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LAST MINUTE LESSONS: Mastodon Mucus!

by Laura Kane, Education Manager

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Teachers and families ask for our Mastodon Mucus recipe all the time! It can be a messy activity but it’s also easy to put together. Remember: Science is all about making mistakes and learning from them, so we like to experiment with our polymers. Some of our favorite things to try include:

  • Using different types of glue (if you use clear glue you can make “Galaxy Goo!”)
  • Measuring different amounts of one variable (maybe how much Borax to put in or how much water to use)
  • Temperature tests
  • Trying different “cross linkers” to see if we can make it another way (starch is very cool!)
  • Using our descriptive words to develop a story. We call it “Mastodon Mucus” for a reason!
  • And my favorite: What can you do with it?! Most people just think of this as a toy. But some of our campers have found interesting uses for it (like turning it into a cleaning material). Pushing students to think outside the box and be entrepreneurial with their designs can result in some very exciting ideas. This is especially interesting to try with older students.

How to Make Your Mucus

Mastodon Mucus

Here is a very basic recipe for our Mastodon Mucus. If you do it right, you’ll end up with “boogers” that stretch, tear apart, can be put back together, can be molded, and even bounce! Bouncy boogers are the toughest to achieve. See what you can learn!

Each team needs:

  • A bowl or bucket – something to mix the materials in
  • 2 sticks (popsicle sticks or tongue depressors)
  • 1 glue bottle (full of glue)
  • Ziploc bags (each child needs 1)
  • 1 small cup with 1 tablespoon plus ¼ teaspoon borax
  • 1 large cup with 1 cup of water

You’ll also need:

  • Access to warm water (either a sink or a bucket full of water)
  • Food coloring
  • Paper towels

DIRECTIONS

1. Uncap glue bottle and pour it into the bowl.

2. Once empty, have students bring it to you with the cap. Fill it with warm water. Put the cap back on tightly. And tell them to not do anything with it yet.

3. Once everyone has their glue bottle filled with warm water and the cap on securely – we shake it! Put your finger over the top of the glue bottle to make sure it stays on and then shake! 45-60 seconds. We like to get up and do a little Boogie Dance!

4. Pour water from glue bottle into the bowl.

5. Use ONE STICK and stir this mixture. DO NOT USE THE OTHER STICK FOR THIS. Whoever is mixing this glue/water mixture should keep going while we have someone else do the next part.

6. Someone else will need to create the cross-linker solution. Take the small cup with borax. Take the big cup of water. Pour the borax into the water. DO NOT POUR THIS INTO THE BOWL YET.

7. While one friend is stirring the water/glue mixture, another friend should be mixing the water/borax mixture. This is where the science happens!

8. At this time, walk around and give everyone food coloring. This is a great opportunity to discuss color mixing!

9. Once they’ve been well mixed (a minute or two), everyone should very quickly pour the borax mixture into the glue mixture. Dump it VERY FAST. Use your stick to stir – not your hands. It will begin to link and turn into boogers!

10. Walk around and help split the boogers up into bags for everyone to take home.

We’re not too worried about messes here at SCSM so we allow all of our students to mix with their hands. But if you’re strapped for time (or materials to clean) we’d recommend having them only mix with the sticks.

So what is it? Is it a solid? Is it a liquid? What is a polymer and what are molecules? This silly little gooey experiment can inspire a world of scientific thought. Let us know what you learn!

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