I recently came across a book for school-age kids, recommended for fifth graders (10–11 year olds), called The Living World of the Plants: A Book for Children and Students of Nature, by Dr. Gerbert Grohmann. Doctor Grohmann (1897-1957) was influential in the early days of the Waldorf educational system, and wrote a treatise on biodynamic farming, among other things. First translated into English in 1967 (translated from the German — I believe the original edition was Kleine Pflanzenkunde für Kinder, published in 1939, but it is hard to track down), this book has been reprinted many times (the one I have is from the year 1999), and is still used as a resource for teaching botany to 5th graders in some Waldorf schools, as well as being popular amongst homeschoolers.
I want to focus on the section of this book about mushrooms and fungi. I’m going to ignore the obvious fallacy of the inclusion of fungi in what is essentially a botany primer, because of the context of the time that it was written, and because I don’t necessarily think it’s bad to expose kids to fungi in the same space that they’re being exposed to plants; there is a natural alliance there, in terms of education. But the treatment of fungi in this book is… problematic, to say the least. (There is also much that could be said about the treatment of plants in this book, but I’ll leave that to the botanists.) Continue reading