Just How Much Popcorn Do You have?

0 108
If you have students that struggle with understanding volume – this is the challenge for you! Especially with my third graders, it is so hard to help them visualize the meaning of volume. 
One thing I have tried is to tell them to think about placing a fence around the outer edge of the classroom. That would be perimeter. Think about putting carpet in the classroom. That would be the area. Now, fill the room with water like a swimming pool. That is volume.
This Popcorn Challenge will help understand that concept even better because it is hands-on!

In this post, for your convenience, you may find Amazon Affiliate links to resources. This means that with your purchase of items Amazon will pass on small percentages to me. This will not create extra costs for you at all! It will help me keep this blog running!

The Popcorn Book by Tomie De Paola

This challenge was inspired by the cutest little book called The Popcorn Book by Tomie De Paola.
It’s a great little book filled with popcorn history and trivia and then some fun facts at the end.

It is your option to use the book. I really only use one page of it due to time constraints. I share that one page as the premise of this challenge.

The book tells about an archeological team that finds preserved popcorn inside a cave. The students must find a way to make the perfect container to exactly fit the popcorn.

The teams have a sample of the popcorn and must make a container that is the perfect size for a large number of popcorn pieces. I give them a cup with ten pieces in it and watch as they trace those pieces to find the size their containers will need to be.

TIP: One large bag of microwaveable popcorn is probably all you will need. I pop it and pour it out onto my countertop at school. I then just rake five pieces at a time into a bowl until I reach the number used for this challenge. That bowl is hidden from students.

The famous Popcorn Challenge! In this STEM project, your elementary students must make a perfectly sized container for a specific amount of popcorn. When the containers are filled with the popcorn students have an eye-opening lesson about volume. Hands-on tasks are the perfect way to grasp this difficult concept. The resource includes a detailed Teacher's Guide, tons of hints, lab sheets with sample answers, photos, and more! #STEM #elementary #popcorn

Containers are made in all sorts of sizes!

The Cylinder

Almost always there will be a group that decides to make a cylinder-shaped container. The outside wall of these is fairly easy to make. It’s the bottom and the top that create a problem!

The famous Popcorn Challenge! In this STEM project, your elementary students must make a perfectly sized container for a specific amount of popcorn. When the containers are filled with the popcorn students have an eye-opening lesson about volume. Hands-on tasks are the perfect way to grasp this difficult concept. The resource includes a detailed Teacher's Guide, tons of hints, lab sheets with sample answers, photos, and more! #STEM #elementary #popcorn
The second graders in the photo below also made cylinders. The narrow one in the top photo was a great size, but the larger cylinder in the bottom photo was way too large.

The famous Popcorn Challenge! In this STEM project, your elementary students must make a perfectly sized container for a specific amount of popcorn. When the containers are filled with the popcorn students have an eye-opening lesson about volume. Hands-on tasks are the perfect way to grasp this difficult concept. The resource includes a detailed Teacher's Guide, tons of hints, lab sheets with sample answers, photos, and more! #STEM #elementary #popcorn
TIP: I use masking tape or staplers for this project. With second graders I gave them a tape dispenser. With third graders, I usually give each table a stapler and also watch them carefully to make sure they know how to use it. (You’d be surprised how many do not know!)

The famous Popcorn Challenge! In this STEM project, your elementary students must make a perfectly sized container for a specific amount of popcorn. When the containers are filled with the popcorn students have an eye-opening lesson about volume. Hands-on tasks are the perfect way to grasp this difficult concept. The resource includes a detailed Teacher's Guide, tons of hints, lab sheets with sample answers, photos, and more! #STEM #elementary #popcorn
TIP: In all of the above photos – notice how they are tracing the cylinder to make the tops and bottoms! That is another thing I sometimes have to teach students how to do!

The Cube

Then there is the cube. For the cube to be the correct size it has to be really small. Trust me, all the ones in the photos below are about three times larger than needed. Remember, the popcorn has to fit exactly.
The famous Popcorn Challenge! In this STEM project, your elementary students must make a perfectly sized container for a specific amount of popcorn. When the containers are filled with the popcorn students have an eye-opening lesson about volume. Hands-on tasks are the perfect way to grasp this difficult concept. The resource includes a detailed Teacher's Guide, tons of hints, lab sheets with sample answers, photos, and more! #STEM #elementary #popcorn

The Envelope

This seems like the least likely shape to work, but it sometimes is the best one.

The famous Popcorn Challenge! In this STEM project, your elementary students must make a perfectly sized container for a specific amount of popcorn. When the containers are filled with the popcorn students have an eye-opening lesson about volume. Hands-on tasks are the perfect way to grasp this difficult concept. The resource includes a detailed Teacher's Guide, tons of hints, lab sheets with sample answers, photos, and more! #STEM #elementary #popcorn
There are always teams that try the envelope container!  I think they are considering this shape because it resembles a backpack which would be a natural carrying container for the popcorn out of the cave in the book we read. I also think kids are thinking about the popcorn container they get on Popcorn Fridays at our school. It is a flat bag, which might resemble an envelope.  The trouble with this envelope shape is that it is usually too flat.

The Unusual Shapes

After all the containers are finished I bring out the bowl of popcorn that I have counted for this challenge. Then we pour the popcorn into each container to see which ones are the exact size.
Some teams will have containers that make this testing more difficult.
The pink container in the photo below had a very narrow cylinder the led to a larger cylinder. To place the popcorn into the top I had to put one piece at a time. It took a long time to do this! In the end, this one was too small.
The famous Popcorn Challenge! In this STEM project, your elementary students must make a perfectly sized container for a specific amount of popcorn. When the containers are filled with the popcorn students have an eye-opening lesson about volume. Hands-on tasks are the perfect way to grasp this difficult concept. The resource includes a detailed Teacher's Guide, tons of hints, lab sheets with sample answers, photos, and more! #STEM #elementary #popcorn
TIP: Even if I know the container is too small or too large or has a difficult opening for placing the popcorn – we test them all. The kids are so excited to see their containers tested!

We end this fabulous challenge by talking about the word volume and what it really means. This lesson is a well-learned one! I use it with third graders and even when they make it to the fifth grade they still remember their popcorn containers.

They definitely finish this task knowing that volume is dimensional and all directions – height, width, and depth- must be considered when measuring for volume.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.