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PRE-VISIT LESSON 2: Where Do Your Cornflakes Come From?

Grade Level: This lesson can be modified easily to work at any grade level (K-12). Older children will be able to research more independently, while younger children may need to be guided through the process.

Illinois State Learning Standards that can be covered with this lesson:

  • English – 1C: Comprehend a broad range of reading materials.
  • English – 4A: Listen effectively in formal and information situations.
  • English – 4B: Speak effectively using language appropriate to the situation and audience.
  • English – 5A: Locate, organize, and use information from various sources to answer questions, solve problems, and communicate ideas.
  • English – 5B: Analyze and evaluate information acquired from various sources.
  • English – 5C: Apply acquired information, concepts, and ideas to communicate in a variety of formats.
  • Science – 12A: Know and apply concepts that explain how living things function, adapt, and change.
  • Science – 12B: Know and apply concepts that describe how living things interact with each other and with their environment.
  • Science – 13B: Know and apply concepts that describe the interaction between science, technology, and society.
  • Social Science – 15A: Understand how different economic systems operate in the exchange, production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.
  • Social Science – 15B: Understand that scarcity necessitates choices by consumers.
  • Social Science – 15C: Understand that scarcity necessitates choices by producers.
  • Social Science – 15D: Understand trade as an exchange of goods or services.
  • Social Science – Understand the impact of government policies and decisions on production and consumption in the economy.
  • Social Science – 17A: Locate, describe, and explain places, regions, and features on the Earth.
  • Social Science – 17B: Analyze and explain characteristics and interactions of the Earth's physical systems.

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will understand how corn gets from a field and into a consumer's household.
  • Students will learn about the many products that are made from corn.
  • Students will understand the role of transportation and storage in the process of getting corn to market.
  • Students will understand the conditions necessary to grow corn.
  • Students will learn about the physical properties of corn and how it can be used to enhance other products.

Materials and Supplies

Basic Steps

    1. Begin by discussing the idea that many products we buy in the grocery store and use in the home are made with grain and grain products. Ask students for some food products they have in their household that are made from grain. Possible responses might include cereal, flour, bread, popcorn, etc. List students' responses on the board or someplace else where they can be seen by all.
    2. Ask students if they know how these food products made from grains get to stores where people can buy them. Either in small groups, as individuals, or as a whole class, trace the path of corn from the field to a bowl of cornflakes in the home. Locate information online or in the library to help, and be sure to cover the planting and growing of the corn crop, harvesting, storage, processing, and transportation. Record your findings in the Where Do Your Cornflakes Come From? handout.
    3. Discuss with students the idea that many other products besides foods are made from corn and corn derivatives. Have students brainstorm to generate a list of products made from corn. Use the List of Corn Products handout to help determine whether corn products are ingredients in items listed.
    4. If your class will be visiting the J.H. Hawes grain elevator museum, place special emphasis on the grain elevator portion of the process and have students generate a list of questions they would like to have answered on their trip.

Learning Extensions and Possible Products

  • Have students identify another product made from corn (e.g., plastic, fuel, cosmetics, corn syrup, etc.) and research to find out how corn is used to make that product. Students can present their research in the form of a written or oral report, a PowerPoint or KidPix presentation, or by designing a poster or brochure. (IL State Standards: English – 3A, 3B, 3C in addition to those listed above)
  • Invite a farmer to come talk to the class about corn (or grain) farming. Prepare by asking students to come up with a few questions each to ask the farmer.
  • Take a field trip to the grocery store (or read about products online) to see how many contain corn or corn products. Students can use the List of Corn Products handout to help as they scan labels. Upon return, have students work together to make a website or poster to help other students in your school understand the vast uses of corn.

Helpful Websites

The Great Corn Adventure
http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/corn/03static.html

HowStuffWorks.com: Where do corn oil and corn syrup come from?
http://www.howstuffworks.com/question93.htm

Illinois Corn Growers Association
http://www.ilcorn.org/

National Corn Growers Association: Corn Curriculum (for teachers)
http://www.ncga.com/education/main/index.html

Illinois Department of Agriculture: Kids' Page
http://www.agr.state.il.us/kidspage/

Additional Pre-Visit Activities

  • Have students make a create a corn mosaic. Either use colored Indian corn or dye the kernels and then have students glue them to a surface. The surface can be flat, as in cardboard, or corn mosaics can also be created on flower pots, oatmeal containers, or other shaped objects.
  • Have students make a cornhusk doll.
  • Have students bring in products made from corn and create a display in your classroom or in a hallway at school.
  • Have a "Corn Tasting Day" in your classroom. Ask students to prepare dishes made with corn so everyone can taste. Or, if bringing in home-cooked foods is not permitted in your building, have students bring in recipes and compile a Classroom Corn Cookbook.
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