A Presentation to my Daughter's First Grade Class
--Susan R. Wessler, Department of Genetics/Botany, University of Georgia

Schools in University communities often set aside time for parents/educators to present "show and tell" demonstrations that highlight their area of expertise. In my daughter Nicole's first-grade classroom, this time-period was called "Freaky Friday." My husband, Mark Schell, is a microbiologist. As part of his presentation, he conducted an experiment where half the children washed their hands prior to using their fingers to streak out petri dishes. The following Friday, after the plates had incubated for one week, he returned to the classroom with both the plates and several dissecting microscopes. Although the children were impressed by the variety and intricacies of the bacterial and fungal colonies, they were also given a powerful visual lesson in the importance of washing their hands!

The success of my husband's presentation led me to put together a lesson that would draw on the day-to-day experiences of first graders. My goal was to introduce them to the corn plant "up close" and point out the prevalence of corn products in their daily lives. To this end, the following was done:
    1. I brought in a flowering plant and introduced them to the immature ear, the shedding tassel, and how the pollen falls on the silk and initiates seed development.
    2. I passed around an immature ear with attached silks so that they could see how each silk was attached to the site of a future kernel.
    3. I also brought in and compared an ear from the grocery store and mature, dried ears with either red or colorless seed. They picked off either red (the girls) or colorless (the boys) seed and planted them in starter-pots provided by the Botany greenhouse staff. Small plastic stakes were also provided so that they could identify their pot and watch their own seedling grow. These were ultimately taken home by the children. The red seeds also carried the B-I allele; I was hoping that the seedlings grown from the red kernels and not the colorless ones would display some pigment.
    4. I read to them from a simple picture book called "Corn: What it is, What it Does" by Cynthia Kellogg (47p, Greenwillow Books, NY 1989). This book has an excellent section on the more than 2,000 products in the supermarket and in our homes and offices that contain corn products. The students were instructed to check the ingredients of their favorite foods to see if they contain corn products.
    5. At the end of the hour, corn muffins and soda (with high fructose corn syrup!) were served. A great time was had by all. 


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