by Mahina Smith
What is a mushroom? Is it a fruit, or is it vegetable? Is it even a plant?
During this pandemic, it’s more important than ever to create hands-on “classroom” activities that students can do from home. Look no further than Extension educators, who’ve been able to deliver on CTAHR’s Land Grant obligations by helping Oʻahu students cultivate oyster mushrooms. Which are, in fact, a fungus – not a fruit or vegetable.
More than 100 teachers and community members joined Extension for an online webinar, learning how to leverage mushroom cultivation using teacher-crafted lessons for 150 students grades K-12.
Each mushroom grow bag can yield around 3 “flushes” of mushrooms that students can engage with to learn STEM principles, before trying their hand at cooking with – and eating – their very own mushrooms! Younger students use mushrooms to learn about life-cycles, while the older students can practice collecting data and learn about complex nutrient cycles.
“With people feeling so disconnected, students are invited to connect with their place, observing mushrooms in their own environment, then deducing where in their homes the fungi will thrive,” says Kristen Jamieson, Waianae Farm to School Coordinator.
While the students have been making mushroom observations, their teachers have been making observations as well. The kids really get creative, they note. Sometimes the best place to grow a mushroom is under a cabinet, or in a closet, or hidden in their bathroom. The kids, teachers add, are really excited to have something they can call their own, take care of, and just discuss.
“With edible mushrooms being produced in as little as two weeks, students can have a fast-paced farm-to-food experience from their own homes,” says Kristen.
More than 250 mushroom kits have been sent out statewide. Teachers are hopeful that after the pandemic, they’ll be able to implement a mushroom program in their classrooms. One day, mushrooms could be cultivated at a larger scale at schools for students to practice laboratory, business or culinary skills with the fruit of their efforts.
Well, maybe the fungus of their efforts.