One of the best sounds and smells is fresh popcorn! At the movies, at the fair, or at home, everyone likes to munch on popcorn. What is your favorite brand? Is the most expensive the best? You will conduct a taste test to find out. You will get the chance to learn about its history, where it is grown, unscramble a timeline of Corn and complete a math treasure hunt.
Picture the family gathered in front of the television set– munching one of America’s favorite snacks – popcorn!
Americans consume, on average, 59 quarts of popcorn per person, per year. Most of the popcorn consumed in America is eaten in the home. The remaining amount is enjoyed in movie theaters, at sporting events, and amusement parks. The favorite popcorn flavor is butter, followed by caramel and cheese.
This lesson focuses on decision-making and marketing as it relates to competition. Students will define criteria, rate products, compare prices, and consider the marketing of several different brands of popcorn. Is there a correlation between price, taste, packaging, and what is advertised about the product? What would students be willing to pay for each sample? Does marketing affect which product they might buy?
A “Further Research” activity is outlined should you wish to integrate timelines, history, and science in your lesson.
- Explain that competition takes place when there are many sellers of a similar product.
- Compare several brands of popcorn in a taste test, and compare the responses of all students, and rank each product. After they have ranked their choices, they will examine the prices for each and compare.
- Popcorn Evaluation Sheet: Using the chart provided, rate each brand of popcorn on each feature.
- The Story of Corn: History Detective- In the Beginning. A short history of corn that focuses on how the cultivation of corn started.
- The History of Corn: This is the Kansas Corn Growers Association Web Site, which provides an overview of the history of corn.
- U.S. Production and Use: Learn how corn is used in the U.S.
- Ohio Corn for Grain: This map shows production and location of Ethanol Plants in Ohio.
- Corn Detective Worksheet: Students will need to use their knowledge to find out, in order, which states produce the most corn.
Corn Detective Worksheet
Corn Detective Answers
- Some Problematic Foods: Find out what products have corn ingredients in them.
- Food and Fuel America: Learn what can be produced from one bushel of corn.
- Corn Timeline Activity: Here is an activity that allows students to arrange (in chronological order) many important historical events that centered on corn.
Corn Timeline Answer Sheet
- Make Plastic out of Corn: Learn how to make plastic out of corn, and become an environmental scientist.
- How Seeds Grow in Different Soils: Compare how plants grow in different kinds of soil and take the opportunity to decide which soil is best for your plants.
- How Popcorn Pops: This site provided by Act II popcorn describes how corn pops and becomes popcorn.
- World of Corn: In-depth information on corn, including charts and graphs.
- Math Treasure Hunt: Use the “World of Corn” web site to find the answers to this scavenger hunt.
Math Treasure Hunt Worksheet
- Popcorn Quiz: Here is a printable version, and interactive version, and the answers for the Popcorn Quiz.
Popcorn Quiz Printable
Popcorn Quiz Interactive
Popcorn Quiz Answers
Before you begin your taste test, ask students to brainstorm a list of criteria which would make “good” popcorn. Ex. kernel type, color, small number of unpopped kernels, taste, texture. What is most important? Be sure and include a multiple of brands: Redenbacher, Pop Secret, Magic Pop, Jiffy Pop, etc.
In order to raise student interest, select 3-5 brands of popcorn. You might include microwave, already prepared and air popped. Using small drink cups (labeled A-B-C-D-E as needed) supply each student with a sample of each brand of popcorn. Also provide the students with the Popcorn Evaluation Sheet. After they have done their taste test, provide the students with the price of the popcorn, identify the cost per serving, and enter that on their evaluation sheet. Was the most expensive the best?
After looking at the container the popcorn came in, what did the producer do to interest you in the product? Is it more or less attractive than the others? Compare and discuss with your students. What might make you select one brand over another? How do producers distinguish their product over others? What role does advertising play?
Extension to Activity 2
Have the students construct a market survey. A market survey is an activity in which researchers gather information about possible users of a product (in this case popcorn) based on such characteristics as age, sex, income, education, and location. Begin by dividing the class into groups. Direct the students to list the available range of flavors. Help them prepare a questionnaire to find out when and where people eat popcorn, and what their favorite popcorn flavors are. Have the groups collect data by surveying school employees, family members, friends and neighbors. Once the information is collected they will write a report and share their findings with the class. Create a bar chart or graph showing all findings.
Further Research Activity – optional
In using online materials and web sites, you do not need to keep the entire class moving forward in the same order or at the same pace. If you choose to use this activity you will divide the class into three groups and have them become reporters on their topic. Group 1 -History and Background, Group 2 -Corn Production and Group 3 -the science of Pop Corn.
[Note: After you have book marked the relevant web sites, the students can explore them to discover background knowledge related to their in-class taste testing of the popcorn. For the resources listed below, a double asterisk (**) denotes a source you should look at first with your students. A single asterisk (*) denotes a highly recommended source – one that students should bookmark.]
Activities Group 1 – History and Background on Corn:
- “The Story of Corn ”
Learn about corn production, processing, packaging and distribution.
- “The History of Corn ”
Find out more about where corn came from.
- “https://www.iowacorn.org/corn-production/ ”
Discover the different ways corn is used in the U.S.
- “Ohio Corn for Grain“
Look at this map of Ethanol plants in Ohio.
Find out what your students know by making them Corn Detectives. Supply them with this Corn Detective Worksheet. They will need to use their knowledge to find out, in order, which states produce the most corn. Check their answers using the answer key provided.
Activities Group 2 – Corn Production:
- “Some Problematic Foods ”
Find out what products have corn ingredients in them.
- “Food And Fuel America ”
Learn what can be produced from one bushel of corn.
Activities Group 3 – The Science of Popcorn:
- When was popcorn first in use? Check out “Corn Timeline Activity”
[First seen by Cortes in 1519.]
- Where is corn produced? Check out “Corn Production Detective”
[Corn grows on every continent except Antarctica. Most corn is grown in middle latitudes (between 30 and 45 degrees), about equal to the area north of New Orleans and south of Montana in the Northern Hemisphere.]
- What alternative uses can corn be used for? Visit the World of Corn web site to find information that will help students solve the Math Treasure Hunt.
[Livestock feed, Ethanol, Processed into (Starch, Corn Oil, Sweeteners, Corn Flour, Grits, Corn Meal, Beverage Alcohol).]
- How might popcorn producers compete for your consumer dollar?
[By competing through price, different types of popcorn and differing advertising and marketing schemes.]