At City Garden School, third grade continues to enjoy hearing stories about nine-year-old Almanzo Wilder and his family farm.

A couple of weeks ago, we enjoyed a particularly cozy scene of the whole family, plus Almanzo’s teacher, sitting around a fire on a cold evening enjoying cider, apples, and popcorn together. Musing to himself that no two popcorn kernels ever look exactly alike, Almanzo begins to think about another favorite treat: popcorn and milk.

The book says:

You can fill a glass full to the brim with milk, and fill another glass of the same size brim full of popcorn, and then you can put all the popcorn kernel by kernel into the milk, and the milk will not run over. You cannot do this with bread. Popcorn and milk are the only two things that will go into the same place.

This gave everyone pause…how could that be? Someone mentioned our story last year of the Crow and the Pitcher, citing it as clear proof that Almanzo was being silly. We had to try it for ourselves!

The next day, we assembled our supplies. We again recalled the story of the Crow and the Pitcher from last year. The thirsty crow cannot reach far enough into a pitcher to reach the water, but she uses her wits and resources to find a way and is ultimately successful. So we first tried filling a glass partially with water and dropping gems into them one by one until they overflowed. This was great fun for the class, and they enjoyed counting how many gems it took and comparing the results. We dumped the water out (onto our thirsty wheat seeds…which are getting quite tall now!) and proceeded with the experiment.

Each pair received a glass of milk, full to the brim, and an equal-sized cup of popcorn. One by one they dropped the kernels in. Kernels wobbled precariously on the brims of cups as buzzy anticipation began to grow. When would they overflow…surely they must, eventually? Now the second cup of popcorn was distributed to each pair…and still no spills! We continued to try and add more popcorn, but at this point, some friends got impatient and tried to “help” the popcorn along. Oops.

Well, this led to quite a lively discussion after we got all cleaned up! We made a second batch of popcorn to munch on, as no one felt particularly inclined to try any popcorn with milk, no matter what Almanzo said! We talked about some of the different types of corn (sweet, dent, flint, and pop) and their uses as food. We had a really great discussion on the science of how exactly popcorn becomes popped corn. This led to some interesting theories about the science behind the popcorn and milk experiment.

I truly love how excited these third graders are to analyze and question the hows and whys of the world!

Overall, it was a wonderful afternoon learning about physics and the scientific method, with the bonus of a tasty treat at the end. Students may never look at popcorn quite the same now that they know what is happening inside those delicious kernels!