Tuesday, May 5, 2015

We mostly think of mold as gross and unwanted visitor in our homes, but exploring mold can be a fascinating science activity for kids. Here is how we explored mold on Planet Smarty Pants.
Science Activity for Kids - Exploring Mold

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Where Does Mold Come From?

Why-Foods-Get-MoldyIt 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

Mold-Magnifying-Glass
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.
Mold-Microscope 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

Growing-Mold-Petri-Dish
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 Rot

Rot SquadWe 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.

Your Turn

STEM Activity - Exploring Mold
Do you have a microscope in your house? Can you recommend it?

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6 comments:

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

We popped for a medium-expensive, Konus Duo microscope when T was little, after being advised by several homeschool sites to avoid the toy types. It's a complete piece of junk, though - never useful - not even once. We keep thinking we'll buy something better, but a really good telescope is just ahead of it on our list :)

Ticia said...

Mold and those unintended science experiments..... Sigh, happens all too often.

Lindsey Garcia said...

This might sound funny but I gasped when I saw your post. Gasped with excitement, that is.
I've been wanting to do a "unit" on mold and fungii and moss with the kids. This will be a great intro for us.
Thank you for linking up at the Laugh & Learn. Hope to see you next week!

JL said...

Love this post!

l hall said...

ewww!

The Resourceful Mama said...

It's always fun to grow mold as a science experiment! Not so fun when it grows unintentionally on our food. I would love for you to come by our Made for Kids link party and link this up! http://www.theresourcefulmama.com/made-for-kids-6/