History of Corn Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan 3

The Story of Corn

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  1. Students will compare the early development of corn with current techniques of biotechnology and genetically engineered seeds.
  2. Students will identify plants natural to the Americas and those natural to Europe that were part of the "Great Exchange" following the Columbian explorations of the 1490s.
  3. Students will explore the primary source document "Narrative of Black Hawk" to explore the place corn played in the annual cycle of the Sauk and Mesquakie culture in the 1820s and 1830s.
  4. Students will know at least one Indian narrative that explains the mythical origins of corn.
  5. Students will identify the characteristics of at least four types of corn commonly grown today.

Activity Summaries

  1. IN THE BEGINNING: Start by having students read the material related to the origins of corn. Discuss the fact that corn "is a human invention, a plant that does not exist naturally in the wild. It can only survive if sown and protected by humans."

    Have students explore Field of Genes to identify the pros and cons of genetically engineered seed corn. Develop a chart listing the assets and liabilities of this application of biotechnology.

    Compare and contrast the Indian origins of corn. How is current biotechnology alike and different from ancient steps taken to shape and develop the characteristics of corn?
  2. THE GREAT EXCHANGE: Have students complete the online Great Exchange activity. Encourage them to use online sources to explore other items both bad and good that were exchanged between the "old" and "new" worlds. These might include flowers, animals, diseases and technology.
  3. CHIEF BLACK HAWK: Encourage students to read Introduction to Black Hawk's Narrative and Black Hawk's Narrative. Based upon this reading, have students use a large paper circle to develop a chart identifying the place of corn in the annual cycle of the Sauk and Mesquakie Indians.
  4. OTHER ORIGINS OF CORN IN INDIAN TRADITION: Have students read the various Indian stories related to the origin of corn. Place students in groups. To each group assign a different story. Have students develop a skit retelling the story of the origins of corn. When each group has performed a story, compare and contrast the stories. How are they similar? How are they different?
  5. MANY KINDS OF CORN: Have students identify the various kinds of corn by reading about many kinds of corn. Bring into the classroom examples of each kind of corn. Flint corn can be found at craft shops; dent corn and sweet corn can be obtained from a local seed dealer or grain elevator; popcorn can be purchased at a grocery store.

    Using cardboard, have students develop a chart identifying the prominent characteristics of each kind of corn. Provide a written description below samples of kernels glued to the chart.
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