Family Time Calendar: Bored Enough to Watch Mold Grow?

Let's admit it -- there gets to be a point in the wintertime when you understand why your kids say they're so bored they could watch mold grow. Well, what if they watched mold grow and learned a little about science at the same time? This experiment is basically very disgusting in nature, so your kids will love it. It's like a Halloween haunted house in a jar. That said, you might be surprised to discover just how beautiful mold can be.

What you'll need:
Pieces of leftover food, such as bread, fruit or cheese (avoid the truly stinky foods, such as fish or meat)
Water
Glass jar with a lid
Tape
Label
Pen

What you'll do:
Dip the chunk of food into water and then put it in the jar.

Screw the lid on the jar and then seal with tape, just to make sure nothing gets out -- or in, for that matter.

Label the jar. In big letters mark it "Science Experiment. Do Not Eat or Throw Away." Put the jar in a warm place where no one will disturb it.

Within a few days, you'll start to see different colors of mold forming. What does the mold look like? Is it fuzzy? Bumpy? Let it keep growing for a while and you'll be surprised by the amazing furry textures that mold will produce.

Throw the disgusting thing away when you're done.

Why, oh, why?
Tell them that mold is in the fungus family (think mushrooms), and indeed there are some molds we eat every day (mushrooms stuffed with blue cheese would make the ultimate fungus family dinner). Mold is a plant that likes to eat moist, damp, rotting things. So, as your food began to decay, mold spores (which float around everywhere), made a home on it. You made their home even nicer by encouraging decay with a warm, wet environment. But mold isn't all bad. Penicillin is a mold. It was discovered by Dr. Alexander Fleming, a Scottish scientist who accidentally left a dish of staphylococcus bacteria uncovered and noticed that a portion of the petri dish had something else growing in it. It was the mold Penicillin notatum, it had landed in the dish and flourished in the warm environment, after which it took over and killed the staph bacteria.

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