Maize, also known as Indian corn or flint corn, was a staple for the Native Americans, especially the Iroquois tribe. It is a grain whose very larger kernels provide nutrition when boiled (for hominy) or ground in to flour. In Native American culture, corn, beans and squash are referred to as the "Three Sisters who grow from Mother Earth." According to common lore, when the English Pilgrims arrived at what would become America, they were not well-equipped to grow crops or otherwise survive, especially during the harsh winters of the 1600s.
A member of the Wampanoag tribe, Squanto, taught the settlers to cultivate maize.
Multicolored flint corn is not like the more common sweet corn (also known as dent corn). It is much starchier and the kernels are tougher, which makes for good meal or flour to cook with (it makes great popping corn!) Today, flint corn has been bred to show off its variegated color. It is considered more to be an ornamental corn more than corn to eat. But we celebrate Thanksgiving with flint corn to remember the generosity of the native peoples.
- Indian cornhusk template (You can download a PDF version here)
- Red, blue, yellow and orange tissue paper
- School glue (not glue sticks)
- Crayons or markers
How to Make It
- Discuss what you have read together and what your child has learned about Indian Corn. Ask questions such as: Why is it called Indian corn? How is it different from other types of corn? Why do people use it as a decoration?
- Print a copy of the Indian cornhusk template. You will notice that it looks like an ear of corn with a grid pattern on it. The grid pattern are the squares in which your child’s “kernels” of corn will go.
- Give your child a variety of different colors of tissue paper. You can cut it into strips or small squares if you want, but the activity will work just as well if you don’t.
- Explain the activity to your child. She’s going to be making her own decoration using the template, the tissue paper and the glue. She can either put a dot of glue in each box as she goes along or lay down lines of glue along the grid pattern.
- Show your child how to tear or cut a small piece of tissue paper and roll it into a small ball. The ball will look something like a corn kernel. This can be accomplished two ways--either by rolling the piece of tissue paper between her first two fingers and thumb or by putting the piece of paper in the palm of one hand and then rolling it between both palms.
- Have your child fill in the corn template. She can either do it in a pattern or with random colors to make an ear of Indian corn. When she’s done, she can color or paint the husks green, wait for it to dry and then cut out her decoration.
Goal of Activity: Your child will be able to discuss the importance of maize (or Indian corn) in the lives of the Pilgrims and Native Americans and make an Indian corn decoration for Thanksgiving.
Skills Targeted: reading comprehension, fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination
Recommended Children’s Books: Corn is Maize: The Gift of the Indians by Aliki and Turkeys, Pilgrims, and Indian Corn: The Story of the Thanksgiving Symbols by Edna Barth
Recommended article for parents and older children: The History and Domestication of Maize