Soggy Science, Shaken Beans

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Learners explore soybeans, soak them in water to remove their coat, and then split them open to look inside. They also make a musical shaker out of paper cups, a cardboard tube, and soybeans. This activity is designed to accompany the PBS documentary about African-American chemist "Percy Julian: Forgotten Genius." Percy Julian used soybeans to make medicines, special paints, and other items.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
1 to 7 days

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 4 - 11

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • 1/2 cup dry soybeans soaked overnight in water (purchase at Asian markets)
  • about 25 dry soybeans (in one of the 3-oz cups)
  • empty paper towel or toilet paper cardboard tube
  • two 3-oz paper cups
  • magnifying glass
  • masking tape
  • crayons or markers
  • optional: string, feathers, and glue for decorating shake


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Chemical Engineering
    • Technology
      • Medical Technology
  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
    • Human Body
      • Medicine
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemistry of Life
  • The Nature of Science
    • Science as a Career
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Impacts of Technology
      • Technology and History
    • The Design Process
      • Invention and Innovation

Informal Categories

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Food and Cooking
  • Music


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Links STEM to other topics of interest such as arts and humanities
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities

Culture, ethnicity, and gender

  • African American

    • Acknowledges this group's contributions to STEM
    • Identifies role models or mentors in STEM fields from this group


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • NOVA


  • All rights reserved, WGBH Educational Foundation, 2006

Funding Sources:

  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  • Public Television Viewers
  • Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
  • National Science Foundation, 9901978
  • National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation
  • American Chemical Society
  • American Playhouse
  • Mr. and Mrs. William G. Brown