Yes, I did a mushroom project at preschool, and it was great fun! It was a while ago, so why am I sharing it now? Well, this week, we are celebrating our first 50 posts at Re-Think Green! It’s been a very fun year, exploring my greener side and sharing lots of fun tech, inspiring stories, and resources and ideas with all of my dear readers. Two of our most popular posts so far have actually been Make Your Own Mushroom Kit and DIY Mushrooms & Gomba Paprikás, so this post is a celebratory expansion of that theme.
Preschool Mushroom Mush!
The preschool kids had a great time mushing up the water, recycled newspaper, alfalfa pellets and mushroom spawn. While they measured, poured, mashed, mushed and exclaimed many different reactions, we asked them questions about the Kingdom of Fungi. Many of the kids had seen and eaten mushrooms, and some knew that they were neither plants nor animals! We talked about how much time would pass before the “body” of the mushroom — the mycelium — colonized the bags we were making, and how quickly the “fruit” or above-ground portions would then grow. I used this page to cram some fun facts in my head before showing up that day.
The pre-school teachers thought it worked well. They said it was a lovely sensory experience, and we had no trouble keeping groups of about 10 kids interested in the tasks needed to put two kits together at a time. I think we made 6 kits total for the preschool and 2 for the elementary classes. Interestingly, the two people who seemed most interested in the project were the foreign-born preschool teaching assistants. Rahele from Iran was super excited about cooking and eating the mushrooms once they grew, and Eszter from Hungary told me about how her family had grown mushrooms on inoculated logs or woodchip piles in a corner of their root cellar when she was growing up!
Our oyster mushrooms did fruit successfully. When we first pulled them out of the storage closets (a bit later than we should have), some of the bags had sprouted rather oddly. I was afraid they might have been contaminated with other species because they looked so different! We decided not to feed mushrooms to the kids as a precaution. I made sure even the adults who were really eager to taste them were aware of the risks, and that I could not positively identify these guys!
Well, I think it was just that the bags were stacked oddly. Some of them did not have adequate light in storage. Once they were brought out to the indirect sunlight, even the odd-shaped primordia turned into normal-looking oyster mushroom fruits.
It was a little tough to convince teachers to keep the mushrooms away from windowsills, and I’m afraid some fruits may not have been eaten. I know our Iranian friend did get her fill of them and lived to tell the tale. What a sight they were! At least everyone learned quite a lot about what mushrooms are and how they grow.
And learning to wield a spray mister was quite fun for many of the kids! Replicating this project at other schools will be fun. I still have some of the sawdust spawn in my basement and frankly, I’m a little scared to open the cabinet where it’s been hiding. Watch the whole first season of Stranger Things has made me jumpy. But if those kids can face their fears, so can I!
Many, many thanks to the leaders, teachers, parents and kids at Little Laurels Montessori! Your enthusiasm for experiential learning about the natural world is an inspiration!