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Let's Get Gross!

Preview of Kidspace's Gross Anatomy Camp, July 30th – Aug. 3rd. LEARN MORE

316 Only certain areas of our bodies have mucous membranes. The only function of the goblet cells in our mucous membranes is to produce mucus. Our digestive and respiratory tracts are lined with mucous membranes. Snot is the common name for mucus.

Snot is made up of a protein, water and salts and during illness it can also have bacteria or viruses and dead white blood cells. It provides a protective lubricating layer. It moisturizes the air we breathe; it prevents tissue from drying out and there for prevents lots of extra nose bleeds. Another purpose of mucus is to trap debris, dirt, bacteria, viruses, etc. and expel them. Boogers any one? No, seriously that’s where boogers come from. Hey, don’t pick on me, it’s true.

Why do our bodies make so much more snot when we’re sick? One purpose of mucus is to trap bacteria, etc. and get it out of our bodies, as well as protect mucous membranes. So it stands to reason our bodies are working overtime to make snot when our respiratory tract is invaded with bacteria or viruses? This also explains why it helps to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze because of all the virus or bacteria in your snot is a great way to spread respiratory infection, also why you should wash your hands after coughing or sneezing on them to stop the germs.

Fake Snot Activity to Try at Home!

 

Goal: To understand how the body uses snot

 

318 Materials:

  • Borax laundry booster (No other laundry detergent will do!)
  • Measuring cup
  • Tap water
  • Clean, empty 1 liter/quart soda bottle
  • Elmer’s glue (No other kind will do!) Clear Elmer’s glue looks even more real.
  • Tablespoon
  • Green food coloring

Exploration:

  1. What is the mucus found in your throat and sometimes leaks from your nose made of?  Polymer molecules that are long and stretchy.  Why is glue such a great agent?  Because it is made of polymer molecules too, that are long and stretchy, that why this experiment works so well with Elmer’s glue.
  2. What color is healthy snot?  Clear.  When you get a cold your nose mucus becomes a lovely green or yellow color.  The green comes from dead bacterial waste.

Investigation:

  1. Mix 1/8 cup of Borax laundry booster and ½ liter warm water in soda bottle.  Shake until most of the borax dissolves (all of it won’t dissolve, and that’s ok).  Let this solution cool to room temperature.
  2. Place 4 tablespoons of glue into a cup.
  3. Add 4 tablespoons of water.  Stir.
  4. Add 2 drops of green food coloring.  Stir well.
  5. Measure 3 tablespoons of borax solution from the soda bottle and add to glue mixture in the cup; stir until the mixture looks like a clump of snot in a pool of water.
  6. Reach into the cup, remove your snot, fake sneeze -----AAACHOOOO!---and show your friends how much snot came out of your nose.  WARNING: DO NOT PUT THE FAKE SNOT IN YOUR NOSE! Gross, why would you do that?!?!?

Expression:

  1. What is the role of the glue?  What is the role of the borax?  The glue is a stretchy polymer molecule.  The borax is also a special type of molecule called a cross linker.  If you think of the glue as being the sides of a ladder, then the borax is like the rungs of the ladder.  So the borax pulls the glue together to make it lumpy.
  2. If your fake snot was too runny, then you didn’t add enough of the cross linker (borax).  If it was too lumpy, you added too much borax.

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Blog Entry by:

Mark Leasor, Science Education Specialist, has been a part of informal, hands-on-science education for 14 years, including nine years at COSI Toledo and five years at Kidspace. He holds an MFA from OTIS College and a BA and BFA from the University of Toledo.