Fungi is an entirely unique group of living things that most people, including children, are curious about. Most children recognize the most common form of fungi, the toadstool mushroom, because it has been used for generations in children’s literature and designs. There are so many different forms and type of fungi around us, and it is important that kids understand how they fit into the ecosystem around them.
Use these prompts and activities to help children learn more about fungi right in their very own backyards.
Go on a Fungi Hunt
Look around the backyard for different types of fungi, including toadstools, shelves and creeping fungi. Where are you finding fungi? Is there a common place where children notice fungi growing? Steer them towards dead or decaying trees and plants, look near wooden pilings and fencing and then inspect the yard for fungus growing in the soil. Help children snap pictures of create illustrations of the fungus they find.
Compare Living Things
Fungi are entirely unique because they are not considered to be plants or animals, but are an entirely separate classification of living thing. Children might notice right away that fungi share the same traits as living things that are considered plants and living things that are considered animals. When identifying fungi, ask them to observe what they notice about the fungus in question. Where is it growing? How is it feeding itself in order to grow? Point out that some fungus grows in the soil like plants, but they do not need sun to grow like plants do.
Fungi as Food
Talk with children about fungi being a source of food. There are safe and unsafe fungi, so discuss the importance of never eating fungi that they might find. Take children with you to the grocery store to find and purchase some of the safe types of fungi, including yeast, and bring it back home to make a meal with.
Fungi Place in the Ecosystem
Fungi are important to the ecosystem, and children might have already discovered their role without realizing it. Discuss where they commonly find fungus and discuss the ways in which fungus feed and break down dead organisms in order to soil and organic material that can feed plants.
Build a Fungi Garden
Fungi are able to grow in so many areas, but to help children learn a little more about the needs and growth of different types of fungi, set up a fungi garden. Because they are quick to develop where dead, organic material is located, help children set up an open compost pile with garden debris that is wet and left alone. Observe the pile for growth every couple of days and see what types of fungi grow. Are animals and insects attracted to the pile and fungi?