I've been teaching preschool for a very long time. And if there's one thing I've learned it's that the little ones love a surprise. Add a little learning on top of that and you have a lesson that can't miss. Dancing corn involves a few simple ingredients that, I'm sure, most teachers have readily available. Just a little mixing and you have a visual they won't soon forget.
To start, just gather together these simple items:
- one clear container (the size is up to you, but a taller container makes for better "dancing")
- 2½ cups of water
- 2 tbsp. baking soda
- 6 tbsp. of white vinegar
- popping corn
- food coloring (optional)
I suggest doing a trial run before you attempt this with the children. It will give you a chance to "tweak" the ingredients to suit your container and you'll avoid have things go wrong and disappointing your audience. Start by pouring the water into the container. Add the food coloring at this point, if you wish. Just a couple of drops works fine. Now stir in the baking soda. Stir until the water is clear.
Now grab some corn and drop it in. I added just enough the create a layer on the bottom of the container. In this case, less is more. The corn needs room to move. Then comes the fun part. Slowly pour in the vinegar. I repeat...slowly pour in the vinegar. If you just dump it in your experiment will turn into a volcano. When doing your practice run, this is the time to check on your ingredients. It's the interaction of the vinegar and the baking soda that creates the bubbles. The bubbles cover the corn, causing it to float upwards. The bubbles break when they reach the top and down goes the corn. Voila, dancing corn! It's a simple and fun experiment that allows you to combine science, math and literacy. (I like to write down their reactions.) I also like to take photos of the ongoing process to create a display in our science center. Have fun and try it. I guarantee they'll want to do it more than once.