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Mystery of the Senses—Smell

Classroom Activity

To experience how the brain associates smells with memories and emotions.

Materials for each student
  • copy of "Olfactory Memories" student handout (PDF or HTML)
Materials for teacher
  • 11 cotton balls
  • 11 small covered jars
  • cough syrup
  • vanilla
  • moth balls
  • burnt wood chips
  • cinnamon
  • cedar wood chips
  • lavender oil or soap
  • pine needles
  • Play-Doh®
  • shaved crayons
  • mint
  1. In this episode, perfume experts explain how fragrances are created to evoke memories and emotions. Ask students why they think these emotions are associated with perfumes.

  2. To show students how their brains associate smells with memories and emotions, conduct this activity. Copy and distribute the "Olfactory Memories" student handout. Place each of the items listed on a cotton ball in a small, covered jar. Have each student smell each jar separately and then pass it on to the next student.

  3. Students should fill out the student handout after they smell each substance. When students are finished, ask them to share the information they have recorded. Reveal the contents of each jar and direct students to answer the questions on the student handout.

Activity Answer

This activity demonstrates how the brain's first reaction to a smell contains memories and emotions. This is different from how our brain processes our other senses. Encourage students to think about the other senses they become aware of in the memories and emotions that are triggered by each smell.

Teacher's Guide
Mystery of the Senses—Smell

Video is not required for this activity