Making Every Kernel Count:

Corn in the Classroom

Blog by Tarra Rotstein, Communications Intern

Although we might not think about corn every day, it is an integral part of our lives. From the tires we drive on, to the lunch we eat, to the books we read many of these products are made possible because of corn. March marks Kansas Agriculture Month, I thought no better way to celebrate than to highlight all the unique and innovative ways corn touches our lives. Let’s explore the ways corn is part of students and teachers lives.

School supplies are often made possible by corn. Students use items such as glue, paint, books, crayons, soap, and batteries. Glues and other adhesive pastes contain corn meal or corn starch which is used as a thickener. Corn products are used as solvents for paints, dyes, resins and lacquers. Reading a book without the book being bound together would be difficult, those adhesives that help bind books together is from corn-produced dextrin. Crayons, although not corn, would not be possible without corn, corn starch is used to line the crayon moldings to easily remove the crayon and the adhesive on the paper labels is made from corn as well. Many liquid hand soaps contain glycerin, which helps keep students’ hands clean. Batteries are often used in the classroom to power technologies, corn starch which is derived from corn is often used as an electrical conductor in batteries. Corn is all around students in the classroom.

Corn also makes it way outside of the classroom and to the lunch table. Lunches often consist of things like yogurt, PB&J sandwiches, popcorn, string cheese and lunch meat. Corn pudding isn’t common at your school’s lunch table? Corn starch is often used as a thickener for yogurt helping keep its consistency. The classic PB&J also contains corn, corn comes in as a thickener for jelly making it less runny and ensures it doesn’t leave the bread slice. If PB&J sandwich isn’t your thing and you opt for a sandwich with deli meat on it, you are likely to be consuming corn in a new form as well. Corn is a part of many livestock’s diets. Popcorn comes from sweet corn and is a common and healthy snack for students. Dairy cows’ diets often consist of corn as it fuels them as they produce milk, which in turn makes tasty products such as string cheese. Corn isn’t limited to just the classroom or the cafeteria it plays other crucial roles in our lives.

Corn is an integral part of building materials for schools and really any building. Almost every part of the corn plant can be used to make construction materials such as drywall, insulation and sandpaper. Corn starch is used in drywall and helps prevent unwanted molds from appearing. Dextrin is used in making sandpaper and drywall can be made using ground corn cobs. Many of us need to travel to school or our job and one of the most popular ways to do that is by car. The tires on a car use corn in two ways, the mold that makes the tires is made from corn and is lined with powdered corn starch to easily remove the tires from the mold. Ethanol which comes from corn is part of the fueling up process that gets people from point A to point B. Flex fuel vehicles can take E85 and most vehicles made after 2001 can take up to 15% ethanol, which would be the unleaded gasoline.

You don’t have to be a student or a teacher to see the role corn is playing in your life. Corn takes many forms throughout our daily lives, from the books we read to the yogurt we eat to the fuel we put in our vehicles.