The Great Corn Adventure

Teacher's Guide

The Great Corn Adventure will help your students learn

  • The history of corn.
  • Corn is an important grain around the world.
  • How corn grows and its various stages of growth.
  • How corn is harvested.
  • The many uses of corn.
  • The distribution of corn from the field to consumer.

A Little about Corn

Corn was called mahiz by the Native Americans who first met Columbus. Corn is known as maize throughout most of the world. It’s botanical name is Zea mays and that is why our character’s name is Zea Mays.

Like other members of the grass family, corn is a monocot. It has only one cotyledon or seed leaf.

Corn plants contain both male and female flowers in different locations on the plant. An ear of corn is actually a female flower stalk, resting between the sheaths of the leaf and stem. The only part of the female flower that we see when the plant is growing are the fine hairs called silks.

These are actually tubes through which pollen will travel when released from the male flower or tassel that branches at the top of the plant.

The wind carries pollen from the tassels on some corn plants to silks on others. Each strand of silk that is fertilized develops into a kernel of corn with the characteristics of both parents.

Statewide Learning Standards for Third Through Fifth Grades


  • Describe the simple life cycle of the corn plant and the parts of the corn kernel.
  • Use a chart system to observe the growth of a corn plant and an ear of corn.
  • Be able to describe the functions of sun, water, and soil in the development of corn.
  • Explain how using a moisture tester helps to indicate when corn is ready to be harvested.
  • Be able to identify and explain ways science and technology focusing on different uses of corn have influenced our lives.
  • Be able to make a sample collection of corn kernels or ears showing the various stages of development.

Language Arts

  • Read with understanding and fluency about corn and its history.
  • Clarify word meaning using context clues and a variety of resources including glossaries, dictionaries and thesauruses to know the basic vocabulary of corn production, utilization, and corn anatomy as told through a guided study of corn.
  • Establish purpose for reading; ask questions; make predictions; connect, clarify, and examine ideas about corn.
  • Use language arts to acquire, access, and communicate information about corn and how it grows.
  • Formulate questions and construct a basic research plan in studying and comparing various kinds of corn.
  • Organize and integrate information from a variety of sources such as books, interviews, library reference materials, web-sites, and CD Roms.

Fine Arts

  • Describe artistic expression of self and others through interactive activities in the Fun Place.
  • Identify and describe the elements of 2- and 3-dimensional space by developing models of a corn plant or ear of corn.


  • Collect, organize and analyze data using statistical methods; predict results; and interpret uncertainty using concepts of probability.
  • Organize, describe, and make predictions about corn yields.
  • Formulate questions, design data collection methods, gather and analyze data and communicate findings by using the various learning activities to study corn.

Corn Corner

  • Ask students to keep a list of products from home that are made from corn.
  • Invite a farmer to your class. Ask the students to find out how the farmer decides when to plant and harvest corn. What happens to the corn crop? How many bushels per acre does he grow? What interesting stories does the farmer have about growing corn?
  • Find out about how different cultures or parts of the country use corn for food. Some examples are tamales, tortillas, hominy, succotash, corn bread, corn pudding, corn on the cob, and creamed corn. Have a “corn tasting” day.
  • Make a Corn Corner in your classroom. Have the students bring in their discoveries relating to corn and write a brief description about their discovery.
  • Make corn husk dolls in the fall with corn husks. You'll need 12 corn husks per doll (if you use sweet corn and husk the ears in class, you can cook and eat the corn.); yarn, string or colored cord; scissors; magic markers and paint.
    • Gather 12 corn husks from the sweet corn and tie them tightly together at one end with the yarn or string.
    • To make the head, tie the husks a little way down from the top knot.
    • Gather three of the husks and tie them together halfway down for an arm. Gather and tie three more husks at the opposite side of the doll to form another arm. Trim away some of the excess corn husk below the know to even up the end.
    • To make the body, tie the remaining corn husks halfway between the head and the ends.
    • Make the legs by taking three husks and tying them together a little way up from the ends.
    • Make the other leg the same way.
    • Decorate with colored felt-tip markers, construction paper, fabric, or other supplies you may have.
  • Bring a bushel basket to the classroom. Talk about how corn is measured in bushels and how many ears of corn it takes to fill a bushel. How many pounds of shelled corn (kernels removed from the cob) are in a bushel? It's 56 pounds.
  • See if there is a corn maze in your community. If so, invite the farmer to the classroom to discuss how a corn maze is made.
  • Have the class brainstorm all the different occupations that are connected to corn. See how many different jobs they can name.
  • If you live in an area where corn is being grown, make a collection of corn ears showing the six stages of development.
  • Germinate corn kernels in your classroom. Place a moist paper towel in a clear plastic ziplock bag. Then place corn kernels between the bag and the moist towel. Then watch the germination process. Which emerges first? The root or the shoot? Why? The root emerges first to ensure that the shoot that follows will have nutrients and moisture to continue the growth process.

Playing Pollinators

Corn is pollinated by the wind. Since every silk must be pollinated in order to have a full ear of corn, gardeners plant corn plants close together so there will be lots of pollen available.

If you have just a couple of plants outside your classroom, you may want to try pollinating the corn. Once you see the tassels emerge, look for the silks in a few days. The silks will be receptive to pollen for 10-14 days. See if you can observe the silks’ tiny hair – like receptors that hold onto the pollen.

To transfer the pollen, shake or remove pollen from the tassel and sprinkle it on the silks of the same or another plant. In about 30 days, you should be able to enjoy the fruits of your experiment.



Corn Belt Harvest by Raymond Bial, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991. ISBN 0-395-56234-1.

The Story of Corn by Betty Harper Fassel, North Point Press, 1999.



Camp Silos
An agriculture site for students and teachers with excellent information.

Ohio Corn Marketing Program
A wealth of information about corn. Everything from harvesting to nulling. An especially interesting section on ethanol.

Kansas Corn Growers Association

King from Purdue University
Offers a web-based encyclopedia of knowledge about the production, marketing and usage of corn in North America.

Ag in the Classroom - Illinois Farm Bureau
Teaching resources and information about grants for Illinois classrooms.

Teacher's Guide Learn with Zea Zea's Fun Place Credits University of Illinois Extension The Great Corn Adventure Urban Programs Resource Network Schools Online Just for Kids