Posts Tagged fungi

STEM Tuesday — Fungi — Author Interview

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview, a repeating feature for the last Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today, Andi Diehn interviews Sue Heavenrich and Alisha Gabriel, authors of Funki Fungi: 30 Activities for Exploring Molds, Mushrooms, Lichens, and More! Sue is a writer and educator who also hosts a book review blog at Archimedes Notebook. Alisha is an elementary music teacher and writer of fiction and nonfiction elementary through middle grade. They teamed up to bring the wonder and magic of fungi to kids through lots of hands-on STEM projects!

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AD: What inspired you to write about fungi?

Alisha: I’ve always found mushrooms and fungi fascinating! There are so many shapes and colors, and new varieties being discovered each year. Every time I turn around there’s something more to learn about fungi.  Funky Fungi book cover

Sue: My interest was piqued when I interviewed mycologist Kathie Hodge about an insect-infecting fungus for an article in a local newspaper. She took me on a fungus-looking walk, and showed me her workspace at her lab. That article never got published, but it made me think about fungi in a different way. A couple years later I met Alisha at a Highlights Foundation workshop on nonfiction writing. While out on a nature walk, we stopped to look at some interesting fungi and got to talking about potential book ideas. I ended up shelving my idea, so when Alisha asked if I wanted to collaborate on a book I said “sure.”

 

AD: There’s such a huge variety of fungi out there! How did you decide what information to include in your book and what had to be left out?

Alisha Gabriel examines fungi

Alisha finds some funky fungi!

Alisha: When the editor liked our pitch and asked to see a proposal, Sue and I jumped into the research feet first. First, we determined how to break up the chapters by topic. There are certain types of fungi that had to be included in each chapter and simply couldn’t be left out of the book! After that, it became much more difficult to narrow down.

 

AD: What do hands-on projects add to the reader’s experience of your book?

Alisha: This book is part of the Young Naturalists series from Chicago Review Press and all of the titles include 30 activities. The activities are important to help readers extend their learning, and to gain even more enjoyment, as they discover more about fungi!

Sue Heavenrich examines fungi

Sue gets hands-on with fungi!

Sue: As a science teacher and, later, homeschooling parent, I know that many kids learn best by doing. That’s what this book addresses. By design, it incorporates activities throughout the chapters as an integral part of exploring the topic. I mean, how can you read about mushrooms and not want to cut one open to see inside?

 

AD: Some of the projects focus on an art or language activity – why is the A in STEAM so important?

Alisha: Everyone learns in different ways. In education, there’s a huge push for STEM topics, but the artistic aspect of learning isn’t always valued as highly. Sketching a mushroom, or even creating their own, will help readers focus on the minute details. And writing a poem about a mushroom can help a young reader utilize vocabulary and scientific terms, while accurately describing it and its surroundings.

Sue: Art and language are part of science. Scientists in the field often make sketches in their field journals alongside their notes – whether it’s fossils or insects. I feel that drawing a mushroom or other fungus helps develop observation skills. So does writing haiku and poetry. I think there’s a lot in science that inspires art, and art that inspires science.

 

AD: You mention a lot of different people who work with fungi or have made discoveries about fungi. Why did you include these brief biographies in your book?

Sue: Science is a human endeavor. When I was a kid, I loved reading the stories about people who discovered things: Fleming and penicillin, Jenner and the smallpox vaccine. We want to show readers that people are still discovering things about fungi – and maybe some of those readers will see that they could be scientists, too.

 

AD: There are fungi that do beneficial work and fungi that do detrimental work. Why is it crucial to our understanding of fungi to learn about all aspects of the fungal world, not just the ones that help humans?

Alisha: It’s true that some fungi attack our crops or cause human diseases, but other kinds of fungi are used to counteract them. All types of fungi play a role in the environment, even those that are yet to be discovered.  It’s important to show readers the great diversity of fungi because we never know how or when new discoveries will be made. Alisha Gabriel photographs fungi

 

AD: If you could choose a state fungus, what would it be?

Alisha: In an interesting twist, I live in Texas, which is the most recent state to adopt a state fungus! It’s Chorioactis geaster, often called the Texas Star Mushroom, because it’s only found in some parts of Texas and Japan. At first this mushroom resembles a small cigar, but when the spores mature, they burst forth with a popping sound and the sides crack open into a star shape.

Sue: I personally like the Stinky Squid fungus – it looks like an orange squid or chicken claws reaching up through the soil. Its stinky smell attracts flies that will spread the spores. But there is actually a bill in the New York State legislature to name Peck’s milk-cap (Lactarius peckii) as our state mushroom. It’s a pretty orange gilled mushroom and not stinky in the least. And it is named for Charles Horton Peck, New York State botanist from 1867 to 1915, who described and named more than 2,700 species of fungi in North America.

Want more fun with fungi? Check out Funky Fungus Friday photo posts at Sue’s Facebook page!

And Alisha’s #FungiFriday posts on Twitter!

 

Sue Heavenrich writes about science for children and their families, from space to backyard ecology. Bees, flies, squirrel behavior—things she observes in her backyard and around her neighborhood—inspire her writing.

Alisha Gabriel is an elementary music teacher and adjunct professor who has written several fiction and nonfiction books for children, from preschool to middle graders.

Today’s host, And Diehn, is an editor and marketer at Nomad Press and has published 11 nonfiction books.

 

STEM Tuesday — Fungi — Writing Tips & Resources

You know what I love? A chance to get nerdy about science and writing! So this month’s list of fun-gal books provided lots of fun for this gal. In addition to surprising facts—Did you know fungal spores can sometimes seed rain?—I found at least ten different ways to categorize these books. How many can you come up with? For this post I’ll share just one so I don’t steal all the fun 🙂

Today we are going to have a blast, do something dynamite, experience the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! Today we are going to analyze books based on the Common Core-English Language Arts.

 

 

 

 

 

Wait. Why aren’t you jumping with joy? How come I don’t hear any gleeful giggles?

Maybe—whether you are a kid gritting your teeth through class, a teacher grinding through lesson prep, or an adult writer grasping to “get” this industry—just maybe you need practice romping in the joy of discovery.

Let me show you how it’s done.

Dip into the ELA standards and you’ll see three types of writing described:

  • informative/explanatory texts,
  • opinion pieces,
  • narrative writing (true or imagined stories).

Joy, oh, joy right? Okay, maybe not. That info is sitting there is like a lousy lump. A bunch of blah, blah, blah. We all know that science books are informative. They are explanatory texts. Duh.

But what if I found something a little suspicious in our fungal stack? Would you zoom in closer with me? Would you be willing to search out some odd evidence?

If you were on a hunt for a piece of narrative writing, what would you look for? A character. Action. Some voicy voice? Pick up a copy of Rotten Pumpkin: A Rotten Tale in 15 Voices and you could say: check, check, check!

If we want to get academic, plop the book down beside the ELA Standards for writing, 4th grade. According to the Core, narrative should:

  • orient the reader by establishing a situation. The opening page of Rotten Pumpkin does this loud and clear: “Here I stand, bright with light, proud and round. Tonight is my glory night.”
  • introduce a narrator. Jack the smiling pumpkin draws readers in.
  • use sensory words to convey experiences. “My vomit dissolves pumpkin nutrients so I can lap them up. A delicious, nutritious smoothie!” Whoever said analyzing books had to be boring!?!

I could go on about how this could be lumped in with narrative books, but I’ll leave the rest to you. Go ahead, I’ll make it super easy and put the link to the standards right here and the link to an online preview of the book right here. Now, you go find more evidence.

And then there’s opinion writing, something you might not expect to get a whiff of on a serious, science blog post, but COME ON! Opinions spice things up! Consider why The Mushroom Fan Club, by Elise Gravel, is just such a hoot. Hint: It’s not because she’s all straight-laced and impartial. Nope.

She even admits to being obsessed. And just what, pray, is she trying to prove? The first spread: “It’s like a treasure hunt” and the last: “So, did you enjoy our TREASURE HUNT?” kind of give it away.

For practice, pair up Gravel’s text with the 4th grade standards to find examples of

  • “create an organized structure”
  • “provide reasons that are supported by facts”
  • “link opinion and reasons”

Lookie, lookie at what you’ve done. Found a little fun matching this mushroomy stack with the Common Core’s three categories of writing. I knew you could do it! Now, I wonder what you would find if you looked at Melissa Stewart’s 5 Kinds of Nonfiction instead…

 

 

 

 

 

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Heather L. Montgomery loves taking a closer look at fungi (and slugs and bugs and poop and anything else in nature). Then she writes (narrative or opinion or explanatory books about that supercalifragilisticexpialidocious stuff. Books like: Who Gives a Poop? Surprising Science from One End to the Other, Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill, and What’s in Your Pocket? Collecting Nature’s Treasures. Learn more at www.HeatherLMontgomery.com.

STEM Tuesday — Fungi — In the Classroom

Fungi—mostly invisible to us yet found almost everywhere we go! It makes for a really interesting topic for students to explore in the classroom. How do fungi grow? Where can we find fungi? What shapes, colors, and sizes are fungi? And what other fascinating fungi facts can we discover? These books from our STEM Tuesday list inspired the following classroom ideas.

 

Funky Fungi book coverFunky Fungi: 30 Activities for Exploring Molds, Mushrooms, Lichens, and More by Alisha Gabriel and Sue Heavenrich

The engaging narrative, which masterfully incorporates the science of mycology, is brimming with cool facts (like making shoes from fungi) and tons of fun STEAM activities and experiments – beginning with the creation of a “FUNgus” journal. It’s intriguing sidebars, stunning photographs, illustrations, and graphs, and scientist highlights make this a fun read with something for everyone kid and adult alike.

 

 

Fungarium: Welcome to the Museum by Ester Gaya, illustrated by Katie Scott

A stunning, oversized book organized like a museum guide with “galleries” on fungal biology (reproduction and spores), diversity, interactions (Mycorrhizas and termites), and their relationship with humans (pathogens, edible, and pharmaceutical). In addition to engaging facts, vividly detailed images, there are three gorgeous ecosystem illustrations featuring the connection and interactions of fungous within mountains, temperate forests, and tropical forests.

 

 

Mushroom Rain by Laura K. Zimmerman

From what they smell like to who eats them, this is a fun introduction to the diverse and sometimes bizarre world of mushrooms. Older readers will enjoy the information at the back, including how mushrooms can cause rain.

 

 

The Book of Fungi: A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred Species from around the World by Roberts, Peter and Shelley Evans

Perfect for browsing, this book is as advertised: filled with life-sized photos of mushrooms, plus descriptions and range maps. Written for adults, but a treasure for kids who love to peruse field guides – if you can find it at your library.

 

 

 

Classroom Activities

Go on a mushroom hunt!

Explore outside with students to see which mushrooms they can find. Carry The Book of Fungi: A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred Species from around the World with you or download a fungi identifying app to your phone or tablet. Or students could bring digital cameras or draw images of the mushrooms they find. Visit a nature area and remind students not to touch mushrooms, as some may be poisonous. Look near rotting trees, on the sides of living trees, or where there are rotting leaves and plants. Have students document what they see and then identify the kind of mushroom they found. If they want, they could make the FUNgus journal described in Funky Fungi. See how many the class can find!

Spore slide investigation

What do spores look like? Students can study them under a microscope in this investigative activity. First prepare some microscope slides for students. Use a variety of fresh mushrooms, cut off the stems, and place the mushrooms gill-side down on top of the slide plates overnight. Make sure to label each slide. The next day, remove the caps and you’ll see that spores have dropped onto the slides. Cover each with slide with a glass coverslip. Next set up some microscopes with the slides and set them at the lowest magnification level. Ask students to view the spores and record what they see for each type of mushroom. Ask them to increase magnification and see how it changes their view. Students can then compare the different kinds of spores. Do they look the same? What are their differences?

Mycelium dig

You can find mycelium just about everywhere in gardens and forests. All you need to do is dig! Provide students with gardening gloves and garden trowels. Make sure they have notebooks or digital cameras to take photos. Now ask them to dig in shady spots to see what they can find. Tell them to look for cobweb-like white material in the soil. Once they. find some, tell them to document what they see. What does the mycelia look like? What else is in the soil? Have students record the location and depth of their hole too. Then students can share their findings with the class.

Spore art

Mushrooms can make some beautiful art! Here’s what students need to create some spore art in the classroom:

  • fresh mushrooms from the store, with gills covered as much as possible
  • cutting board and sharp knife
  • thick white card stock
  • water
  • cardboard box
  • markers or colored pencils
  • hairspray

Steps:

  1. Have students cut the bottom part of their mushroom to expose the gills.
  2. Then place the mushroom cut-side down on the white card stock. Add a few drops of water to the top of the mushroom.
  3. Cover the mushroom and card with an upside-down cardboard box and let it sit overnight.
  4. Remove the box and the mushroom the next day. You should see a pattern of spores that look like the gills and shape of the mushroom. Be careful to not disturb the spores!
  5. Spray some hairspray on top to secure the spores. Students can draw around the spore design. They can label their art too with the type of mushroom they used. Beautiful!

Hope you enjoy trying these activities out. Here are a few other sites to explore to find more fungi activities or videos for students:

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This month’s STEM Tuesday classroom activity list was prepared by:

Karen Latchana Kenney loves to write books about animals, and looks for them wherever she goes—from leafcutter ants trailing through the Amazon rain forest in Guyana, where she was born, to puffins in cliff-side burrows on the Irish island of Skellig Michael. She especially enjoys creating books about nature, biodiversity, conservation, and groundbreaking scientific discoveries—but also writes about civil rights, astronomy, historical moments, and many other topics. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and son, and bikes, hikes, and gazes at the night sky in northern Minnesota any moment she can. Visit her at latchanakenney.wordpress.com.