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Web of Life    Mystery 3

Mystery 3 image

In this Mystery, students discover the role fungi play in decomposing dead materials and in creating soil.

Where do fallen leaves go?

Beginning Exploration (1 of 8)
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Beginning Exploration (2 of 8)

DISCUSS (1 of 2):

Where do you think all the leaves go?

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Beginning Exploration (3 of 8)

DISCUSS (2 of 2):

What could you do to find out?

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Beginning Exploration (4 of 8)
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Beginning Exploration (5 of 8)

DISCUSS:

What do you think is happening in the photo below?

Where do you think the stuff growing on the fruit comes from? rotting lemons

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Beginning Exploration (6 of 8)
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Beginning Exploration (7 of 8)

DISCUSS:

Imagine you were going camping for two weeks without a refrigerator and you wanted to bring some sliced oranges.

What might you do to keep the oranges from decomposing?

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Beginning Activity Prep
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Beginning Activity: Mold Terrarium
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Beginning Activity: Mold Terrarium
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Beginning Activity: Mold Terrarium
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Beginning Activity: Mold Terrarium
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Beginning Activity: Mold Terrarium
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Beginning Activity: Mold Terrarium
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Beginning Activity: Mold Terrarium
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Beginning Activity: Mold Terrarium
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Beginning Activity: Mold Terrarium
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Beginning Activity: Mold Terrarium
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Beginning Activity: Mold Terrarium
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Beginning Activity: Mold Terrarium
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Beginning Activity: Mold Terrarium
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Beginning Activity: Mold Terrarium
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Beginning Activity: Mold Terrarium
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Beginning Activity: Mold Terrarium
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Beginning Activity: Mold Terrarium
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Beginning Exploration (8 of 8)

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Beginning Complete!

You've completed the Exploration & Activity!

If you have more time, view the assessment, reading and extension activity in the optional extras.

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Optional Extras

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the activity & exploration you just completed.
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Activity: Worm Composting

Do the Rot Thing, an activity booklet produced by the Alameda County Waste Management Authority (CA), includes a section on worm composting in your classroom. Get up close and personal with the decomposers that keep our planet healthy.

Learn more about worms from University of Illinois’ online resource, The Adventures of Herman (the Worm). Available in English and Spanish.

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Readings

These Common-Core-aligned readings are free with registration on ReadWorks. All include comprehension questions.

The ancient Egyptians made mummies by using salt to keep mold from growing. Read about animal mummies in Pet Cemetary. (grade 5)

Learn how people kept food cold before they had refrigerators in Ice Harvest. (grade 6)

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Video: When Good Food Goes Bad

These dramatic time-lapse videos show what happens to fruit as it molds.

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Video: Indiana Jones of fungus hunters

Dr. Gary A. Strobel is known as the Indiana Jones of fungus hunters. He searches the world’s forests for fungi that live inside plants. Many of these fungi produce chemicals that protect the plants from disease and infection. In the laboratory, Strobel tests these chemicals to see if they can be as useful to people as they are to the plants that they come from. By doing this, he has found chemicals that save lives.

To learn about his work, watch from 35:30 to 37:40 in Nature’s Great Decomposers, a 45-minute documentary on NatGeo TV.

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FAQ

Looking for answers to some frequently asked questions about mold? You've come to the right place.

These answers are from the Mad Scientists Network, a collective of smart scientists who aren't really mad at all.

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Discuss: Science & History

How did people keep food from spoiling before they had refrigerators? Ask your students for ideas. Here are some questions to get them thinking — with links for further research.

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Image & Video Credits

Mystery Science respects the intellectual property rights of the owners of visual assets. We make every effort to use images and videos under appropriate licenses from the owner or by reaching out to the owner to get explicit permission. If you are the owner of a visual and believe we are using it without permission, please contact us—we will reply promptly and make things right.

Exploration
leaves on cement by Kichigin
walking through leaves by Suzanne Tucker
kid playing in leaves by Chris Nolan , used under CC BY
wintery road by David Merrigan , used under CC BY
spring/green road by artens
bag of leaves by MiVa
leaves by Albert Bridge , used under CC BY-SA
walking on log-leaves by unsplash
leaf decomposition by Josh Williams
fungus mycelium by Kris H. Light
second log flip by Sergei A. Polozov
growing mycelium by franchise films
mushroom time lapse by OddScience
mushroom time lapse 2 by franchise films
fungi mycelium on wood by chanus
hands dug into work by 13Imagery
decomposition by StopWaste
Russula by Jerzy Opioła , used under CC BY-SA
cinnabar-red chanterelle by Jake Stookey
red capped mushrooms by Gemini78
yellow & white capped mushrooms by Kurt Bauschardt , used under CC BY-SA
mushroom by Mary Smiley , used under CC BY-SA
white mushroom by arhendrix
orange mushrooms by Mushroom Observer , used under CC BY-SA
Cordyceps_locustiphila_Henn by Mushroom Observer , used under CC BY-SA
mycelium growing more by Jerzy Opioła , used under CC BY-SA
trees broken up by shore by skeeze , used under Public Domain
man hiking by Poprotskiy Alexey
mushrooms growing outside complex by Vasile Cotovanu , used under CC BY-SA
forest floor by Alessandro Colle
pinic table lunch by adriaticfoto
moldy bread by Taborsky
moldy strawberries by rsooll
mycelium on potato by Telia
mycelium in orange substance by Irina Kozorog
moldy orange by Irina Mos
mushroom cap by Aleksey Gnilenkov
casual living room by Wonderlane
berry decomposition by webiocosm
compost bin by Evan Lorne
inside of compost bin by BMJ
woman inside grocery store by Adam Melnyk
moldy tomatoes by Comrade Foot
inside of fridge by thodonal88
camping- tent by Milaniphotography
Activity
black electric heater by ronstik
hands by photka
pencil by JohannPoufPouf
hands up by Rawpixel.com
Other
Unit: leaf by LilKar
Unit: leaf 2 by Etakundoy