The beauty of homeschooling, whether you are a super planer or not is the ability to follow your child’s interests. Here recently, while we do have some structure, we’ve mostly been going with the flow of where Grace’s curiosities lead us. I still strive for a number activity, alphabet activity, shape activity, and color activity throughout the week, but our theme or subject matter we learn about is totally up to Grace with Mommy’s guidance of course.
For this particular week we explored mushrooms. We received a lot of rain prior to this week, and when we walked outside one morning, our front yard was covered in several different types of mushrooms. Some of which, I had never seen before. Grace was instantly enthralled and so we went exploring, trying to find all the different types of mushrooms they seemingly popped up out of nowhere over night. Grace found way more than I did! I started snapping pictures and before long, Grace would find a new species and if wasn’t ready with phone in hand, she would say “Mommy take a picture of this one!”
I cautioned Grace not to touch any, as I am not very familiar with which species of mushrooms are poisonous, but after a quick google photo search, we did scoop one type of mushroom out of the ground to bring inside for some more exploration. We were able to find this particular mushroom (Amanita jacksonii) in various stages throughout our yard, and it was also the largest of the mushrooms we found in our yard.
Once inside, I set Grace up at our kitchen island and we discussed the various parts of a mushroom, including the volva, stem, ring, cap, and gills. I allowed her to touch the mushroom at this point, with a warning she couldn’t touch anything else (including her face) until we washed our hands after exploring. Grace loved feeling the gills under the mushroom cap!
I also used a butter knife to split the large mushroom down the middle, as well as the beginning stage of the same species, so grace could see the inside of both.
The next day we decided to try our luck with Mushroom Spore Printing. We took the caps off of three of the same type of mushrooms we had looked at the day before and placed them on a piece of white card stock on our kitchen counter.
We then placed a glass container on top. When researching this activity, we read that by placing a glass container over the mushroom caps, it traps in the humidity from the caps and allows for the spores to transfer onto the paper underneath the caps. The hardest part of this activity is the waiting. It takes anywhere from 6-12 hours for the spore printing to take place.
We checked the next morning and didn’t see anything right away. By the afternoon I decided to check by removing the glass container and lifting up one of the mushroom caps, and the spore printing had definitely taken place. The mushrooms we choose had white spores, so it was a bit difficult to see but it was definitely there!
Knowing the color of the spores for the mushroom caps we were using, we decided to try this activity again, but with colored card stock underneath. This time around we got a really good printing from the spores where they fell from the gills from two of the caps. Looks like the biggest one had already dropped it’s spores before we brought it inside. Such a neat activity and experiment!
We took a trip to our local library to see what we could find to go along with our mushroom nature study. We have a few really great nature books in our home collection, but unfortunately none had any information on mushrooms. We were able to snag two books from the children’s nonfiction section to suit our needs. And Grace got to pick out several other books while we were there for us to read and enjoy as well.
The books we used for this particular theme included: Under Your Feet… Soil, Sand and Everything Underground by Jackie Stroud and Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies. I’ve actually had Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature on an Amazon wishlist for a while now, and was so excited to see our library had a copy. This book is beautiful and shortly after we had to return this book, we ordered one for our home collection. It now resides on our coffee table in our living room, that’s how much we loved this book!
I searched out some educational videos via YouTube for Grace to view, and settled on Fungi: Why Mushrooms are Awesome by SciShow Kids, and a few clips from NatGeo including Kingdom of the Forest – Fungi, Glow-in-the-Dark Mushrooms: Nature’s Night Lights, & You Didn’t Know Mushrooms Could Do All This. The SciShow Kids video covers basic mushroom facts for kids. Kingdom of the Forrest – Fungi is a short clip showing time lapse videos of various mushrooms growing in the wild. The last two videos mentioned here are a bit above Grace’s understanding, but I wanted to save them for future mushroom explorations as Grace gets older. Older kids will definitely enjoy and understand them though, and Grace’s Daddy and I personally enjoyed the information we learned as well.
Our next activity for our fungi nature study, was making play dough mushrooms. To set up, I just grabbed several different colors of play dough and a small bowl from our kitchen cabinet.
Grace and I took different color balls of play dough and placed them on our surface as the base of the mushrooms. We then rolled out stems for the mushrooms, and attached them to their bases. To make the caps, we again rolled out some dough and placed it on top of the bowl to form the mushroom cap’s shape. We then placed the caps on top of each stem.
They turned out great! Grace loved making these mushrooms so much, we stuck with this activity for a good while. When any activity lasts for longer than a few minutes with Grace, it’s a huge win in my book.
We finished off this particular theme by, of course, exploring for more mushrooms! We loved finding this yellow one pictured above, which looked like it was sweating. After some research, I discovered this is a process called guttation. Now, Grace isn’t going to remember that term right now, so I simply explained the mushroom was holding too much water from all the rain we had been having, so it needed to get rid of water somehow.
Every day we went outside, we of course had to find all the new mushrooms that had popped up in our front and back yard. It got to the point where I’d plan to leave earlier than we needed to account for the time we would be exploring our front yard before Grace would get in the car. 😅
I’m not even sure how Grace found this super tiny mushroom in our back yard, but she did, and she was so proud.
To go along with our mushroom nature study, I created a simple Mushroom Anatomy printable we used throughout this particular theme. As a gift to our readers, you can snag this printable to use with your little one’s for FREE. Simply click on the download link below.
I never would have thought we would be learning about mushrooms while Grace was 3 1/2 years old. But, Im so glad we we did! I loved seeing her curiosity and the time she took to observe what this new phenomenon (to her) was all about. And, since our mushroom nature study, Grace still gets excited about mushrooms she spots outside. I can’t wait to see where her curiosities take us next!
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