STEM Challenge Volume with Popcorn

Grade Levels
3rd - 5th
Formats Included
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It’s the Popcorn STEM Activity! This is one of my absolute favorites to use as an exploration into volume. Second and third graders, especially, will enjoy this as they design those containers to hold the popcorn. Inevitably, there will be gigantic containers. When I pull the quantity of popcorn from its hiding place to test the containers the reaction is priceless. So is the learning!

Please note: This challenge is available in money-saving bundles!

STEM Bundle about Volume

STEM 6-Pack Bundle featuring Math Skills

STEM Challenges Best Seller Bundle #3

Benefits of STEM:

STEM Challenges are great activities to engage students in their learning. Kids love the hands-on experiences! EVEN BETTER- add literature to your STEM challenges!

The activities found in this package were inspired by a book by Tomie dePaola called The Popcorn Book. Picture books can provide the perfect starting point for science investigations. Using the book is, of course, optional. This investigation can be completed without reading the book to your class or a similar book can be substituted.

What is the challenge?

This one day STEM challenge will have your students thinking about volume. After hearing the book read (or talking about volume) students will design and construct a container for a specific amount of popcorn. Students will have a list of the Design “rules” and a set of supplies from which to build. The final design will test their understanding of volume and at the same time have them collaborating, designing, and constructing. In the end, each team will present their final container!

What is your prep?

You will need materials in addition to this lesson guide! This includes popped popcorn, storage bags, copy paper, scissors, tape, and staplers. The preparation for this challenge includes counting the popcorn that will be used to test the containers, but don't worry- it's easy! It only takes 2 minutes to count the popcorn which will just about fill a large cereal bowl. You may want to use a copy of The Popcorn Book by Tomie dePaola (optional).

The lesson guide provides:

  • Materials list
  • Step-by-step procedures
  • Page of Helpful Hints gives ideas of specific things to think about while using this package
  • Two lab sheets with answer samples
  • Photos to guide the use of the package
  • Extensions give ideas of continuing the activity as a whole class or in your science/math centers
  • Ideas are given to further use The Popcorn Book.
  • And there is more! A scoring rubric is now provided and a file of editable forms.

What are teachers saying?

  • "I teach both fifth and sixth-grade classes so it is wonderful that there’s an activity that both classes can do. Anything that mentions hands-on and popcorn in the same activity is a sure winner! Although I no longer teach the actual STEM classes, this was a great way to incorporate science and math into a fun activity. Thanks so much for this creativity!"
  • "My students loved using this resource! They had a lot of fun making their own containers to hold the popcorn and we were all very surprised with the results, it was also a plus that we got to eat popcorn after!"

This activity can be completed as a stand-alone challenge. OR it can be used with two additional packages (STEM Challenges about Volume) also available in my store:

NOTE: All three volume challenges can be found in a money-saving bundle:

The Popcorn Challenge can also be found in a bestseller bundle:

NOTE: A simplified version of this challenge is included in STEM at Home:


You might also enjoy these STEM Challenges:


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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.


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