This dancing popcorn experiment is SO FUN! Kids can learn about density and acid-base reactions in this simple science experiment that’s perfect for fall, Thanksgiving, or anytime.
Use simple pantry ingredients for this STEM activity that’s quick and easy to set up, whether at home or in the classroom. Kids (and adults!) will be amazed to watch the popcorn kernels dance up and down in the jar. It’s magical and mesmerizing to see, and it’s soooo easy to do!
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How to Make Dancing Corn
Check Out The Video Tutorial:
Step 1: Find what you need
- Gather these simple pantry ingredients to make dancing corn!
Step 2: Add the first ingredients into a jar
- Pour 1 cup water into the jar.
- Add 1 Tablespoon of baking soda to the water.
- Stir well, to dissolve the baking soda as much as possible.
- Pour 1/4 cup of popcorn into the jar.
- Stir so that the popcorn is well combined with the baking soda water.
Step 3: Add the vinegar and watch the reaction
- Pour 1/2 cup of vinegar into the jar VERY SLOWLY. If you pour it at a normal speed the fizzy reaction will erupt over the side of the jar.
- Now watch the popcorn "dance" around the jar, floating up and falling down before rising up again.Your dancing popcorn experiment is complete!
1. Give the contents of the jar a quick stir if the reaction doesn’t start right away when the vinegar is poured in.
2. Remember to pour the vinegar very slowly into the jar, unless you want to create an eruption!
How does the dancing popcorn experiment work?
The dancing popcorn experiment is based on an acid-base reaction between the vinegar (an acid) and the baking soda (a base).
When the popcorn kernels are first added to the jar they sink to the bottom, because they’re heavier than the water. When the vinegar is added to the jar, it combines with the baking soda to create a gas called carbon dioxide.
The carbon dioxide bubbles surround the popping corn, and because the gas is less dense than the water, the bubbles (and the popcorn) rise to the top of the jar. (Almost like little helium balloons carrying them up.)
When the gas bubbles hit the air at the top of the jar they pop, and the corn (heavier than the water again), is sent back down to the bottom of the jar.
These actions will repeat as long as the chemical reaction is active, making it appear that the corn is dancing!
Tips for setting up your dancing corn experiment:
As long as you pour the vinegar into the jar slowly the mess is pretty minimal. If the vinegar is poured into the jar quickly (sometimes kids don’t like doing things slowly!) you’ll end up with a fun eruption up and out of the jar. If you place your jar on a baking sheet it’s easy to contain any overflow – just in case.
You may also want to keep alternative items, like raisins, rice, dried peas, and beans on hand so you can see what happens with different materials.
Can the dancing corn be reactivated after the reaction has slowed down?
The dancing corn will keep going for quite a while (at least 10 minutes). Eventually the corn will “dance” more slowly as the chemical reaction dies down.
Once this happens you can make the corn dance faster again by adding more vinegar, a few tablespoons at a time. If that doesn’t work, stir in more baking soda, a teaspoon at a time. This will start the chemical reaction again, making the corn dance once again.
Do I need to use so many popcorn kernels?
We used 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels in our jars, but you definitely don’t need to use the full amount. You can use anywhere between 1 to 4 Tablespoons of popcorn kernels in this experiment.
You can even add one single popcorn kernel and watch it move up and down!
Can you do this science experiment if you don’t have popcorn?
Yes, you can make other objects dance if you don’t have popping corn. Raisins or dried cranberries work well, as do rice and dried peas.
You can also use certain type of beads, as long as they’ll sink in the water. Tri-beads and seed beads worked for us.
Do I have to use vinegar and baking soda?
No, in fact, if you just want to watch dancing corn without making a chemical reaction you can use any kind of clear bubbly soda instead. We made dancing raisins with Sprite and raisins, and the raisins danced the exact same way.
Soda is carbonated – meaning it has carbon dioxide right in the liquid. So as long as your soda is freshly opened, you don’t need to add anything to it except your popcorn kernels! The carbon dioxide bubbles attach themselves to the corn in the exact same way and cause them to rise to the top and then fall again!
Try this dancing popcorn experiment in school as part of a Thanksgiving or harvest lesson plan – or anytime you’re looking for something fun to do indoors. Kids can guess what will happen when the vinegar is added to the jar and record their observations afterwards.
It’s so fun to watch the dancing corn in action! Seeing the carbon dioxide bubbles surround the corn is super fascinating, and it’s such a cool and easy science activity!
Here’s even more fun science experiment ideas:
Our book Low-Mess Crafts for Kids is loaded with 72 fun and simple craft ideas for kids! The projects are fun, easy and most importantly low-mess, so the clean up is simple!