Earlier this week it rained quite a bit in our part of the country, and when that happens two things show up in our yard with amazing rapidity: mosquitoes and mushrooms. I dislike mosquitoes too much to focus any scientific attention on them, but mushrooms don't suck my blood and are thus fair game for exploration. Some of my nieces were at our house again today, so they were forced to join in the science "fun."
I told them that they were going on a mushroom hunt and to find and bring back as many types as possible (I also reminded them to not taste anything and to wash their hands and arms really well afterwards, so don't worry too much). They found four specimens - three growing out of the ground and one on the bark of a dead oak tree. Ian was quick to realize that the three ground types they found were all growing where tree stumps used to be, which was a good opportunity to explain that mushrooms are involved in the decomposition process and are different from green plants in how they live and grow and also in their structures.
I didn't have a mushroom guide or any other material to show the kids, so we mostly looked, touched, and commented on the things we saw. Then the kids went off to play and I tossed the fungus in the garbage.
(When the kids found the "thing" growing on the dead tree, they also knocked a big chunk of bark off and discovered an ant nest underneath. It was interesting to see the ants scurrying around and trying to get their white eggs back undercover - it was a cool side note to the mushroom hunt.)
Happy science, everyone!
PS - if you happen to know the names of any of these mushrooms, please comment!