The wet and windy weather we’ve been having in NE Scotland does have its advantages at this time of year. Suddenly fungi can be found everywhere!
Our local woodlands are full of mushrooms and toadstools that add to the seasonal beauty and wonder of a visit. If you take children outside at this time of the year it is highly probable that fungi will be found. These children were in the middle of a scavenger hunt that was abandoned when these toadstools were discovered behind the bushes and beside the wall.
I frequently visit schools where staff assume that children are not allowed to touch fungi. This is an unfortunate assumption. Within Scotland, it is perfectly okay for children to touch fungi and arguably in woods at the moment, it is extremely likely that this would happen inadvertently. Feeling and smelling fungi are just as important as being able to see them.
Ingesting fungi is when the harm is done. Thus no-one should ever eat a mushroom unless they are 100% sure it is edible. If in doubt, don’t eat it. The other rule is to always wash your hands after touching fungi. Any outing where fungi is likely to be encountered should have this included in a risk benefit assessment.
Whilst it’s not against the law to pick fungi, there is a collection code that should be followed and generally it is expected that a teacher would do this rather than a class of children. Common sense says that it is better to leave fungi for others to enjoy too.
For schools wishing to find out more about fungi, then the first port of call is the Fungi4Schools website. This has reams of advice and visitors from other countries may find the material relevant and helpful too. The title of this post is taken from the series of activities called The Good, the Bad and the Fungi for 7-11 year olds. Fungi have an important role to play in the decomposition process. The role of microorganisms in producing and breaking down some materials is Level 2 Science Experience & Outcome.
The activities include tasting shop bought mushrooms, using parachute games to introduce some of the key ideas and a “Make a Mycelium” activity. My favourite has to be demonstrating how the mushroom gets its spots. To do this, you blow up a red balloon a little bit and put a damp piece of toilet tissue on it to represent the universal veil. Then keep on blowing the balloon and the toilet paper will split in a manner that is very similar to the white spots on the fly agaric – our traditional fairy toadstool.
The NE Countryside Rangers have been instrumental in putting this material together. Kath Hamper, the Education Officer for the Buchan Countryside Group does beautiful mushroom illustrations. Have a look and enjoy…
(This is a belated contribution to the Friday Nature Table over at the Magic Onion blog.)