UC Berkeley Team Brainstorms Fungi Exhibit

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The Berkeley Innovation Team with MOD’s founder, Patrice Keet

Last week, after three months of hard work, a group of Berkeley students presented their ideas for a fungi exhibit in the museum. The four students –  Alex Greenspan, Sydney Mayes, Julia Solano and Elizabeth Lin – are part of a UC Berkeley undergraduate group called Berkeley Innovation. At the beginning of the semester, organizations from all over California pitched their projects to students in the group. MOD’s exhibit steering committee pitched several ideas and the group of four selected a fungi exhibit as their project. After a briefing from MOD’s Rhiannon Crain, they went to work.

“Our design process included reading up on both museums and fungi, as well as visiting the Habitot Museum in Downtown Berkeley to observe children in an interactive museum environment,” said Julia Solano, a UC Berkeley sophomore. “Toward the middle of the semester, we decided to narrow our focus into content areas, which we called ‘Learning Objectives.'”

These objectives included: Where are fungi found? What are fungi? Symbiotic Relationships. Fungi in your life! and a Storytelling Tree.

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Sydney Mayes, a senior, commented, “I had very little knowledge about fungi or what goes into designing museum exhibits before starting this project. Fungi truly are fascinating and thinking about how to design an exhibit for a unique topic was a fun challenge.”

Elizabeth Lin, a junior, added, “I never realized how much thought goes into creating a museum exhibit. There are so many details that I notice now at museums after working on this project.”

When asked about something surprising they learned during the project, Alex Greenspan, also a junior, said, “Children interact very differently with things depending on their age, and before I hadn’t thought about how much museums target that to help children learn the best way possible.”

The team came up with wonderful ideas that will inspire MOD’s exhibit steering committee. They even built a model of their work!


A model of the students’ exhibit ideas

In their own words: “Our design features a two-story exhibit that slopes from one floor to the next. Visitors begin “underground,” getting an up-close view of the roots and dirt that mycelium thrives on. As visitors journey through the exhibit, they move from underground to above ground, all the while gaining an understanding of what fungi is and its importance to themselves andthe environment.

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“Once visitors reach the grass and trees of the second story, they see the mushrooms they know, and learn about the many types that have a place in the world – including mushrooms specific to Santa Cruz, so children can relate what they learn even more to their own lives. At the highest point in the exhibit is the Storytelling Tree, where children can gather round in a circle known as a “fairy ring” and listen to stories that are reminiscent of fungal folklore of the past. But watch for the point in the story that calls for rain – because that’s when all the mushrooms will light up and glow around the second floor!”

Check out the students’ full presentation here! Interested in exhibits? Are you part of a student group that wants to work with MOD? Sign up to be a supporter or email our founder, Patrice Keet, at patricekeet@sccmod.org.


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