Skip to main content

Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom

Lessons

Corn

Corn

Corn is a grass, native to the Americas. The exact origin is unknown, but tiny ears of corn have been discovered at ancient village sites and in tombs of early Americans. Evidence of corn in central Mexico suggests it was used there as long as 7,000 years ago, where it was domesticated from wild grass. Cultivated corn is known to have existed in what is now the southwestern US for at least 3000 years. In the United States, many of the various Native American tribes have traditionally grown corn—also known as maize—and used it for both food and utilitarian purposes.

Eastern tribes shared their knowledge of corn production with early European settlers, an act which saved many from starvation. The settlers dried corn and ground it as meal for flour. They used the ground corn in porridge, cake and bread. Besides eating the corn and feeding it to their animals, colonists also learned to stuff their mattresses with corn husks and to burn corn cobs for fuel. From the cobs and the husks they learned to make toys.

Fresh, or sweet corn, the kind we like to eat as corn on the cob, was not developed until the 1700s. Before then corn was only used in its dried form.

Along with wheat and rice, corn is one of the world's major grain crops. It is the largest grain crop grown in the US. About 9 percent of all the corn grown is used to produce food for humans. These foods include corn meal and other food products such as cooking oils, margarine, corn syrups and other sweeteners (fructose). Sixty four percent of all corn grown is used as feed for livestock. Corn syrup sweetens candy bars and many of the sweet drinks we enjoy. Corn is even used to make the plastic used in modern toys.

Corncobs have been used in the manufacturing of nylon fibers and as a source for producing degradable plastics. Ethanol, a renewable fuel made from corn, has become a major renewable fuel for the world's automotive industry. Corn starch is a natural polymer made from corn. Corncobs have been used in the manufacturing of nylon fibers and as a source for producing degradable plastics. Nylon and plastic are synthetic polymers.

Corn can be produced in much of Oklahoma, but primary production is in the Panhandle area. In Oklahoma, corn is harvested for either grain or silage, with most of the grain going to dairies, animal feeding operations, and poultry operations. In an average year, around 25 million bushels are grown for grain in Oklahoma, with a yield of 130 bushels per acre. One bushel of corn is equal to 56 pounds.

Corn is pollinated by wind and is typically planted in 30-inch rows. A single seed (or kernel) of corn may produce a plant which yields more than 600 kernels of corn per ear. On one acre of land, anywhere from 22,000 to 35,000 individual plants may be grown. Hybrid corn is developed to produce from one to two ears per plant. Ears per plant is often determined by moisture availability. Through better soil conservation practices, fertilizer use, better seed quality, and water availability, corn yields have increased 125 percent since 1950.

Learning Activities

Cherokee Farming
Grades 3-4: ELA, SS, Sci
Students will read about farming among the Cherokee and compare farming before and after removal. Students will make a timeline of the foods adopted by the Cherokee. Students will research to learn more about the Cherokee. Students will conduct experiments with heirloom seeds.
Corn Cob Toys
Grades K-3: SS, Math, ELA, VA
Students will make toys from corn cobs and learn of the many uses for corn, both historically and today.
Corn Field Math and Science
Grades 3-5: Math, Sci, SS
Students will learn about corn’s place in the history of the Americas. Students will solve real life math problems using corn production. Students will display an understanding of how humans crossbred and domesticated plants. Students will classify Newtonian and Non-Newtonian substances and create polymers using cornstarch and corn syrup.
Corn Field Math and Science
Grades 6-8: Math, Sci, SS, ELA, Plant Science, Food Science and Technology
Students will learn about corn’s place in the history of the Americas. Students will solve real life math problems using corn production. Students will classify Newtonian and Non Newtonian substances and create polymers using cornstarch and corn syrup.
Corn: Then and Now
Grades 4-6: ELA
Students will read about the importance of corn in our lives and in the lives of ancient people. Students will research to learn about corn traditions and growing practices, then and now. Students will research some corn myths and legends and act them out.
Pop, Pop, Popcorn for Grades 3-5
Grades 3-5: ELA, Math, Science
Students will discover the phenomenon of popcorn popping, discover the life cycle of a plant by growing a popcorn necklace, read about the history of popcorn while locating and paraphrasing the main idea and supporting details, and learn how matter is conserved as popcorn absorbs water.
  • Smart Board Activity: Main Idea (Need help?)Please be patient with us as we learn how to use this new technology.

    You must have Smart Notebook software installed on your computer to open Smart Board activities. If you have Smart Notebook software and are using Internet Explorer, you may get a message telling you the activity cannot be opened. In this event, save the activity to your hard drive. Your browser will save it as a zip file. Simply change the "zip" in the file name to "notebook," and you should be able to open it.

    Thank you for your patience.

    Smart Board Acitivity page
Pop, Pop, Popcorn for Grades PreK-2
Grades PreK-2: ELA, Math, Science, Visual Arts
Students will grow a popcorn necklace to discover the life cycle of a plant. Determine if popcorn needs sunlight and water to grow. Students will use popcorn kernels and popcorn to create and extend patterns. Students will make popcorn corsages or pictures. Students will use popcorn kernels and popcorn to count objects and sets of objects. Students will read about popcorn kernels and popcorn and answer questions to show a basic understanding of how popcorn pops.
  • Smart Board Activity: Main Idea (Need help?)Please be patient with us as we learn how to use this new technology.

    You must have Smart Notebook software installed on your computer to open Smart Board activities. If you have Smart Notebook software and are using Internet Explorer, you may get a message telling you the activity cannot be opened. In this event, save the activity to your hard drive. Your browser will save it as a zip file. Simply change the "zip" in the file name to "notebook," and you should be able to open it.

    Thank you for your patience.

    Smart Board Acitivity page
Spiro Farming: Corn, Beans and Squash Build a Mighty Trade Center
Grade 9: Oklahoma History
Students will read about farming practices among the people who populated the area around Spiro Mounds. Students will research to learn more about Sprio culture and other prehistoric farming cultures in Oklahoma. Students will identify the region in the US occupied by Mississippian culture. Students will trace the trade route along rivers and tributaries that joined the Spiro Mounds people with Mississippian ceremonial centers back east.
Three Sisters
Grades 3-5 ELA, Sci, SS, Health
Students will learn about the American Indian agricultural practice of Three Sisters planting. They will track food choices and make healthier food choices by eating more vegetables.

Additional Resources

Shimasani (Grandmother) Shimasani (Grandmother), 2017 by Demetria Dale (with permission from the artist)