You and Your Students!
Vicki Cobb, Education World Science Editor
Kids learn how smell makes them feel happy and secure.
Human Body, the five senses
Setting the Scene (Background)
In their writings, Marcel Proust and Helen Keller both linked smell and memory -- and scientific studies have backed them up! You can use that idea for a very interesting class project and lesson on the sense of smell.
This experiment is suited for use with the very youngest children in your school, but it is not exclusive to them. In fact, it would be interesting to see how a group of older kids fared compared to the younger kids. This is also a great way to involve parents in a class project.
Each student should bring to class a cotton T-shirt, worn by his or her mother for at least a day. Each shirt should be placed in a paper bag and labeled discreetly with the mother's name
One at a time, select students to be blindfolded. Hold open the bags for each student. Let him or her stick a nose into each bag to sniff the shirt. See if the child can pick out his or her mother from the smell of the shirt. If he or she hesitates and isn't certain about a bag, set aside that bag until all the bags have been smelled.
The results of this experiment can be the basis for a math lesson. How many students got the right answer? Express the results as a percentage so your class's results can be compared with the results of other classes.
Behind the Scenes
The olfactory cortex, the part of the brain that receives information about smells from nerves in the nose, is directly linked to the parts of the brain that control the expression and experience of emotion and the consolidation of memories. Memories that are linked with odors are more emotionally loaded than memories not associated with smells.
The earliest and strongest emotion of childhood is love for a mother. Because of the close physical contact between mother and child, that feeling is linked to the smell of the mother. That is why pediatricians often recommend putting an infant down to sleep with a small blanket or diaper that has been in contact with the mother; that will induce a feeling of comfort and well-being. The smell of "pet blankets" or favorite stuffed toys become symbols of security for young children.
You might want to repeat this experiment with very young children by having them bring in their "security" toy. See if they can distinguish their toy m from the others by smell.
For more on the sense of smell read my book Follow Your Nose: Discover Your Sense of Smell, which is illustrated by Cynthia C. Lewis. (Lerner Publications, the Millbrook Press).
Article By Vicki Cobb
Copyright © 2005 Education World