Activity 5.1: Tracing the Processes of Fungi Growing: Digestion and Biosynthesis (40 min)

Target Student Performance

Students “zoom in” to the structure and function of a mushroom’s organ systems and cells, tracing atoms and energy.

Resources You Provide

Resources Provided

Recurring Resources


Print a Decomposer 11 x 17 Poster for each pair of students. Gather enough pennies and nickels to have 10 pennies for each pair of students and 3 nickels for each pair of students. Print one copy of 5.1 Tracing Atoms and Energy in Decomposers Worksheet for each student. Prepare a computer and a projector to display the PPT. Print and hang the Digestion and Biosynthesis 11 x 17 Posters and the Metabolic Pathways 11 x 17 Poster.


1. Use the instructional model to show students where they are in the course of the unit.

Show slide 2 of the 5.1 Tracing the Processes of Fungi Growing: Digestion and Biosynthesis PPT.

  • Tell students that in today’s activity they will think about about how fungi grow through digestion and biosynthesis.

  • Introduce the terms Large Organic Molecules and Small Organic Molecules with examples. Students will need this information to explain digestion and biosynthesis.  
  • Strategic grouping with strong speakers
  • Hand out individual Decomposer Posters for students to trace molecules that can be written on and kept in the accompaniment of the penny/nickel exercise
  • Work on Tracing Atoms and Energy in Fungi worksheet together and create a pie chart to show what makes up decomposers from the information students gather
  • At the end of the activity, have students explain the difference between biosynthesis and digestion to a partner.
  • Have the students “act out” digestion and biosynthesis by assigning them molecules using signs. Have them move around the room to represent the two processes by linking and unlinking hands.
Extending the Learning
  • Listen to the National Geographic Podcast from the Encyclopedia of Life (
  • Unlike plants and animals, fungi do not have a vascular system to move materials long distances. Instead materials move long distances through fungal hyphae. This is accomplished by both pressurized bulk flow (similar to sap movement in the phloem of plants) and cytoplasmic streaming (similar to movement of materials within amoebas). You can show your students a video of hyphal cytoplasmic streaming here: