Students enrolled at Delta State University must complete two laboratory science courses as a part of their general education requirement. Principles of Biology is a course that many biology majors and non-majors use to partially fulfill this requirement. A fundamental goal of this course is development of a sound understanding of scientific process and methodology through experimentation. Particular emphasis is placed on observation, hypothesis development, and hypothesis testing. During the past four semesters (Fall 1999 - Spring 2001), students enrolled in my Principles of Biology course, have popped and counted kernels contained in 3.5-ounce bags of commercial, microwave brands of popcorn as their first laboratory exercise. Each class tabulates, graphs, and compares the percentage of popped kernels for each brand. Tested brands have included Popweaver, Act II Original, Act II Butter Lovers, Act II Extreme Butter, Orville, Cousin William, Kroger Lite, Kroger Yellow and Pop Secret. Students are instructed to propose additional questions and formulate additional experiments that could be conducted. Students also compared 100 kernels of 20 year-old popcorn that lacked preservatives to 100 kernels of Popweaver and Act II when placed into non-insulated brown-paper lunch bags sealed with scotch tape. Results from these laboratory investigations revealed that commercial bags of Popweaver frequently contain more kernels than other brands of microwave popcorn but that Act II brands have a higher popping rate percentage. In addition, most kernels of the non-microwave popcorn usually pop, but are burned. Students conclude that possible differences in their results may be related to uncontrolled variables such as artificial additives, grade of popcorn, and product freshness.

Key words: brands of popcorn, freshman biology, general education, investigative science, scientific methodology