Grade Level: Middle School
Plastic has shaped the world in ways that we could have never imagined. The importance of plastic in the modern world cannot be understated. Plastic is inexpensive, light- weight, and durable and can be molded into virtually any shape. Plastic is present in every aspect of our lives and largely responsible for the advancements in society that we take for granted each and every day.
Still, plastic has its drawbacks. Most plastic is manufactured from nonrenewable petroleum. It is so durable that it will take generations before it biodegrades. Single-use plastic products are commonplace because they are inexpensive and convenient. Plastic trash is becoming a global concern, and microplastics are even now showing up in the food chain.
An alternative product that has all the characteristics of petroleum-based plastic, but is made from a renewable, biodegradable resource, is in high demand. Plastic made from corn is one possible alternative. There are currently a multitude of plastic products being produced from corn and more are being developed each day.
This lab lets your students create a plastic polymer from cornstarch. Students can then adjust the quantities and proportions of each chemical to create plastics with different properties. Students can then try to come up with a practical, real-world application for the type of plastic they develop.