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ATK Kids

Kitchen Classroom 2021: Week 12

Resources to help kids learn in the kitchen—and make something delicious along the way.
By Published Mar. 19, 2021

Welcome to week 12 of Kitchen Classroom 2021, where America’s Test Kitchen Kids is sharing a weekly kid-tested and kid-approved recipe, hands-on experiment, or activity paired with a “Learning Moment” that brings learning to life in the kitchen. 

For this week’s edition of Kitchen Classroom, we’re going back into the Kitchen STEAM Lab for a snackable science experiment! In The Secret to Fluffy Popcorn, kids will conduct side by side testing to learn just how and why popcorn pops, and what leads to the fluffiest result. As they eat their experiment, kids and family members can play our Popcorn Pop Quiz game to learn some fun popcorn facts, and can try out flavoring their popcorn in our Take It Further activity with our recipes for Parmesan-Herb Popcorn, Sriracha-Lime Popcorn, and/or Cinnamon-Malt Popcorn.

Don’t forget to share what your family makes by tagging @testkitchenkids or using #ATKkids on Instagram, or by sending photos to Visit the America’s Test Kitchen Kids website for more culinary content designed especially for kids, plus all of the Kitchen Classroom content in one easy-to-scan location. 

Here’s what’s cooking for the week of March 22nd through 28th, 2021.

The Secret to Fluffy Popcorn

Kitchen STEAM Lab: The Secret to Fluffy Popcorn

In this edible experiment, kids will learn about the role water plays in one of our all-time favorite snacks: popcorn! Plan ahead: You will need to hydrate one set of popcorn kernels for at least 8 hours (or overnight) for this experiment. Make sure to use plain paper lunch bags without any writing (colored inks are often not microwave-safe).

What You’ll Need
¾ cup popcorn kernels
1½ teaspoons vegetable oil
3 clean brown paper lunch bags
Masking or painter’s tape
2 resealable containers with lids, approximately 16 ounces each

Learning Moment
Physical Science (Structure and Properties of Matter):
A hard corn kernel transforms into fluffy popcorn all thanks to science. Before starting the experiment, ask your young chef: How do you think popcorn pops? Share with kids that inside each kernel of popcorn there is a small amount of water, surrounded by a hard shell called the hull. When the kernel is heated, the water inside turns into steam, which builds pressure inside the kernel. The hull can’t withstand all of that pressure from the steam, so it explodes, and POP! It’s popcorn! Based on this information, ask kids to make a prediction: Which sample do they think will pop into the fluffiest popcorn in this experiment—the one hydrated overnight, the one dehydrated in the oven, or the one left as it is?

After completing the experiment, while enjoying your popcorn samples, take this Popcorn “POP” Quiz with your young chef to learn some fun popcorn facts:

1. About how much popcorn does an average American eat in a year?
    A. about 5 gallons
    B. about 8 gallons
    C. about 17 gallons

2. A kernel of popcorn is which part of the corn plant?
    A. Leaf
    B. Fruit
    C. Seed

3. The part of the USA where corn grows best is often called:
    A. Corn Heaven
    B. The Corn Belt
    C. The Corn Crib

4. In which of these cities do people eat the most popcorn?
    A. Seattle
    B. Minneapolis
    C. Chicago

5. Popcorn pops because of a little drop of ___ in its center.
    A. Oil
    B. Juice
    C. Water

6. Popcorn was grown first in which country?
    A. India
    B. China
    C. Mexico

7. Which of these is NOT a way that early Native Americans popped popcorn:
    A. In boiling water
    B. In heated sand
    C. On the cob over a fire

8. Where do people eat the most popcorn?
    A. At movie theaters
    B. At sporting events
    C. At home

Bonus Question: True or False: Unpopped popcorn kernels should be stored in a tightly sealed container.
(Answer: True. If they are exposed to air, the kernels will dehydrate over time and lose some of the moisture in their centers, which is important for popping into fluffy popcorn.)

Answer Key: 1 (C); 2 (C); 3 (B); 4 (B); 5 (C); 6 (C); 7 (A); 8 (C)

Take It Further
Now that kids have learned the secret to making fluffy popcorn, encourage them to add some flavor! Kids can try our recipes for Parmesan Herb Popcorn, Sriracha Lime Popcorn, or Cinnamon-Malt Popcorn to see which one they like best, or dream up their own flavor combinations and give them a try.

Catching up on Kitchen Classroom? Find previous weeks using the links below: