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.