Hancock County OSU Extension Educator Cassie Anderson reads the book “Popcorn” to a group of first-graders at Jacobs Elementary on Monday. The program “Poppin’ in at Jacobs” was intended to share a healthy snack with students while educating them on agriculture and local food sources. (Provided photo)


Staff Writer

Things were popping at Jacobs Elementary School on Monday morning.

Each class got a special visit from staff at Hancock County OSU Extension, aided by volunteers from the Master Gardeners program, as they piloted a new program called “Poppin’ in at Jacobs.”

Popcorn was the topic of the day.

“So do you guys know where popcorn comes from?” Cassie Anderson, Extension educator for 4-H youth development, asked a class of first-graders.

“Corn,” answered one of the students.

“Right. Do you guys know that popcorn is a grain? And you should have five servings of whole grains every day for our diet. So we’re giving you guys a healthy snack today,” Anderson said.

Students received a bag of popcorn to munch while Anderson read them the book “Popcorn” by Frank Asch. In the story, Sam the Bear hosts a Halloween party where all of the guests bring popcorn.

“Is popcorn a snack you guys all like?” she asked.

The class yelled out their answer: “YEAH!”

For the second part of the program, Ed Lentz, agricultural and natural resources educator for the Extension office, walked in carrying a tall stalk of corn, a bag of corn kernels and a new corn plant. He told the students that corn is grown by farmers around Findlay, and that the cornstalk he’d brought in had been grown nearby.

Students learned the difference between sweet corn, which is yellow with softer kernels; and popcorn, more orange in color with a hard hull on the kernels.

“There’s a little bit of water inside those kernels. And that water wants to get out,” said Lentz. “So when you heat it up, that water says, ‘I’m hot in here. I want to get out. I want to get out of this kernel.'”

By heating the kernel, the water turns into steam, which builds pressure inside the kernel.

“It causes that kernel to explode so that water can get out. Then that’s what you’ve got in the little bag that you’re eating,” he said. “That’s why we call it popcorn, because it popped.”

Lentz said all young corn plants look the same.

“If you looked at a field early, you couldn’t tell whether it was popcorn, sweet corn, or field corn to feed the hogs, because it all looks the same,” he said.

The corn grows on long cobs, also called ears, Lentz explained. He added that the kernels are actually seeds.

“So if you eat it, it’s a food. But we could save that and plant it next spring, because corn is planted in the spring and it’s harvested in the fall,” he said. The new program came about last year when Karen McDougall, the SNAP-Ed program assistant, was trying to figure out a healthy snack to share with the students.

“We thought it would be a fun idea to show the kids where popcorn comes from,” said Anderson. “The whole office worked together on putting the program together.”

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