dry and colorful.  Allow students to come up with their own ideas.

EXPLORE, EXPLAIN and ELABORATE:

Explain to the students that they are going to be scientists and discover what happens when they put the corn in water and watch it for a few weeks.  But, first they must observe it closely and then predict what they think will happen.

My Corn Book

Step 1 – Distribute ears of corn to each group.  Allow students time to observe and discuss their observations with each other.  When they are finished they should record their observations and color the ear of corn as accurately as possible based on their observations.  You will need to tell the students this is not the time to take artistic freedom and color the corn pink, blue, or rainbow-colored. 

Notebook Page 1

Today I observed an ear of corn.  It is   _________________________________

_________________________________________________________________.

Step 2 – Have students place an ear of corn in a plastic container and add 1” of water.   Allow students time to predict what they think will happen and record their predictions.

You may be very surprised with their predictions.  In the past my students’ predictions have been everywhere from it will turn yellow so you can eat it, to it will pop, to it will turn the water a different color, but seldom do they predict it will grow.  Allow all predictions.

Notebook Page 2

We put the corn in water. Then we put it in the sun.  I predict the corn will ________________________________________, because ______________________________________________.

Ornamental corn in plastic bin.

Ornamental corn in plastic bin.

Step 3 – Place the corn in a warm sunny location.

On a daily basis, put the corn in the sunny location and check the water level and quality.  You will need to rinse the ears of corn every day or two to ensure that it does not become cloudy or smelly.  Within a few days students will notice that the kernels are getting larger and soon begin to sprout roots.

When the students notice roots sprouting, bring the corn inside and allow students to observe and discuss what is happening.  After they have had a chance to observe have them record their observations through writing/dictation and by coloring the ear of corn on the pages accurately.

Notebook Pages 3-5(or more)

Today we observed the corn.  It has ________________________________________________.

Repeat Step 3 allowing students to record their observations each time.

Within a few weeks the ear of corn will send up green shoots in addition to the roots.  Often the kernels will begin to fall off the ear with their attached roots and shoots.  When this happens the students become aware that the ear of corn is actually a group of seeds.

Step 4 – Final Observation

Allow students to make one final observation.  Discuss the word “results” and ask the students to share verbally their “results”.  Have students record their results in their Corn Book.

Last Notebook Page

Results:  When you put an ear of corn in water it ______________________________________________________.  I think the kernels on an ear of corn are _____________________________________, because ___________________________________________.

EVALUATE:

Use the students’ results page to check for understanding.  The students should understand that an ear of corn contains the seeds of corn.

TIPS:

  • Predictions are difficult for students this age.  They may want to copy each other’s ideas and ask an adult for advice.  Remind them that a prediction is their own thinking based on what they already know.
  • When students color in their ears of corn remind them that they need to color it the same as their observations.
  • Depending on students’ writing abilities, either have them record the date of each observation or add the date for them.  It is important to establish proper recording skills as early as possible.

ADDITIONAL ACTIVITIES:

  • Plant the seeds in the school garden or in a paper cup.
  • Plant the ears of corn in the school garden or planter box and continue to observe
  • Measure the shoots, then record and graph measurements
  • Compare and contrast the results of all the ears of corn.

Written by Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner is a retired elementary science educator and is CSTA’s Primary (grades K-2) Director.

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