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Lesson Plan #: AELP-BIO0203
Submitted by: Kara Elwood
Email: kdest2@pitt.edu
School/University/Affiliation: University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Endorsed by: Bernard Poole
             University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Date: February 2, 2003

Grade Level: 10, 11


  • Science/Biology

Duration: 45 minutes

Description: This lesson can used as a part of a unit on kingdoms. Students learn about the characteristics of fungi.

Goals: Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Science and Technology :

3.3.12.A. Explain the relationship between structure and function at all levels of organization.

  • Identify and explain interactions among organisms (e.g., mutually beneficial, harmful relationships).
  • Explain and analyze the relationship between structure and function at the molecular, cellular and organ-system level.
  • Describe and explain structural and functional relationships in each of the five (or six) kingdoms.
  • Explain significant biological diversity found in each of the biomes.


  • Students will be able to distinguish a mushroom from a plant.
  • Student will be able to identify the defining characteristics of fungi.
  • Students will be able to identify the four main groups of fungi.
  • Students will be able to describe the problems that parasitic fungi cause.
  • Materials:

    • mushrooms
    • food samples: bread, fruit, vegetables, potato chips, etc.
    • water
    • Petri dishes
    • Quiz
    • Quiz in .pdf format; requires free Adobe Acrobat Reader.

      Click the icon to obtain the free Reader.

    Vocabulary: Chitin – Complex carbohydrate that makes up the cell wall. Procedure:

    Inquiry Activity: (10 min)
    Examine a mushroom without damaging it. Carefully separate the stalk and cap of the mushroom. Try to break the stalk across and lengthwise. Crumble a piece of the stalk. Describe the shape of the parts that make up the stalk. Break the cap in two and examine the thin sheets on the underside of the cap.

    Ask students whether they think mushrooms should be classified as plants, as they once were. What are all the different kinds of fungi you can think of? (Many students will mention molds, yeasts, morels, and mushrooms sold in groceries. Some might also mention rusts, mildew, and lichens.)

    Lecture Notes – Characteristics of Fungi: (10 min)

    • Fungi are eukaryotic heterotrophs that have cell walls made of chitin.
    • Chitin – A complex carbohydrate that makes up the cell wall; it is also found in the external skeletons of insects.
    • Heterotrophs depend on other organisms for food.
    • Except for yeast, all fungi are multicellular.
    • The bodies of multicellular fungi are composed of many hyphae tangled together into a thick mass called a mycelium.
    • What do you think is the function of the fruiting body, the part of the mushroom you see above ground?
      • The fruiting body is a reproductive structure that develops from a mycelium that grows beneath the surface of the ground.
    • There are many kinds of Fungi. Two main kinds are Molds and Mushrooms.
      • Molds – Prefer to grow in warm, moist places; produce spore cases called sporangia; hyphae grow down into food releasing enzymes which digest the food and permit it to be absorbed.
      • Mushrooms – 3 Types: Mushroom, Puffball, Bracket
        Some are parasitic, but most live on dead/decaying matter; release enzymes that digest organic matter; some are edible.

    Lab Activity: (10 min)
    Divide students into lab groups. Give each group a different food sample (bread, fruit, vegetables, potato chips, etc.). Have students dampen the food with water and expose it to the air for the rest of the day. Place samples in a warm, dark place for 2-3 days. Have students observe and make drawings of any mold that grows on their samples. Ask students to compare their observations.

    Lecture Notes: (10-15 min)

    Classification of Fungi

    • Zygomycetes have life cycles that include a zygospore.
    • The phylum Ascomycota is named for the ascus, a reproductive structure that contains spores.
    • The phylum Basidiomycota, or club fungi, gets its name from the basidium, a specialized reproductive structure that resembles a club.
    • Deuteromycota is an extremely varied phylum. It is composed of those fungi that are not placed in other phyla because researchers have never been able to observe a sexual phase in their life cycles.

    Ecology of Fungi

    • Fungi are found in every ecosystem, where they recycle nutrients by breaking down the bodies of other organisms.
    • Parasitic fungi cause serious plant and animal diseases. A few fungi cause diseases in humans.
    • Some fungi form symbiotic relationships in which both partners benefit. Example: lichens and mycorrhizae.

    Assessment: See Quiz listed in Materials.

    Useful Internet Resources:

    * Natural Perspective: Fungus Kingdom

    * Fun Facts about Fungi Catalog

    * Fact Sheet: Stachybotrys

    * Ananova

    * Science News

    * MSN Learning and Research: Fungus

    * Life Science Safari – Fungus