Students often find things in the woods behind Lakeview Middle School, so Terry Beasley was unfazed when her students urgently called out that they had found a giant mushroom.
“Don’t eat it!” Beasley yelled back to the three seventh graders.
It wasn’t until the kids came trudging up the hill on Friday that she realized it really was agiant
“Holy smokes, that dude is huge!” Beasley exclaimed when she saw 12-year-olds Grace Dielman of Parkville and Ryan Summa and Leneil Johnson of Kansas City, North, with their load.
Huge indeed. It’s larger than a basketball. And most definitely larger than the kids’ heads.
Beasley laughed as they approached. She had envisioned a toadstool, not this monstrosity.
“Oh my gosh, no body is going to believe us. We have to take a picture,” Beasley told Grace, Ryan and Leneil.
The discovery came as the students were practicing their orienteering skills.
“The students are learning how to travel courses looking for hidden markers using topographical maps, compasses and pace counting,” said Beasley, who teaches students in the Park Hill School District’s Bridges program for academically gifted students.
They were in the woods behind the school at 6720 N.W. 64th St. in Kansas City, North, when they came across the fungus.
There’s a standing rule in Beasley’s class that the kids can keep things like golf balls or tennis balls they find in the woods.
“However, if it’s school playground equipment, we always rescue it and bring it back in,” Beasley said.
Initially, the kids thought they had found a soccer ball.
They were near the end of the course and Ryan wanted to go get it. Grace fussed at him because she feared they wouldn’t finish the course.
“I ran through the woods and came up on it and I touched it,” Ryan said. “It fell over and I realized it was a mushroom.”
Was it poisonous? Ryan wondered, but he knew he just had to bring it inside and show others.
First he kicked it and rolled it around a little. Then he took two large leaves to shield his hands as he picked up the mushroom and carried it over to Grace and Leneil.
“I thought it was Styrofoam,” Grace said. “I touched it and and stabbed it with my pencil and went, ‘Oh, it’s a mushroom.’”
Then they noticed the smell. “It smelled so bad,” Leneil said.
Because of its size, Beasley decided to allow the kids to take it into the classroom.
“We thought nobody would believe us,” Beasley said. “We couldn’t believe it ourselves. It’s kind of an oddity.”
News of the find quickly spread through the school, partly because Beasley emailed a picture to show the good reason her students were going to be late to their next class.
Throughout the day teachers and kids came down to see the giant mushroom.
Later Friday, an administrator sent alink to a CNN news story
on giant mushrooms found in Newaygo County, Michigan. After reading it, Beasley believes her students found a calvatia gigantea, which is commonly known as a giant puffball mushroom.
By Tuesday morning, the mushroom had shrunk. It was leaking juices. The plan is to put the mushroom back out in the woods and let it decompose there.
But first, Leneil would like to explore the find a little more.
“I want to cut it open and dissect it,” he said.