Introduction: Lava Boogers! (aka Waxy Earth Science)

About: Hi there! Hopefully these guides can help inspire you to tinker, be curious, play, contribute, and learn. If you're here for pandemic-related PPE and want more, check out our Something Labs website at somethin…

What happens when a volcano has a runny nose? Slightly more powerful than your average human flu, it usually involves a whole lot ash, acid rain, mudslides, and some fiery lava flow. That's right, good old fashioned fun! If you want to learn about the creation of igneous rock, but don't own explosive volcano homeowner's insurance, you may want to try this waxy option instead!

With a little Crayola crafting, we can go through the whole rock cycle, and end up with some good ol' lava boogers that look strikingly similar in form to the ones forged in Mother Nature's ovens. Without further ado, let's rock!

  • What: Lava Boogers!
  • Concepts: earth science, geology, the rock cycle
  • Cost: ~$0.20 per booger
  • Time: ~20 minutes for the activity
  • Materials:
    • Crayons
    • Aluminum Foil
    • Cup of Water
    • Craft Sticks (optional)
    • Pencil Sharpener (optional)
  • Tools:
    • Pot and Stove

There are some great resources around the interwebs for teaching the rock cycle, and even those that look at it with crayons. This technique for making the lava boogers themselves is my absolute favorite, though, and leads to some artistic and unexpected creations.

Step 1: Weathering Your Crayons

Pick some raw minerals (crayons) out of the box, and combine your favorite colors. Take the paper wrappers off so you have nothing but pure wax rock to work with. You can "weather" your crayons many different ways. I like using pencil sharpeners and using craft sticks to mash them up into small flakes and wax pebbles. The smaller the better!

In nature, weathering can be physical or chemical, and might include water, abrasions, frost, heating, erosion, the works! We are doing it in super speed of course, as this process is constant and goes over millions and even billions of years normally. We only have twenty minutes! :)

Step 2: Sedimentary Crayon!

First stop on our rock cycle is sedimentary rock, which is the accumulation of sediment and minerals mixed and deposited in water, and slowly become one big cemented rock over time. To do this, we're going to combine our "sediments" of crayon in a piece of tin foil, and mush them together into a loosely connected smush of crayon rock.

In nature, different sediments would come in at different times, and so layering happens. Mix in some fossilized plants and animals, and you have sedimentary rock!

Step 3: Metamorphic Crayon!

Metamorphic rock is the happy layover between sedimentary and igneous rock. It arises from existing rock types that are then subjected to heat and pressure which then morphs into something new.

To do this, heat up some water, and make your tin foil into a small boat around your wax. If you have holes in it from the sedimentary step, simply transfer your crayon to a new piece of foil. You wax should start to become pliable and start to merge together much like different rocks come together in metamorphic rock!

Step 4: Igneous Crayon!

Time to make some boogers. As rock heats up underneath the Earth in hot spots or subduction zones, rock melts to liquid that we know as magma. Luckily, wax melts much easier, so we can look at igneous rock that way. Let's forge!

Take your aluminum foil boat and make sure there are no holes. You want the walls to be somewhat tall as the boat is going to get bumped around. Bring a pot of water to near boiling and put the foil boat in with your crayons inside. Wait about 3-5 minutes for your crayons to turn to liquid (magma!), and then remove the boat with a pair of tongs or oven mitts.

From a height above, turn the boat over into water, trying to drip all the way into a single place. Soon it will solidify and make some crazy amazing boogery forms that are actually similar to some igneous rock forms. You can always grab more crayons to do it again, or grab the booger and re-melt it to another form.

Step 5: You've Got Lava Boogers!

Oh man! From Mother Nature's kitchen to yours, you've cooked up a lovely piece of temporary geology. The world is forever grateful.

See what happens if you combine different colors, consistencies, or if you can get different shapes. See what happens with pouring into ice water or when you drop it from far above. There are so many styles of booger to make!

I love reading your comments below, so chime on in! And I would love to see your lava boogers, and can give free 3-month pro memberships to the first three people who post photos below! If you like this, feel free to vote for it in the wax contest!

Have fun, keep exploring, and if you accidentally learned something about Earth Science, well that's not so bad either. :)

Wax Challenge

Participated in the
Wax Challenge