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Where Does Mold Come From?It all started with Eeww! Gross! when daughter had discovered a rather moldy orange in our fruit bowl. I agreed with her statement, but thought that it would be a good opportunity for us to learn a bit more about mold and where it comes from. Obviously, Smarty with her extensive reading on variety of topics and with a few science fairs under her belt was not a novice to mold. She was able to tell me that mold is always in the air, but she thought that mold was similar to algae. I explained to her that mold is a fungus, not a plant, and then asked her to mentally perform a well known mold growing experiment with mold developing under different conditions. She was correct predicting that mold will develop better on unsealed bread, wet bread, and warm bread, but she was still thinking that light will help mold grow. I pointed out to her that fungi don’t need light to grow and, in fact, grow best in damp, warm, shaded places.
Mold Up Close
First we looked at our moldy orange under a magnifying glass. Smarty commented that “it looks like the surface of the Moon”. Then I showed her how to make a microscope slide. We scraped some of the mold on a plastic slide that came with our microscope, added a drop of water, and covered it with a plastic cover.
We looked at our slide under EduScience Starter microscope and agreed as a family that this “science tool” is nothing else but a piece of plastic junk. I don't even link it to my Amazon account, since I don't want anyone buying it. We got ours as a present when Smarty was 6, and all our attempts to get any sort of decent focus with it failed miserably. We are considering a “real” science microscope for Smarty as a present for her 9th birthday. At least it was worth a try. We resigned itself instead to watching this fascinating video of time lapsed mold growing over bread. Who knew that mold can be beautiful!
Grow Mold at Home
I know, it sounds funny, but Smarty was quite excited to grow mold intentionally in a Petri dish (probably the most useful part of our microscope kit). We scraped some mold spores on a piece of wet bread and now it’s sitting in our bathroom (warm, damp, shady place) slowly developing into more mold. At least it’s not an unintentional experiment in our fruit bowl or elsewhere in our house (moldy bath toys – eeww!)
Read About Mold and RotWe extended the mold experiment by reading Magic School Bus Meets the Rot Squad: A Book About Decomposition from our home library selection of about 20 MSB titles. This book does a great job explaining decomposition to elementary school students and it helped us to move from “eeww! factor” seeing decomposing remains of a squirrel on the sidewalk not far from our house to being a bit more appreciative of the intricate beauty of decomposition. Our next project in this direction is building our own compost bin.
Do you have a microscope in your house? Can you recommend it?
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