It’s All Fun(gus) Here #sol20

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It’s All Fun(gus) from Here #sol20

March 4, 2020

Late last fall when the third graders were just beginning to study nonfiction reading and writing,  I read a new book to them, Fungus is Among Us.  We were reviewing this new book, but along with the review, I tried a teaching technique that was new to us,  I read the book to highlight the author’s craft.  We had been considering author’s craft as a point of confusion for the students, deciding to be more intentional about our talk around it.

The combination of a funny, engaging, fact-filled book ignited a spark in that class, their teacher, and me.  I created a slide deck of fungus that I have seen in my yard. (New England is particularly rich in fungus. Most likely due to our wooded, shady landscape.) I bought another book for us to read,  The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel, again to highlight another nonfiction author’s craft.  The students were on fire about fungus.

Simultaneously I loaned their teacher an adult novel that I had loved the summer before, Sourdough.  I had loved this crazy novel that blends finding yourself and the science of sourdough.  ( Yeast is a fungus) The teacher was on fire about fungus.

The students continued writing about nonfiction topic and secretly created an amazing poster about what they had learned about fungus.  It was magical.  They surprised me with it one day by placing it in the inside window of their classroom that I pass often.  The students were on fire about fungus.

Months later, Friday,  the teacher sent me a message that the students had a present for me and could I drop by sometime during the day.  I came by right at reading was starting that morning.  Twenty some shiny ideas alit with possibility peered up at me.  I could feel the excitement and anticipation.  We have a present for you, they said.  Oh, what could this amazing present be?  Low and behold, the students (their teacher), had bought a mushroom growing kit and a sourdough dehydrated starter for the group of us to grow together!  That teacher!  He took that spark of interest and fanned it, nurtured it through other days and subjects and created a reading/writing/science theme for his class (with me).

As we get excited about new learning (that we choose) and the possibility of a new adventure, the thirst to experiment, to learn, to explore was palpable in that classroom.

To grow mushrooms and sourdough takes patience.  We carefully read the directions on the mushroom growing kit.  One videographer student recording our process.  We remembered the name of the parts of a fungus.  We soaked the mushroom medium overnight… Then yesterday, we took the mushroom medium out of the water.  Split open the plastic that holds the mycelium per the directions.  We scrapped the medium with a fork.  We seriously discussed the placement in the room of our budding mushrooms.  We made a plan for their daily care. Watering with our potable water two tablespoons a day.  The class had completed some research and determined that we could spritz the growing mushrooms each day.

Then we tackled the sourdough beginnings.  A dried packaged that looked like crust crumbs.  Again, earnestly read directions.  Two tablespoons flour.  Two tablespoons water.  Stir.  Careful examination.  It looks like pudding.  Maybe yogurt.  How soon with it grow?  It’s going to bubble!?   We have to feed it every day.  Where should we keep it?  Honestly, it felt like magic was in the air.  The schema building, theory growing, idea sparking that spread through that class was everything. 

At bus time,  a member of the class, a quiet child, came up to me.  Mrs. Kennedy, the sourdough is bubbling already.  

Oh, the sourdough is bubbling.  The mushrooms are growing.  The world of that class… it’s expanding too.

16 thoughts on “It’s All Fun(gus) Here #sol20

  1. “As we get excited about new learning (that we choose) and the possibility of a new adventure, the thirst to experiment, to learn, to explore was palpable in that classroom.” It tickles me to no end that we are essentially returning to teaching in holistic units, where reading, science, math all flow into one another to spark connections. So much more impactful than a lockstep curriculum! Thanks for sharing your teaching and learning spark!

  2. Hooray for choosing to nurture these opportunities. You sparked something beautiful… something you will all likely remember always. This is what school is all about.

  3. What an amazing teacher! With my class’ strong desire for a pet mouse, I’ve also been finding ways to boost their engagement through this. It’s all about the connections. They will not only remember this, but also, learn a great deal.

  4. >Oh, the sourdough is bubbling. The mushrooms are growing. The world of that class… it’s expanding too.<

    You have the most amazing experiences! I've enjoyed making sourdough and sweet dough ("friendship bread🙄) before, but never with students. I can imagine how intense the students were with your discussions.

    Thank you for this uplifting slice. It was needed today! 🙂

  5. How wonderful that you inspired a class to follow their curiosity! This slice resonates with me today – I managed to cultivate my first sourdough starter. I haven’t baked with it yet, but it’s exciting to feed that bubbling cauldron every day. Thanks also for the novel recommendation!

    • it was amazing when I went to feed it with the students today, it was already bubbly and the color and consistency had changed. Can’t wait to make some bread. This teacher is great. I’ve done lots of projects with him over the years.

  6. We are certainly the same kind of people! I just loved your story and how excited the teachers and students are about fungus and sourdough. I also have random photos of fungus on my phone. I always want to know the name of each one. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I so appreciate how your tales of fungus exploration took me away from encroaching headlines about a certain virus. After all, as the class you capture in this slice so ably demonstrates, there *are* viral experiences still worth sharing

  8. The magic of a book shared with just the right readers at just the right moment…you never know what doors it will open or where it will lead. Author’s craft, yes, and Teacher’s Craft, too! You both are nurturing those learners as surely as they’re caring for the mushrooms and the sourdough.

  9. I just love this post! We just finished dabbling into the world of fungi and decomposition but it did NOT go as beautifully as you just described! What a special teaching and learning experience! What amazing adults these children have in their lives!

  10. Pingback: Yesterday… a History #sol20 | Reflections from a Coach

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