Skip Navigation

Fungus Among Us

Author(s): Nancy Moreno, PhD, Barbara Tharp, MS, and Judith Dresden, MS.

Let’s Talk About It

In this activity, students allow mold and fungi to grow on slices of bread. Students may see bread mold (Rhizopus stolonifer), greenish colonies of Penicillium (the fungus that produces the antibiotic known as Penicillin), and/or other related fungi.

As a class, decide how many different kinds of mold are present on the bread samples. Have students list the characteristics they use to tell different molds apart (such as color, appearance of texture, etc.). Prompt them to think about whether certain molds seem more likely to grow on certain types of bread.

One of the fungi that often is present is bread mold, which consists of dark gray mat of tangled threads that may reach a centimeter in thickness. Find several samples of bread mold among the class’s cultures, and give each group a container in which bread mold is present. 

SAFETY NOTE: Students should not open the containers.

Have the students use magnifying glasses to observe the bread mold inside their containers. They will be able to see individual mold threads, with small dark dots at the ends. The dots are the spore-producing parts of the fungus. (The actual spores are very tiny.)

If you have access to microscopes, have students observe a few strands of the bread mold under a microscope (place the mold samples on a slide using forceps or tweezers, add a drop of water and cover with a cover slip.) Students will be able to see the tubular structure of the filaments (hyphae), the round dark heads that produce spores, and, depending on the magnification, some of the tiny, round spores. Focus students’ attention on the Common Bread Mold worksheet to help them clarify the bread mold structures. 

Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools
Grant Numbers: 5R25ES010698, R25ES06932

Houston Endowment Inc.

Houston Endowment Inc.

Foundations for the Future: Capitalizing on Technology to Promote Equity, Access and Quality in Elementary Science Education