- Sketch a side view of a typical mushroom. Include what’s underground, rooting the mushroom in place. What is your mushroom growing on? Many people think that mushrooms get food from sunlight, like plants. But that’s not the case. Like us, mushrooms must eat what they find around them. Based on your previous answers, what is your mushroom eating? Draw an arrow in your picture to point out the part of the mushroom you think is responsible for acquiring food.
- Imagine clothing could heal itself. What is one way that such technology could help you in your day-to-day life? What is one way that such technology might be good for the environment?
- What is mycelium? What does mycelium do for a mushroom? Where would you usually find a mushroom’s mycelium?
- Fungal leather has been around for a while. But this new version has a unique ability. What is that?
- What mushroom species did this team use to make its leather?
- What chemical did the team add to the mycelium “skin” to keep it flexible?
- Why is it important that the conditions used to make the leather were very mild? What did these conditions allow the chlamydospores to do?
- What did the researchers do to the leather to jumpstart its process of regrowing?
- How does the team plan to improve the strength of its new leather?
- Imagine having any item that you want made from this self-healing material. What item would you choose? Explain why this item could benefit from being made of self-healing material. Be creative!
- The story notes that most other producers of fungal leather keep their recipes a secret. Why do you think they do not want to share this information? In contrast, the group in this story does share its recipe. They even wrote a how-to guide. What does this suggest to you about the team’s motivations for making this “leather”? Come up with one reason they might have chosen to share its recipe.
- Imagine someone created a self-healing fabric similar to that described in this story — but using plants rather than a fungus. How would such a fabric differ from the fungus-based fabric? What might trigger such a fabric to regrow? (Hint: Recall from Question 1 in the ‘Before Reading’ section what plants use for food that mushrooms do not.) What might a plant-based fabric look like? What problems might such a fabric encounter?