Download PDF of Lesson Plan (4.52M)
In this activity, students will learn what a 'sense' is and explore the five human senses. Students will discuss what it might be like to have an extra sense.
Skills Addressed: Making observations; conducting a scientific experiment; collecting and recording data
Grade Range: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
The Science Idea
We communicate with our world through our senses which are the inputs for perceptions. Our senses tell us what is in our environment and allow us to interpret changes in the environment. Some animals have senses that humans do not have. These additional senses allow them to adapt to their specific environment.
Part 1: What is That Taste?
What You Will Need
- A set of 5 styrofoam cups per group of 3 students (you can adjust to have less or more tasting tables or groups depending on your classroom environment)
- Five different food items; from different food types – sweet, sour, salty, bitter (one for each cup) Be sure to clear the food items with parents beforehand in case of allergies
- One blindfold per group
- Spoons (enough for 5 spoons for each child plus some extra)
- Set up tables or desks for each tasting stations (note: the number of tasting stations will depend on your class and classroom size).
- Assign students to groups. The suggested size is 2-4 students per group. If your classroom size is large, you may consider doing this activity in one large group.
- Have the kids take turns blindfolding each other and tasting from each cup. Each child taster should say the type of taste they are experiencing (sweet, salty, sour, bitter).
- Have kids indicate their favorite taste and keep a score on the classroom board.
Additional activity: After students have completed the taste activity, have a volunteer student come to the front of the class to be blindfolded. Once they are blindfolded, have them touch the food in one of the containers and ask them to identify the food. The student and the rest of the class may be surprised! Take this opportunity to explain, that butterflies "taste" their food using their feet! Humans have taste sensors in their mouths, but butterflies have some in their feet so they can "taste" objects they land on and make sure they are edible before beginning to feed.
Part 2: The Mystery of Touch
What You Will Need
- 5 pairs of adult dark socks (thin style)
- 5 different objects (hard, soft, smooth, textured, or combinations of these)
- The students can remain in the same groups or can come together in one big group.
- Have the students reach inside without looking and feel the object.
- Encourage each child to say out loud the type of touch they are feeling.
- After, expose what each item was and list it's touch qualities on the board.
Additional activity: After the students have finished the touch activity, have a student volunteer come to the front of the class. Blindfold the student and decant the objects from the five canisters. Show the rest of the class one of the items, indicating they should keep it a secret. Ask the blindfolded student if the object is soft or hard, smooth or rough, and heavy or light without touching the object. As the class is surprised, take this time to explain that bats use echolocation (sending sound and listening to echoes in order to “see” objects in their flight path). Using echolocation, bats can determine the same qualities about objects that humans can with their sense of touch.
Part 3: Match That Smell
What You Will Need
- 8 small plastic containers with lids
- Cotton balls
- 8 different food extracts (for example: orange, lemon, vanilla, etc)
- A matching food for each extract (for example: and orange, a lemon, some vanilla beans, etc)
- Poke holes in the lids and add drops of scent to different cotton balls. Place cotton balls in the containers and close them.
- This activity can be done as a large group. If needed, you can make more than one container of each scent.
- Line the matching foods up in a line at the front of the classroom.
- Have the students smell a canister (if there is more than one canister being used, make sure they are all from the same scent).
- Have the students vote by raising a hand to match the scent to the food source.
Part 4: Recognize That Sound
What You Will Need
- 5 containers with lids
- 5 different small items that will make unique sounds (for example: rice, pennies, erasers, water)
- Have students shake each container and make guesses about the contents.
- Record the guesses on the board.
- Reveal the contents of each container and have the students talk about the different qualities of the sounds.
Take It Further: The Sense of Sight
Invite a guest who is blind to come to your class and interact with the students while discussing their personal experience with human sense. Check with local or federal organizations for guests who are trained or otherwise familiar with making interactive age-appropriate presentations. If the guest has an assistance animal, make sure to ask for details of how the assistance animal uses the sense of sight to aid the guest.
Some groups to contact include:
- National Organizations of and for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
- NFB - National Organization of Parents of Blind students
More Ways to Discover and Learn
Watch a Wild Kratts Video
Show students this clip from Wild Kratts: Platypus Café to help them better understand how the platypus uses electroreception to navigate objects and find food. (1 minute 26 seconds)
Go on an Adventure!
Contact the local zoo to arrange a free guided tour and learn about the how the different animals use their senses to live in their environment. Before starting the tour, find out if there are any animals at the zoo who have senses that humans don't have. This could be a new sense (such as electroreception in the Platypus) or a heightened sense (such as the Elephant's ability to hear infrasound [a sound that the human ear cannot hear]). Have the guide point out that even everyday animals have senses that are a little different than ours. For example, dogs can hear frequencies much higher than most humans, and bees are able to see ultraviolet light, which we can't see! Have students bring a digital camera (if possible, have students form groups if not every student has a camera) and take pictures and/or video of the different animals. Once back in the classroom, have them create an online photo gallery or a digital presentation of their favorite animals, highlighting the senses each animal uses. Students can present their favorite animal to the rest of the class.
Have the class draw pictures of different animals and point out what they use to sense the world. For example, Elephant's use their trunk to smell just like we use our nose. Fish use their scales to feel just like we use our skin. Flies use their proboscis to taste, just like we use our tongue. Place the drawings around the room.
Senses: A part of our body that is able to receive input from the environment
Ultraviolet: Situated beyond the visible spectrum at its violet end
Electroreception: The ability of a vertebrate to detect electric fields
Infrasound: A sound with frequencies below the range of human hearing
Look in a Book
Use these books to help students learn about the habitat and behaviour of butterflies as well as the progression from caterpillar to butterfly:
My Five Senses by Aliki. Collins, 1989.
How To Really Fool Yourself: Illusions For All Your Senses By Vicki Cobb. Illustrated by Jessica Wolk-Stanley. Wiley, John & Sons, 1999.
Five For A Little One By Chris Raschka. Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books, 2006.
Resources for Teachers
Human Body Series – The Five Senses: http://kidshealth.org/classroom/prekto2/body/functions/senses.pdf
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