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Mystery of the Senses—Taste

Classroom Activity

To investigate the senses involved with taste.

Materials for each team
  • copy of "Taste Survey" student handout (PDF or HTML)
  • blindfolds and noseplugs for each taster
Materials for teacher
  • 1-2 white onions
  • 1-2 hot peppers (not too hot!)
  • 1-2 raw potatoes
  • 1-2 apples
  • 1-2 avocados
  • paper towels or plates
  1. To demonstrate the way that our senses of touch and smell combine with taste, conduct this activity. Before class, cut each fruit or vegetable into small cubes (approximately one centimeter in width). Place two samples of each food on a plate or a paper towel, but don't let the students see the food samples.

  2. Organize students into pairs. Within each pair, one person will be the "taster" and one will be the "tester." Give each of the testers a copy of the "Taste Survey" student handout.

  3. Blindfold the tasters and ask them to plug their noses. Distribute the food samples to the testers and have them give each sample to the tasters. Discuss the results. Which foods were most difficult to identify? Which taste sensations were strongest? What texture clues helped students analyze each food sample?

Activity Answer

The most difficult foods to distinguish will probably be those with relatively mild tastes and similar textures, such as apples and potatoes or bananas and avocados. Most of the information we need to identify these foods comes from their aromas rather than from the flavors that can be detected by our taste buds. The nose can distinguish between up to 4,000 different molecules, and we recognize those different molecules in our noses as tastes. The strongest tastes will probably be the peppers, which cause a reaction in the mouth. Most of the taste of strong onions comes from the smell. Students will probably find that some people react differently to the same foods. Explain that this difference is caused by our genes, which also influence how foods taste. Scientists believe that some of our food preferences are based on genetics. For instance, if some people's taste bud genes make onions taste particularly strong, those people may not like the flavor of onions.

Teacher's Guide
Mystery of the Senses—Taste

Video is not required for this activity