Science Sunday: How to get a corn kernel out of your ear

This has been a week of learning about medical procedures galore.  I learned that when you get a strep rash, that is what Scarlet Fever is.  My kids got to learn all about going to the dentist, which we had been slow to get going.  Actually, we had an appointment about a year and a half ago, but that’s when Superman ended up needing hernia surgery, and so we cancelled all scheduled things because we weren’t sure when we’d be able to get in to the specialist.  So, back to what I was saying.

Then we had the fun of Superman coming in while I was getting ready to start cooking dinner announcing that he had a seed stuck in his ear.  As the story came out over the next couple of days the kids had been showing each other how they could put popcorn seeds in their ears and then they’d fall out.  Each of them later on admitted to putting a seed in their ear.  When I asked Superman why he did this, he said, “Well Batman did it, and it fell out.”  GREAAAAT.  Yeah, that makes sense.

So, he got to spend a couple of hours at the local Urgent Care as we waited for them to get it out.  Jeff reported it took four different tools, and a lot of water to get it out.

I thought I’d drive the point home of why we don’t put these things in their ears, so I set up the experiment.

Supplies: popcorn kernel, small jar, various tools to try and get out the kernel (I gave them bamboo skewers, straws, and a fondue fork, and told them they could get whatever else they wanted to use).

Rules: you have to get the popcorn kernels out without picking up the jar.
Princess’ attempts:

She mainly tried the bamboo skewers, but occasionally would try the fondue fork.  I suggested trying to suck up the kernels with her straw, but she never really tried it.
The picture on the bottom right will be explained when we get to Jeff’s help.


Batman’s attempts:

Batman mainly tried with the fondue fork chasing the kernels around his jar.  He finally employed Jeff’s version and successfully got them all out, but it took quite a few tries.

Superman’s attempts:
Superman having heard my suggestion to Princess was the only one to successfully get the kernel out with the straw.  Then the kernel got stuck in the straw.
I reminded him of how they got it out of his ear, so he started trying that.  He was also the most persistent.


He tried to get it out by pouring water in.  That’s how they finally got the kernel out of his ear, with some focused water, but they had to also use forceps.  We discovered this doesn’t work because popcorn kernels don’t float.


Then he decided it might come out if we did like the volcano.  So, we poured some baking soda in, and then some vinegar, and it made a satisfying mess, but no kernels out of the jar.  He was very disappointed with that.

Jeff’s attempts:
You can tell you’ve got an interesting idea for an experiment when your husband wants to get in on the act.
His first idea was a variation on the straw, using a turkey baster to suck it up.  He wanted a medical syringe, but we couldn’t find any of the ones that came with the kids’ medicine.
Next, came the 030successful idea, which everyone ended up using.  Putting tape on the end of the bamboo skewer so that the sticky side was out and grabbing the popcorn kernels with that.  An excellent way to practice fine motor skills (that’s the picture earlier on with Princess).
We were also curious to see if the kernel would float in oil, oil having a higher density than water.  That didn’t work, but it was worth a try.

And then what’s an experiment without a follow-up activity.  Which of course I had nothing to do with, but since when has my involvement stopped my kids?
052 032
Lunch was rather uninteresting to them, so they were “experimenting” to see what would happen to the water if they poured it into the soup.  Superman’s “pothesis was the water would get darker.”  And it apparently did, then he spent quite a while before I caught him sucking up the soup with the turkey baster and putting it into his cup.  I need to wash that tablecloth now.  Note to self, remember to do that.

And, I’m super excited because we started reading our new science book for the year, we got book one in the Apologia Zoology, Flying Creatures.  We’ve read through chapter 1, and will probably be sharing our first few experiments about that.  I’m thinking we might skip ahead to insects and get our own grow your own butterfly kit…..

I can’t wait to see what everyone else did this week!

11 thoughts on “Science Sunday: How to get a corn kernel out of your ear

  1. I have to make a point to link to this soon. We have a few science experiments planned.

    I had scarlet fever as a kid.

    I like the way you took a health emergency and turned it into a science experiment. So far (knocking on wood really hard) we have not had anything placed in ears around here. My cousin used to put things up his nose when we were kids. I remember several trips to the ER.

  2. Okay, you must be Super-Mom. I soooo dislike any kind of experiments. And you are amazing tying it into the corn kernal in your son's ear. Wow, I am impressed.

  3. Such great ideas on how to get the corn kernel out of the bottle. I hope they all learned a lesson. I know what you mean about getting Dad involved, Selena was asking some very interesting questions yesterday, I asked Papa to answer her question and he just told her I don't know.

  4. I think you get the award for the best post title ever!

    In my thinking – sucking a popcorn kernel into a straw – is probably a good way to find out about choking!

    I think I would have let them see the kernels sprout, too – so they could find out what could happen if they couldn't get the seeds out of their ears 🙂

  5. Only you could think of turning a visit to the doctor's into an experiment! Every moment is a learning experience! And how wonderful that dad got involved. 🙂

    Now they will know how to get things out of small spaces…will be useful if you ever lose an earring/ring down a drain or sewers…I'm just brainstorming here. I think sticking a piece of gum works too.

  6. I hadn't realized that about scarlet fever! Actually, I must have known at some point (have taken lots of medical classes), but three kids really did in my brain…

    Cool experiment, and I'm finally linking up to this after wanting to for forever!

  7. A trip to urgent care and you come up with a fabulous experiment! Your children will always remember this hands on activity as it sounds like so much fun. You're right, you know you are on a winner, when the whole family gets involved.

  8. I love your experiment this week – what a great way to encourage creative thinking and trying out different approaches. Hopefully the lesson is learned, and there will be no more stuff stuck in ears. Or, just maybe, they think that now they know the magic trick of getting it out. By the way, the lunch experiment extension really cracked me up.

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