Biology for Kids|Fun with Fungus

Ewww!!  What is that? I couldn’t believe the amount of mold that I found on a loaf of bread that had fallen behind the toaster. Ever done that? Find some random container of leftovers in the fridge, dared to open it and been amazed? Turn it into a learning experience for your kids! Fungus is a great way to learn about biology (nothing like an ewww factor to get a point across!). Here are some fun ways to explore, all inspired by the book The Curious Kid’s Science Book. This post contains affiliate links.

Introduce kids to the fascinating kingdom of fungus with these easy science experiments.

What is Fungus?

Fungi are a group of organisms called eukaryotes that include single cell organisms like yeasts and mold. Multi-cell organisms like mushrooms are also a type of fungus. They have their own kingdom, along with plants, animals, protists and bacteria due their their unique cell structure. Fungi have five characteristics that separate them from the other kingdoms:

  1. Their cells contain nuclei like plants and animals.
  2. They can’t photosynthesize like plants can.
  3. They absorb their food instead of making their own.
  4. Multi-cellular fungi grow via networks of long tubular filaments called hyphae.
  5. They usually reproduce via spores.

Fungus play an important role in our world as they are responsible for significant decomposition of organic matter and are a large foodsource in both bread and mushrooms. Unfortunately, they are also one of the major disease causing organisms in animals and plants.

Fun with Fungus Experiments

All you need to do to have fun with fungus is grow some! And I’m guessing you’ve done that inadvertently just like I did.  So pull out that old moldy piece of cheese or bread and a magnifying glass and let the kids look at it.

Some good questions to ask to encourage observation are:

  • What do you see?
  • Does all of the mold look the same? How so? Why do you think they look different?
  • How do you think it would change if we look at it again 2 days from now?

SAFETY NOTE: Experimenting with mold can be done safely with some parental or teacher supervision especially with younger children so no mold is ingested or inhaled. Also be sure to wash hands after handling the petri dishes.

For a more controlled experiment, it’s time to break out the agar plates…

We were inspired to have fun with fungus by Asia Citro, the amazing teacher turned author of The Curious Kid’s Science Book {affiliate}. She sent me a copy of the book to peek through and I had my daughter put bookmarks on every project she wanted to try. There were so many, she ran out of paper!! Seriously though, I love how this book makes some more challenging science topics like mold accessible and easy to understand.

The Currious Kids Science Book

Asia has a bunch of ways to grow your own mold and bacteria like testing clean hands and dirty hands and watching how food decomposes.  We tried the dirty hands experiment and also took a little mold from the bread and swiped it across the agar plates.  The stuff pictured above grew in my refrigerator in supposedly uncontaminated agar.  Oops…

Here’s a closeup of our bread mold after about four days:

Bread mold agar plate

And here’s what you’ll need to get started on your own mold-making. Be sure to pick up the book for the detailed experiment how-to’s.

More Fun with Fungus

For a much more tasty way to learn about fungus, trying making bread!

Biology of Bread Left Brain Craft Brain FB

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