Science and Teaching for Field Instructors

Lichen Exploration

Looking at lichen through a hand lens can be like looking at life-forms from an alien planet. In this activity, students focus closely on lichen and get turned on to its different strange and interesting forms. One reason for spending time learning about lichens is that they can be found just about anywhere, so students can keep investigating lichen after they leave your program. Students observe and explore this “weird organism” that grows on rocks and trees and wonder what it is. They learn that it’s a lichen, use a key to identify three types of lichen, reflect on the symbiotic relationship of fungi and algae that make up lichens, and finally search for evidence of lichen succession. After this activity, students will likely begin to notice lichens everywhere, and will be motivated to continue their explorations.

Students will:
  • Become curious about lichens and where they grow, and recognize the diversity of lichens.
  • Identify three main categories of lichen: crusty, leafy, and shrubby.
  • Understand lichens as a symbiotic relationship between two organisms: fungi and algae.
  • Observe patterns of how different lichen species tend to grow in relation to each other
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