Many mushrooms growing on the ground and on a tree in a forest

Mushrooms and Decomposers (Food Web)

Grade 5

Mushrooms are typically found on the ground, logs, and trees of forests. Many people hunt mushrooms in order to use them as cooking ingredients. However, that’s not the only good thing about mushrooms. These fungi have an important role to play in the environment, where they provide matter and energy to living things. We will discuss how mushrooms do this in the following lesson.


Teacher's Guide and Related Standards


I can explain how mushrooms and other fungi are important for the environment.

Essential Questions

  • Why are mushrooms and fungi important to the environment?
  • What is a decomposer and how does it fit into a food web?

Maryland Farm & Harvest Clip

Thinking questions:

  • What weather conditions help mushrooms grow?
  • Why do people need to be careful when picking and handling mushrooms?
  • Why can’t we cook and eat all types of mushrooms?
  • Roughly what percentage of all species of mushrooms are poisonous?


Supplemental Enrichment Activites

Developing and Using Models

Build Food Chains and Food Webs

Either individually or as a class, complete the interactive in which students will develop different food chains and food webs.

Clarify to students that decomposers like mushrooms are not shown in these food chains and food webs, but are a critical part of the ecosystems.

Further, have students point out where decomposers would fit into the various food web models in the interactive.

» Go to Activity

Interdependent Relationships
in Ecosystems


Have students read the article. Form a class discussion to address why decomposers like fungi are essential to an ecosystem.


» Go to Article

Systems and System Models

Food Web Model with Decomposer

Analyze the food web model showing interactions and the transfer of matter and energy among organisms in a forest environment. Post the following questions to students:

  • Where does all the energy in this food web begin?
  • What does each animal eat?
  • Why are the arrows going from each animal to the mushrooms?
  • Why is the mushroom arrow going towards the plant?

» Go to Food Web Model

Career Connections


This learning resource is a production of Maryland Public Television/Thinkport.