Discovering Mushrooms



Session 1 : Discovering mushrooms

With a field trip to a forest, the children begin by observing the ecosystem and to look around them for mushrooms. The objective here is to get the children to ask themselves what they think mushrooms should look like.

It will prompt them to begin looking for less common mushrooms, to look for mycelial filaments under leaves, on the ground and around roots.

The children will collect specimen samples. This will give them a better idea of the diverse range of form, color, and size of these organisms. They will also be encouraged to pay attention to the habitat where they have found thier different specimens by filling out a simple collection data sheet. Photos can be taken to supplement these data sheets.

These data sheets will be used as support for class work during the second session.

During this first session, culture trays of pleurote will be given to the students for them to track growth and development of the pleurotes throughout the duration of the project. This exercise in monitoring will complement and contribute to sessions 2 and 4.


Session 2 : What is a mushroom?

Based on observations the children made in the forest and by using supplementary material they will be provided with (moldy foods, cheeses, a Petri dish with mycelienne cultures, photos of mycorhizees roots, leaves from trees colonized by fungi, decomposing wood), they children will be asked to revise what they know about how mushrooms look and about what mushrooms do. We will use the following discussion points:

  • a mushroom is a living organism which is neither a plant nor an animal
  • a mushroom does not always have a hat
  • a mushroom is not always visible to the naked eye
  • a mushroom can be microscopic and macroscopic at the same time

Time will then be devoted to discovering the biology of mushrooms (mycelial growth, sporulation, dispersion, fruiting): the students will be able to grow their own spore and follow mycelium growth in the Petri dishes.

The discussion will come back to the childrens’ experience discovering how diverse mushrooms can be, which will lead to talking about the diversity in the mushrooms they were able to find themselves and the question of how to identify mushrooms: using a mycological guide, molecular analysis (by comparing DNA identification carried out by forensic scientists).

In parallel, the students will study the diversity of mushrooms’ habitats considering observations they made in the forest (using their collection data sheets) and using equipment provided to support this session. This analysis will also open the discussion to mushrooms” diverse modes of reproduction.

At the end of the session, the children will be encouraged to ask questions about the ecological role of mushrooms within these different habitats (concept of saprotrophisme, symbiosis, parasitism). This reflexion will serve as an introduction to the third session.


Session 3 : What do mushrooms do ? Part One

On-site visit to the laboratory “Tree/Microorganism Interactions — IAM” at the INRA research center in Nancy-Lorraine (Champenoux) to discover the role mushrooms play in the environnement (4 workshops lasting 20 minutes each for small groups + discussion time).

  • Workshop 1 — How do you work with mushrooms (working in sterile environments)? How are mushrooms grown, identified and observed?
  • Workshop 2 — The mushrooms that help trees grow: what is a mycorhize? What does it do? What does it look like? Have I already seen one?
  • Workshop 3 — The mushrooms that make trees sick: presenting students with the theory of the Red Queen, used in evoloutionary biology particularly among pathogenic fungi, which is inspired by the novel by Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland — the other side of the mirror’.
  • Workshop 4 — Muchrooms that decompose wood


Session 4 : What do mushrooms do? Part Two

Discovery of several uses for mushrooms in the agro-food industry:

  • Visit to Champi’Parc in the old brewery in Maxéville, in partnership with the Petits Débrouillard Grand Est association : visit to the mushroom grove
  • Visit to the micro-brewery “Grenaille” in Jarville (


Educational tools and supplementary information