Activity for Popped Secret: The Mysterious Origin of Corn
This activity explores how scientists determined how and where corn was domesticated, as discussed in the short film Popped Secret: The Mysterious Origin of Corn.
In this film, evolutionary biologist Neil Losin embarks on a quest to learn about the origin of maize, or corn. Although the wild varieties of common crops, such as apples and wheat, look much like the cultivated species, there are no wild plants that closely resemble maize. As the film unfolds, it shows how geneticists and archaeologists have come together to unravel the mysteries of how and where maize was domesticated nearly 9,000 years ago.
The “Student Handout” probes students’ understanding of the key concepts addressed in the film. The “Educator Materials” document provides suggested pause points in the film with questions for students, background information, and detailed discussion points; a list of related resources and references; and an answer key for the “Student Handout.”
Student Learning Targets
- Describe the process of artificial selection and how it differs from natural selection.
- Describe how scientists use DNA sequences to estimate when populations diverged.
- Explain why changes in just a few regulatory genes can have a dramatic effect on traits.
archaeology, crossbreeding, domestication, maize, Mexico, microfossil, selective breeding, teosinte
Beadle, George W. “The ancestry of corn.” Scientific American 242, 1 (1980): 112–119. https://doi.org/10.1038/scientificamerican0180-112.
Doebley, John F., Adrian Stec, Jonathan Wendel, and Marlin Edwards. “Genetic and morphological analysis of a maize-teosinte F2 population: Implications for the origin of maize.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 87, 24 (1990): 9888–9892. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.87.24.9888.
Doebley, John F., Brandon S. Gaut, and Bruce D. Smith. “The molecular genetics of crop domestication.” Cell 127, 7 (2005): 1309–1321. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2006.12.006.
Accessibility Level (WCAG compliance)
HS-LS1-1, HS-LS3-1, HS-LS3-3, HS-LS4-1; SEP6
AP Biology (2019)
EVO-1.N, EVO-3.F, IST-1.I, IST-2.A, IST-2.D, IST-2.E, IST-4.A, SYI-3.C; SP1, SP5
IB Biology (2016)
2.7, 3.1, 3.4, 5.1, 9.3, 10.2
AP Environmental Science (2020)
Topic(s): 2.6, 5.3
Learning Objectives & Practices: ERT-2.H, EIN-2.C, SP5, SP6
IB Environmental Systems and Societies (2017)
Common Core (2010)
Vision and Change (2009)
CC1, CC2, CC3; DP1