Applied Science - Science and Math (3C)

  • Experimenting with peanuts.
  • Investigating the history of peanut products.
  • discovery
  • inventor
  • researcher
  • peanuts
  • peanut butter (different brands)
  • crackers
  • paper clips 

Students experiment with peanuts.


 After the Civil War, the United States went through many changes.  The importance of the South declined because cotton was no longer king.  The southern farmers planted cotton year after year, and it depleted the soil.  When the slaves became free, many turned to farming since this was a profession they knew something about.  However, they followed the practices of their former bosses, which continued to deplete the soil.  Many faced disaster and this became a growing concern.

George Washington Carver, an American, was a chemist, agricultural scientist, and inventor.  He realized that southern farmers should diversify their crops by planting soil enriching peanuts and sweet potatoes instead of soil exhausting cotton.  He campaigned very hard to get farmers to change their ways, but he then created another problem.  What do you do with peanuts and sweet potatoes with a very limited market. So George Washington Carver, turned to his inventive side.  He created over 300 products that could be used by both peanuts and sweet potatoes.  Peanuts were used for cheese, milk, coffee, flour, ink, dyes, soap, wood stain, and insulating board.  Sweet potatoes were used for flour, vinegar, molasses, and rubber.

Peanuts are high in protein and contain a high percentage of oil.  The ability to break down into a smooth mixture makes peanuts ideal for a sandwich spread.  It would be hard for children to live in the United States without peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  George Washington Carver's inventions changed the eating habits of most Americans.


  1. In this lab, students will learn some of the properties of peanuts George Washington Carver had to investigate before he "invented" new products.  First, ask students if anyone is allergic to peanuts.  These children should be excused from eating any peanut products.
  2. Following the lab sheet, burn the peanut first.  This may be done as a demonstration if parent help is not available. Students love to burn the peanuts, but many need supervision with matches.  The peanut will be a mini torch.
  3. Use a stretched out paper clip or a meat skewer to pierce the peanut on one end and then light it.  The longer the handle of the torch the better.  It may be wise to have students do this over a pail of water.  The torch will last for a minute or so, this is because there is a lot of oil in a peanut. 
  4. Give the students several peanuts and have them look at the properties of the shell and peanut.  The shell was used as insulating material at one time.  See what the students think can be made from a peanut.  Make them use their imaginations.
  5. Have a taste test of two or three peanut butter brands.  See if the students can tell the difference between brands.  This a great lab for a snack!



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