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Fungi: Habitats, Uses, and Nutrition Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #:AELP-BIO0106
Submitted by: Kathryn Ann Fisher
Email: k.fisher@m.cc.utah.edu
School/University/Affiliation: Center for Integrated Science Education – Salt Lake City, UT 84112-9202
Date: January 28, 2000

Grade Level(s): 3


  • Science/Biology

Duration: 50-60 minutes

Description: Students will engage in scientific exploration of fungi and define its characteristics.

Goals: Students will demonstrate an understanding of organic biology by studying one of the five kingdoms of organisms.

Objective(s): Students will identify yeast as a fungi; and identify its food needs as a living organism.


  • 30 small cups, clear if possible
  • 30 tsp. yeast
  • 30 coffee stirrers
  • 15 slices of carrot
  • 3-5 tsp. fruit juice
  • 3-5 tsp. honey
  • 6-7 tsp. sugar
  • 3-5 tsp. salt
  • several mushrooms
  • moldy bread in plastic bag
  • rocks with lichens or pictures
  • some blue cheese salad dressing
  • teaspoons for measuring
  • thermos for hot water
  • 4 thermometers
  • a few markers
  • garbage sack
  • some microscope slides of fungi
  • 2 microscopes

J = discussion question for students
I = classroom management directions
= materials needed
M = caution/ warning Procedure:

NB: Two volunteers are needed for this lesson.

Fungi comprise one of the five kingdoms of organisms.  Some fungi are harmful to humans (i.e. germs) while others are useful.
Fungi occupy a distinct place in ecosystems and food webs.

Fungi have requirements to live that are different from those of animals and plants.

Introduction (5 minutes):

J       Introduce volunteers to the students.
I       Write Virus, Bacteria and Fungi on the board.
J       Ask the students: Do you remember the germs activity we did at the beginning of the year? What grew in your petri dishes? Accept all answers;
try to find some students who had a dark, fuzzy growth in their dishes. One germ that may have grown in your dishes (the dark, fuzzy one) is a fungus.
Circle Fungi on the board.

Main Activity:

Part 1: What are fungi? (10 minutes)

I       One volunteer should set up the microscopes in the back while the other volunteer leads Parts 1 & 2.
       Mushrooms, lichens, moldy bread, blue cheese.
J       Do you remember what germs can do to you? They make us sick. Some fungi are germs that can make us sick, but some fungi are also useful.
         Can anyone give some examples of fungi?
         Does anyone know some of the good things that fungi do? Let students suggest answers. Some examples and uses are:
J …Yeast — use to make bread, muffins, etc.
  … Mushrooms – we eat them.
  … Penicillin – a fungi used as a medicine.
  … Decomposers – when plants or animals die, fungi break down their bodies and recycle them into the soil.
  … Cheese – fungi are used to make certain kinds of cheese, such as blue, Brie, Roquefort.
  … Lichens – many-colored fungus found on rocks.
I      Show the examples of fungi to the students; pass them around or walk around the classroom so all students can see.
M   Ask students not to touch the bread mold. If they do, have them wash their hands.   If possible put moldy bread in petri dish.  Tell the
students that although they can buy mushrooms in the grocery store, most kinds are poisonous, and students should never eat mushrooms they find outside.

Part 2: Where do fungi live? (5 minutes)

 J      If you want to find some of these fungi, where would you look for them? Let students suggest answers. Some examples are:
… Mushrooms: some grow in your front lawn (don’t eat them!), others grow in forest areas such as in the nearby canyons.
… Decomposers: these live in all places of the world. Sometimes you can find them in your fridge (bread mold, etc.).
… Lichens – many colors/kinds can be found on rocks all over the world, especially in nearby mountains and deserts. Look for them when out hiking.
… Yeast – grows in wet places, for example on shower curtains.

Part 3: What do fungi eat? (25-30 minutes)

Cups, yeast, coffee stirrers, sugar, salt, carrots, fruit juice, honey, hot water

There are many different kinds of fungi; today we’re going to learn about a fungus called yeast. Is yeast alive? Does it grow? Let students
guess. The answer is yes. What does it need to grow? Food? Water? Vitamins? Exercise? Sunlight? Let the students guess. Accept all responses.

Divide the students into three groups. Pass out to each student.
               1 tsp. yeast per cup
               1 cup
               1 coffee stirrer
Ask students if they think their yeast needs water to live.  If students think their yeasts needs water, then pass out 8 tsp. hot water per cup
(110-115 degrees F).

I       Have the students draw lines with markers on their cups to indicate the starting height of the yeast/water mixture.
Ask for volunteers to try feeding their yeast the various other types of food. For each food, select ~five students to try the food. Each volunteer
should do a control cup containing only yeast and water.  Label all cups.
                carrot:          ~2 slices per cup
                fruit juice:    1-2 tsp. per cup
                honey:         1-2 tsp. per cup
                sugar:              2 tsp. per cup
                salt:                 1 tsp. per cup
Every five minutes, have the students make observations. (Optional – draw table on board and note results of each type of food)
Ask them how the yeast smells, whether it’s clumpy, foamy, or thin/runny.

I       While in-between checking times, let the students examine each others’ yeast and compare with the control cups. Let the students take
turns viewing the fungi slides under the microscopes. Encourage them to ask questions about yeast and/or fungi, or just about science or the University.
M       One volunteer should stay at the microscope to help students use it properly.


I       Stop checking yeast at ~1:50.
J       Ask the students to help you decide which type of food the yeast likes best. Have the students compare their cups of yeast.
        Can they see a difference between the cup with food and the cup without food?  What does yeast need to grow?

Clean up:

I       Collect cups, coffee stirrers and any other items, explain that we can use these items again, recycling is cool,  (ask for student volunteers
to help). Students may not keep the yeast. Make sure desks and counters are clean before leaving. Don’t put the yeast in the classroom garbage.
We will collect it all in a separate garbage bag and dispose of it back at the lab.

Assessment: Students will:

  • identify characteristics of fungi
  • explain how yeast grows
  • Useful Internet Resources: Introduction to Fungi

    Fun Facts About Fungi – University of Michigan