"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Store Bought Spore Prints

Spore prints are super-fun mushroom art + biological wonder. I remember making them with my sisters when we were little, lots of little cups and bowls stolen from the cupboards and upended over whatever little mushrooms we had found that day, usually a rainbow of little toadstools spread across black and white construction paper. Mama is an inveterate mushroom hunter and carefully taught all six of us how to do spore prints for both identification and beauty.

Last year, I magpied a great teaching idea. of monthly themes for our homeschool when a friend shared that she picks one a month to guide her unschooling rabbit trail style. September's theme was "Mushrooms" which, granted sounds insane...(A whole month on mushrooms???)...but it was a solid pick folks.

  • We're studying Egypt right now in history---Guess who ate mushrooms and thought they were only pharaoh level food!
  • We read lots of books about mushrooms from the library including our current read-aloud, Flight To The Mushroom Planet, a silly, gentle, beginner sci-fi story from the 50's.
  • We hiked our local parks and picked mushrooms as we found them, some to eat and some to just identify and poke apart on the dining room table.
  • We read about how mushrooms grow and started three purchased oyster mushroom kits to grow our own in the basement. 
  • We drew and painted mushrooms in art, talking about the anatomy as we went (cap, stalk, annulus...) and then we ended the month making spore prints to frame using store-bought portobello caps and I thought I'd share the process.
 First, remove the stem so you have a flat cap. Take care not to touch the gills (the part that looks like the pages of a book...as they are delicate and damaging them means a print that's less pretty.
 Lay each cap on a sheet of paper (white if you're using portobellos since they have dark spores) and then cover with bowls or cups to protect them from air currents that may disturb your design. Leave them to rest overnight.
 In the morning open up the covers and see what prints your caps have made. Portobellos have soft chocolate brown spores but mushrooms generally have all different colors and its fun to see the rainbow of results if you try it with random wild mushrooms.
Then, get out a magnifying glass and check out the micro-beauty of it all. Spores are miscroscopic and normally not visible to us, part of the minute detritus that we breath in and walk through along with the pollen and dust of the universe. Making spore prints is a chance to see them there, millions at a glance, in all their downy glory. The delicate outline of the gills is also super pretty, printed on the page like so many rays of shadow radiating around the stalk.


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