Create cool mushroom spore prints! Fun nature science activity that kids can do at home.
Did you know you can make a natural spore print from a mushroom? Like, really easily? So awesome!
Try this as a nature science activity for preschoolers or kindergarteners. My 4.5 year old daughter Bumble Bee thought this was the coolest thing ever!
Older kids might also like to try scraping off some spores and studying them under a microscope afterwards.
How to make a mushroom spore print
You can actually make a spore print with any mushroom, and apparently different mushrooms have different coloured spores and create different patterns, which is so awesome.
We decided to use a large field mushroom (also called portobella or open cap mushroom) since we’d bought one from the store earlier that day.
- a large field mushroom
- a sharp knife
- a piece of white paper
Step 1: Buy a mushroom that has its gills mostly protected (or if its gills are exposed, try to choose one that’s as fresh as possible).
Note: if you’re going to pick a wild mushroom, don’t eat it unless you know its not poisonous! And please wash your hands carefully afterwards.
Step 2: Cut off the lower portion of the mushroom, exposing the gills. This should also ensure that the stem is flush with the underside.
If it’s a store-bought mushroom, see if your kids will snack on the off-cuts. Bumble Bee thought it was delicious! (Somehow food always tastes better when you’re playing with it, don’t you think?)
Step 3: Place the top section of the mushroom gill-side down on a piece of paper. (We used regular printer paper, but I think slightly thicker paper would have been better. We’ll try that next time.)
Step 4: Add a few drops of water to the top of the mushroom cap to encourage the spores to drop. Cover with an upside-down box, and set it aside somewhere where it won’t be disturbed. Leave overnight.
Step 5: The next day, gently lift the box and the mushroom, and you should see a beautiful spore print on the paper underneath!
Each individual spore is incredibly teeny tiny, but on mass they look really impressive. I love the way you can clearly see the shape of the gills. Isn’t it fascinating!
If you want to preserve your spore print, you can spray it with hairspray and let dry.
Or if you’d rather study the spores under a microscope, you can scrape off some of the spores with a needle, and place the spores on a microscope slide. Place a drop of water on the spores and cover with a cover slip. (We haven’t tried this yet – but I’m super keen to do this next time!)
Depending on how hot and humid your house was overnight, you might even be able to eat the rest of the mushroom! Mmmm, grilled mushroom on toast anyone?
Mushrooms are part of a larger group of organisms known as fungi. Fungi are more closely related to animals than to plants.
Most fungi reproduce by releasing tiny spores that then germinate (sprout) and grow into a new fungus.
Mushroom spores are tiny, and can only be seen individually with a microscope. On a mature mushroom, thousands of spores can grow on just one gill!
Different mushrooms have different coloured spores, Mushroom spores can be white, brown, black, or many shades in between!
Find more information about making spore prints from different types of mushrooms here.
This only the second time we’ve tried making a spore print. So far we’ve found it a fun and easy process. It’s making me keen to try making spore prints from different types of mushrooms, and maybe even make a mushroom spore print craft! Stay tuned!
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Very neat! One note though. Fungi are actually more closely related to animals than they are to plants. So to refer to them as a plant is not accurate!