Many early Americans believed that popcorn popped because a tiny angry spirit who lived inside the kernel wanted to escape. Today we know that the extra-strong hull on a popcorn kernel seals in water that forms in the moist, pulpy center.
When the kernel is heated, the water boils and turns to steam and expands. The pressure builds high enough for the kernel to explode, and the fluffy endosperm fuses and fills with air.
Experiment to determine how moisture content affects the kernels’ popping ability (dry kernels, freeze, and soak some.)
Compare two brands of popcorn. Start with 100 kernels of each. Record and chart the number of kernels that popped, number that didn’t pop, volume, and flake size.
Have students write fictional stories detailing how popcorn’s ability to pop might have originally been discovered.
Predict and then find out whether corn seeds or popped corn weigh more.
Grow corn in your school garden. Compare the corn that students grow. Have students make predictions about the growing process in gardening journals.