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Blimey! It's Slimey!

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Author: Jane Healey

Grade Level: 6th; Type: Life Science

Objective:

The goal of this project is to cultivate slime mold and observe the stages of its development. Varying the conditions of several dishes demonstrate the mold’s environmental requirements and reactions to temperature, light and other factors. Careful observation and recording are keys to this project.

Research Questions:

  • What is slime mold? 
  • How does it form? 
  • What conditions affect its growth?

Slime mold is a fungus-like, single-celled organism. The name refers to a stage in the life cycle of some varieties that resemble a gelatinous slime. These molds are found all over the world and feed on any type of dead material. Forest floors, fallen logs, leaf piles and even lawns are typical locations. The most common slime mold and an easy one to study is Physarum.

The independent variables in this experiment are the conditions the slime mold grows in. The dependent variable is the formation of the slime mold—rate, size, etc. The constants include the dishes, the nutrient and the source of the Physarum.

Materials:

  • Physarum cultures (available from biological supply stores)
  • Non-nutrient Petri dishes (usually available from the supply store)
  • Oatmeal
  • Logbook
  • Camera (if available)

Experimental Procedure:

  1. Label the Petri dishes based on the conditions.
  2. Add equal amounts of Physarum to the dishes.
  3. Add two flakes of oatmeal to each dish.
  4. Place the control dish in a dark room.
  5. Place other dishes in a variety of locations: the refrigerator, a room with natural light, beneath a lamp, outside, etc.
  6. Add oatmeal daily. (The amount could also be a variable, but the conditions would need to be the same, ideally the dark room.)
  7. Observe each dish at regular intervals and record observations—size, color, shape, etc.

Terms/Concepts: Fungus; Physarum; Protist; Slime mold

References:

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