Skip to main content

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Let’s Talk Science and the Royal Society of Canada have partnered to provide Globe and Mail readers with relevant coverage about issues that affect us all – from education to the impact of leading-edge scientific discoveries. Let’s Talk Science offers a number of fun activities to get youth engaged in STEM.

Ever wonder how snot works? Make some fake snot and explore the function of mucus in this fun activity.

What You Need

● Light corn syrup

● Unflavoured gelatin

● Water

● Measuring cup

● Microwave oven, stove or kettle

● Spoon

● Fork

● Microwave proof container

● Vacuum cleaner or broom with dustpan

What to Do

*Safety first! Adults should provide assistance and supervision in preparing the hot water and handling hot liquids.

Dust from the vacuum cleaner is very fine and care should be taken to avoid breathing it in.

  • Heat 1/2 cup water until it boils. Remove from heat.
  • Sprinkle 3 envelopes of unflavoured gelatin into the hot water. Let it soften for a few minutes and stir with a fork.
  • Add enough corn syrup to make 1 cup of thick glop.
  • Stir with a fork and lift out long strands of gunk. As it cools, you’ll need to add more water, spoonful by spoonful.
  • Ask an adult to show you the right way to change the vacuum cleaner bag. If you don’t have a vacuum cleaner with bags, sweep around the house and collect some dust and dirt in your dustpan. Take either your vacuum cleaner bag or your dustpan outside with your fake snot.
  • Dump a pinch of dust onto your fake snot. Now stir it up. Look closely into the goo from the side. You just made fake boogers!

What’s happening?

The mucus in your nose works like the fake snot to trap all the dust, pollen and other particles floating in the air. Sometimes when you blow your nose, gross black stuff comes out. It’s usually mucus with trapped dust. It’s healthier to keep that kind of dirt outside of our bodies. And with the miracle of snot on guard, most of the junk is trapped and then blown out in boogers!

Why does it matter?

Mucus is vital for good health! It helps protect the lungs and keeps tissues from drying out. Nasal mucus (snot!) protects the lungs by preventing the entry of bacteria, pollen and other harmful particles that could cause irritation and infection. Our airways are lined with lots of tiny hairs called cilia. These move in unison (like a “wave” at a stadium) to push mucus towards the back of the throat where it is swallowed. Once swallowed, stomach acids destroy any infectious agents that may have been present in the mucus. But if the mucus dries out before it can be carried to the back of the throat, it becomes a booger!

Investigate further

● How much dust can your fake snot hold?

● Try making your snot runnier (with more water) or thicker (with more syrup or gelatin). What do you notice about the amount of dust that is captured when the fake snot is runnier? Thicker?

Discover more free Let’s Talk Science hands-on STEM activities, resources and events online.