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Mold’s not that gross…

“I’m looking at the mold. It’s not that gross.”
        “There’s kind of these little dots in there.”
   “I see the seeds with green stuff. I saw a green hair.”
           “I see a bunch a white things. It looks weird. It looks like a bunch of flowers.”
                  “Hey, can I tell you something? That grey stuff looks like a bunch of flowers.”
       “To me it looks like the moon!”
IMG_1251Last year, the kids from the Discovery class (K-2) let a few pumpkins take nature’s course in an experiment on decomposition. The result of this experiment was, well, goopy pumpkin stuff oozing in the dirt. But sure enough, more pumpkins sprouted up this year, and the students we’re faced with some choices: save the seeds and plant them, eat the seeds and pumpkins, let the pumpkins rot again, or, of course, all of the above.
Well the rotting thing was definitely a winner. It puts on quite a show, after all, albeit in slow motion. This time the kids had the pumpkin under the microscope as soon as the first signs of mold appeared and learned a bit about fungi.
Did you know that the largest known organism on earth is a mushroom!  Living underground in Oregon, it’s three and a half miles wide and is thought to be over 2,4000 years old!
Fungi is one of the best decomposers of organic material. Dead plants and animals would just hang around without it, and the nutrients from the dead material would not return to the soil. Other plants, animals and micro-organisms that rely on that food would also go hungry and the delicate balance of the ecosystem would be lost.
It also effects we humans every day. Where would we be without yeast, or antibiotics, or, ehm, athlete’s foot?
The study of fungi is called mycology. If you’re looking for a good, kid friendly website on microbes, the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre in Ireland has some great stuff going on. Or better yet, visit the Peninsula’s very own Mycology Society for some hands on action. They look at mold, too. And it’s not that gross…