Walk outside and step on the ground, on the grass, on plants, in the forest, and on the soil. You may be surprised to learn that beneath your feet lies an amazing magical kingdom of Fungi with six times more species than plants!. Fungus is spore-producing organisms that feed on top of, in, and underground in soil on organic matter and decompose it, connecting to almost everything living on Earth! Fungi inject tiny spores into the Earth to grow their own food to consume. Fungi are very diverse and very important to life on Earth. Hyphae are threads that spread through the soil underground, connecting to the roots of trees and plants. The fantastic world of molds, yeasts, mushrooms, and toadstools- spore-producing organisms that eat and decompose organic matter is featured in the Fabulous Fungi Trailer. The magic of fungi is contagious, and you will be surprised at how much it contributes to life on Earth. Some fungi are edible; some can heal, some can cause disease, and others can kill. Fungi can be used as food, as biodegradable packaging, spawn and substrate, furniture, and building materials! In the meantime, enjoy the trailer, Fantastic Fungi!
Activity 1 – FABULOUS FUNGI
Fungi are one of Earth’s most important recyclers. There are two main types of fungi- single-cell and multi-cellular. Single-cell fungi are free-floating spheres that cluster (as in yeast). Multi-cellular Fungi connect into strands branching out like spider webs or networked synaptic conditions underground. They start as spores, grow into connected strands of vegetative mycelium which ooze digestive enzymes, breaking down inorganic matter which is absorbed as food. Fungi above ground emerge in an incredible array of artistic shapes, forms, textures, and colors as mushrooms, toadstools, and more which, in turn, produce more spores and continue the cycle of life. The study of fungi is called Mycology. There are more fungi species than all animal, bird and plant species combined!
More discoveries are coming! Make a diagram of the two main types of fungus and label them.
Activity 2 – Toadstools and Mushrooms
Mushrooms are not like an animal and not like a vegetable, but somewhere in between.
They surprise us by popping their fruit up through the ground’s surface as mushrooms and toadstools. Toadstools and Mushrooms are both fungal fruit forms that, in turn, produce more spores and continue the cycle of life. Toadstools come in various shapes, sizes, textures, and amazing colors! Edible mushrooms include buttons, portobello, cremini, and many more. Other popular mushrooms for eating include Portobello mushrooms, Shiitake Mushrooms, Oyster Mushrooms, Hen of the Woods Maitake Mushrooms, Porcini Mushrooms, Chanterelle Mushrooms, and the ever popular Morel Mushrooms. Mushrooms constitute plant-based protein and can be grown at home! And finally, as a surprise, Some mushrooms glow in the dark!
Make a chart of these special types of mushrooms. Know your mushrooms! and enjoy the diverse varieties of toadstools, too, though toadstools are more often colorful but poisonous or inedible mushrooms.
Activity 3 – Mycelium
FUNGI are potent parts of Nature. They grow almost all over the world. They work their magic underground where it is dark and moist. They have the essential task of decomposing inorganic matter to fuel the life cycles of living organisms like ants, insects, worms, birds, chipmunks, foxes, deer, and even you and me! Scientists know that underground mycelium is one of the world’s natural wonders with the potential to solve environmental challenges on land, in the water, and in people’s bodies! Mycelium is a web-like structure of linked cells called Hyphae. They thread their way in an underground network, secreting enzymes to dissolve food they can then absorb. The mycelium connects the life of the soil and the trees of the forests as decomposers turning dead organic matter into new life. Mycelium works its unseen wonders under our very feet.
Make a drawing of the mycelium under your feet!
Activity 4 – Mycelium as Building Materials?
Did you know you can grow mushrooms and make your own furniture!!. Imagine living in your apartment or home with chairs and tables made from Nature’s material! Individuals and start-up firms are mixing mycelium with hemp and wood chips to produce biodegradable items that can replace plastic. At a larger scale, mycelium is harvested and turned into plant-based architectural buildings materials that are insulative, fire resistant, strong, and bio-degradable. Mycelium-based blocks and panels are lightweight and durable and constitute a new green materials source for the building industry. Become part of this new ecological movement!
Design a chair and table based on mycelium as a construction material. Sketch a pavilion made of mycelium bricks!
Activity 5 – Molds
Molds are present in the natural environment and are part of decomposition. It is not good to eat food when it is moldy. When not refrigerated, some foods mold quickly including strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Bananas will soon decompose as they ripen turning to sugar. If you see mold forming on fruits and vegetables, you should cut it out and not eat it. Carpets, furniture, walls, floors, and ceilings can also grow mold if the spaces are not adequately ventilated or the humidity is not controlled.
Researchers discovered that exposure to mold in the early years increases the chance of asthma later in life. Removing dead plant materials, standing water, purifying air flow, and sanitizing surfaces are vital in mold-free environments.
On the other hand, scientists explore the genetics and biochemical properties of molds (mycology) in the laboratory to discover ways mold can help humans create new medicines, foods, and antibiotics. Fungi were crucial in the creation of the first antibiotic, penicillin.
The DNA of molds is more similar to the DNA of Plants, expanding the opportunities for scientists and researchers to find out which molds are dangerous for humans and which molds can help us.
If you find one, take a picture of mold on food, or carpet, or in a building and post it to the gallery. BUT DO NOT EAT IT!
Activity 6 – Yeasts
Yeasts represent 1% of all fungi and occur naturally in the environment. Yeasts are singular cells of microscopic fungi that multiply by budding. There are over 1,500 known types of yeast, but 4 main types of cooking yeast- active dry yeast, instant yeast, rapid rise yeast, and fresh yeast. Yeast is used in baking loaves of bread and other baked goods to raise the bread before baking. Today companies produce bread yeast, but other yeast makes different wines and beers. Beer, bread, and wine are all made from a species of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. S. cerevisiae is known as “brewer’s yeast” or “baker’s yeast”. It stimulates fermentation that makes beer and wine alcoholic and rises bread dough. The carbon dioxide inflates air bubbles within the dough, causing the dough to rise and the beer to be bubbly!
Make a poster of yeast products in human beverages and baked goods!
- Fungi species outnumber __________ species on earth.
- How do fungi reproduce?
- Eating mushrooms support healthy immune systems.
- Some mushrooms and toadstools are poisonous
- Mycology is the study of fungi
- Baker's Yeast
- Beginners Guide to Mycology
- Ecovative Products Replacing Plastics
- Emerging Materials: Mycelium Bricks
- Exploring Fungi
- Fantastic Fungi
- Fantastic Fungi Video
- Fungi Day: Fantastic Fungi Field Day
- How Mushrooms and Mycelium Network are Healing the World
- Mushroom Alternative to Plastic
- Mushroom Chair
- Mushroom Furniture
- Mycelium 101
- Mycellium Furniture Grow it yourself!
- Study of Molds and Fungi
- Toadstools vs. Mushrooms
- Twelve most common types of Mushrooms
- Types of Mushrooms/Toadstools
- Video 365 Days of Mushroom Growth
- Video How Fungi Change My World
- Video Stephen Axford Photographer
- Which Mushrooms are safe for dogs to eat?
- Circular Economy
- Green Materials
- Life Cycles
- Package Design