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Fungus Among Us

Author(s): Nancy Moreno, PhD, Barbara Tharp, MS, and Judith Dresden, MS.


Encourage students to suggest variations of the investigation. For example, challenge them to invent names for the different kinds of molds they grew. Have them create a classification key to help identify each one. Stimulate a discussion about where we can find molds in our everyday lives.

Ask, Where can we find molds and fungi in the natural world? and Can you name a fungus that we eat? Tell students that bread contains the fungus, yeast. Emphasize that fungi are essential to life on Earth. Mushrooms are spore-producing parts of other kinds of fungi.

Ask, What would happen if there were no fungi? Tell students that fungi are essential for the continuous recycling of nutrients into the soil and the release of carbon dioxide into the air. Fungi also are sources of antibiotics and other medicines. For example, Cyclosporin, a “wonder drug” developed in 1979, is derived from a fungus that lives in soil. It is prescribed to organ transplant patients, so that their immune systems will not attack and destroy the new organ tissue.

Lead a class discussion of the role that molds play in causing indoor air pollution. You may wish to refer to the student storybook, Mr. Slaptail’s Secret, in which Rosie, one of the characters, is allergic to mold spores.

If desired, make one or more kinds of bread with your students. Try using a recipe that uses baking soda for leavening and compare the results with a recipe that uses yeast (a fungus). Mention that, in both cases, the bubbles in the dough are caused by carbon dioxide gas that is released into the dough. 

Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools
Grant Numbers: 5R25ES010698, R25ES06932

Houston Endowment Inc.

Houston Endowment Inc.

Foundations for the Future: Capitalizing on Technology to Promote Equity, Access and Quality in Elementary Science Education