Elementary school students often get to see baby chicks hatching or caterpillars getting comfy in a chrysalis before turning into a butterfly. These activities show how animals grow and evolve through the beginning of their life cycles.
A mushroom grow kit is a simple way to engage children and observe the change in appearance as they fruit. It can be something to do when the kids are learning at home. They can keep an eye on how tall and fast the mushrooms grow when misting the humidity tent we include between two and five times a day. (Learn more about how grow kits spruce up meals, rooms and pastimes in our previous blog here.)
Growing mushrooms may also help elementary school students learn part of the curriculum, making this an easy activity for teachers as well.
Mushrooms are decomposers. They break down nutrients and matter, including soybean shells in the growth mix, to feed themselves. Mycelium helps that happen – it is also a fungus, but it grows like roots to make food for the fruiting mushrooms. Just like that, there is the role and interaction of a decomposer within an ecosystem, something that grade 7 students are expected to learn in Ontario.
They also learn how matter cycles within the environment. When mushrooms feed on the mix and fruit, they leave behind compost. The mycelium and other good stuff in the block can be introduced back into the ground or have a bit added to some soil. This can ultimately support plant growth and add more nutrients to the soil, as we cover in this blog post.
Grade 4 students classify organisms and find out where they fit in the food chain. Plants feed off the recycled nutrients from mushrooms in the outdoors. Although mushrooms are decomposers, those in the grow kits are food for us.
Not every kid likes mushrooms and some people may never grow to enjoy eating them. However, mushrooms in general, including Oysters that we offer in our grow kits, contain vitamin D2. Kids tend to lack this vitamin, which helps maintain healthy bones and absorb calcium, according to researchers at the University of Milan.
There are some ways to mask the taste for those who are just not fungi fans. The Lion’s Mane mushroom is available as a grow kit and it can be shredded to make mock crab cakes. You can also finely chop mushrooms to add to ground meat for burgers or meatballs. Other options to slowly introduce the mushrooms include adding them to pasta, soup, and pizza.
Disclaimer: Despite the references provided, the information on this page is for educational purposes only.