Aug 25: Create a clay fungi

Make your own toadstool garden…

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Below are some talking points and activities to pass the time, all relating to today’s story.

Talking points

Discuss the ideas presented in the story with your family—at home or over video conferencing. Find ways to involve as many people as possible, especially those who you know are isolated by the lock-down.

  • Fungi are “inextricably” connected with what grows above the ground. What do you think this means?
  • After reading about the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, are you able to put into your own words the ways that trees and fungi help each other?
  • Do you think the annual fungal foray looks like a fun way to spend a weekend? Would you enjoy carefully looking on the forest floor for different species of fungi? Why do you think people get hooked on it?
  • Did you know there are so many species of fungi (one volunteer at Fungal Foray found 600 in a weekend) and that they are so different from one another? Scientists are still figuring out why there is such great diversity in the fungal world – do you have any hypotheses about how we might come to value the properties of different fungi in the future?
  • The harore is a native species of Armillaria mushroom – it spreads out into a vast network and can stop trees from growing. What do you think about the possibility of this helping to stop the spread of wilding pines? What will scientists have to consider as they look at using harore this way?

Language Focus

“Today, though, we’ve struck it lucky. There are little armies of gold mushrooms and dark-red conical ones, clusters of little gnome hats and branching coralline fungi, all in the earthy, nostalgic colours of old New Zealand: the browns and creams of Crown Lynn ceramics, the tan of suitcase leather and old armchairs, the pale pink found inside a conch shell.”

  1. Can you spot the personal pronoun in the first sentence? Do you know why writers often use personal pronouns in non-fiction writing?
  2. Can you find a sound technique in the first sentence?
  3. “Little armies” could be said to be an unexpected combination of words – almost an oxymoron. What do you think these two words together conjures up in our minds?
  4. There are lots of specific colours mentioned as the writer describes the fungi he sees. Which colours can you find? Why do you think he bothers to mention all these?
  5. What kind of words are “earthy” and “nostalgic?”

Answers: 1. The personal pronoun is “we’ve” – these help create a warm and personal tone so the reader can relate to the writer. 2. “Struck it lucky” is a sound technique and uses consonance in the repetition of the “uck” sound. This makes the writing more lively. 3. “Little armies” helps us imagine the fungi as clustered in a group and working together in an impressive way, as well as emphasising their small size and making them seem like they belong to another, fairy-like world. 4. Colours include gold, dark-red, brown, cream, tan and pale-pink. This list of colours helps us to imagine how beautiful the fungi are as well as admiring their diversity. It helps us understand how enchanted the writer is by what he sees on the forest floor. 5. Adjectives – describing words.

Activity: Clay Fungi

Make and paint a beautiful garden decoration that celebrates the magical toadstool.

You will need:

  • Clay (Use air-dry clay if you have it, or make salt-dough, recipe below)
  • Red and white paint, or any colours that you choose

Step 1: Make a batch of salt-dough by mixing ½ cup flour with ¼ cup salt. Add ¼ cup of water to this and stir until combined in a dough.

Step 2: Divide the dough into five portions and shape each into a ball. Use your fingers to pinch the top of the ball and draw out a stem.

Step 3: Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes or until hard.

Step 4: When cool, paint the stem and underside of each toadstool in white and the topside in red. Use a small paintbrush or the end of a kebab stick to dot white spots onto the red topside.

Step 5: If you have mod podge or another clear varnish, apply it to the dried paint.

Step 6: Place in a terrarium or pot-plant or outside in the garden.

Step 7: Send us a picture of your clay fungi!