Teacher's Guide

The Great Corn Adventure will help your students learn

A Little about Corn

Corn was called mahiz by the Native Americans who first met Columbus. Corn is known as maize throughout most of the world. It’s botanical name is Zea mays and that is why our character’s name is Zea Mays.

Like other members of the grass family, corn is a monocot. It has only one cotyledon or seed leaf.

Corn plants contain both male and female flowers in different locations on the plant. An ear of corn is actually a female flower stalk, resting between the sheaths of the leaf and stem. The only part of the female flower that we see when the plant is growing are the fine hairs called silks.

These are actually tubes through which pollen will travel when released from the male flower or tassel that branches at the top of the plant.

The wind carries pollen from the tassels on some corn plants to silks on others. Each strand of silk that is fertilized develops into a kernel of corn with the characteristics of both parents.

Statewide Learning Standards for Third Through Fifth Grades


Language Arts

Fine Arts


Corn Corner

Playing Pollinators

Corn is pollinated by the wind. Since every silk must be pollinated in order to have a full ear of corn, gardeners plant corn plants close together so there will be lots of pollen available.

If you have just a couple of plants outside your classroom, you may want to try pollinating the corn. Once you see the tassels emerge, look for the silks in a few days. The silks will be receptive to pollen for 10-14 days. See if you can observe the silks’ tiny hair – like receptors that hold onto the pollen.

To transfer the pollen, shake or remove pollen from the tassel and sprinkle it on the silks of the same or another plant. In about 30 days, you should be able to enjoy the fruits of your experiment.



Corn Belt Harvest by Raymond Bial, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991. ISBN 0-395-56234-1.

The Story of Corn by Betty Harper Fassel, North Point Press, 1999.


Camp Silos

An agriculture site for students and teachers with excellent information.

Ohio Corn Marketing Program
A wealth of information about corn. Everything from harvesting to nulling. An especially interesting section on ethanol.

Kansas Corn Growers Association

The Maize Page - Iowa State University
Technical information

King Corn.org from Purdue University
Offers a web-based encyclopedia of knowledge about the production, marketing and usage of corn in North America.

Corn Cam
Watch a field of corn grow.

Ag in the Classroom - Illinois Farm Bureau
Teaching resources and information about grants for Illinois classrooms.