Planting Science - More Information: Corn Competition
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More Information: Corn Competition

How Corn Competition Works

This module aims to capture the importance of a control in constructing scientific explanations. Unlike most PlantingScience modules, Corn Competition is not intended as a full inquiry experience; rather, it is intended to help students build skills in experimental design and empirically-based justification.

Here, students make a critical choice between growing one or two sets of corn plants based on limited guidance. Only in growing two sets of plants, where one set is used as a control, can sufficient evidence be provided that the treatment was the cause of plants’ good (or poor) growth. While using and identifying a control is necessary, explanations using everyday vocabulary are valued over use of scientific vocabulary in the absence of explanations.

Based on similarities in the underlying biological processes, Corn Competition works best as an introduction prior to The Wonder of Seeds when students’ pre-existing inquiry skills are limited or unknown.

Grade levels

Middle school and high school biology, AP biology, environmental science, AP environmental science, horticulture, botany, and other life science electives.

Class Time

Students will grow corn plants over three weeks. Half a class period is needed for the introductory briefing and one full class period is needed to measure plants and follow up on student reasoning as to how they know their treatment(s) caused greater plant growth. Plants may be grown at home or in the classroom; in-classroom plant care will require about 5-10 min each class period.

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Performance Expectations

The performance expectations for the Corn Competition module are:

  • 5-LS1-1
  • 5-LS2-1
  • MS-LS1- 5
  • MS-LS1-6
  • MS-LS2-1

Computer Access

Blogging is optional for this module and is best suited as a final exercise when students will be continuing with The Wonder of Seeds. Let your scientist mentor(s) know if you are including the Corn Competition as a part of PlantingScience coursework – mentors may be surprised that a team is discussing a completed “experiment” when first meeting the team!

Corn Competition Resources:


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NSF_Logo.jpg This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant #2010556 and #1502892. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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