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The Science of Smell
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Type: Projects   Skills: Critical ThinkingLanguage & LiteracyPhysical & Motor Skills
This activity teaches science skills by getting kids to think about different smells and writing down their predictions about what they smell. The Science of Smell
What We Learn
Critical thinking skills
Smell discrimination
Science language
Supply List
Plastic 35mm film canisters or small paper cups
Cotton balls
Index cards
Aluminum foil
Rubber bands
Various household items with strong smells, such as: cinnamon, vanilla extract, hot chocolate mix, ground coffee, popped popcorn, onion, lemon juice, apple, or peanut butter.
How-To
Gather various food items you may have around the house. Choose foods with strong smells, such as: cinnamon, vanilla extract, hot chocolate mix, ground coffee, popped popcorn, onion, lemon juice, apple, or peanut butter. You can use just about anything you can easily find around the house. Just donít use anything which might be unsafe, such as paint, cleaning products, chemicals, etc.

Place each item into an empty 35mm film canister or small paper cup. Donít pour liquid items into the cups or canisters. Instead, soak a cotton ball with the liquid and then place the soaked cotton ball into the canister or cup. This will help keep the liquid from spilling all over the place.

To ensure that children are only using their sense of smell and not sight, be sure to cover the cups with aluminum foil. You can secure the foil to the cups with rubber bands. After youíve secured the foil, puncture holes in the top so that children can still smell the odors, but not see whatís inside.

Mark each canister with a number so that you can keep track of what item is in what cup. You can write on the sides of the paper cups or you can mark on pieces of masking tape. Lay each cup out on the table and place an 8x10 card next to each canister for kids to write down their predictions of what they think it contains.

Ask kids to evaluate each cup and predict what they think is in each cup. Remember, itís not important if the kids are right or wrong about their predictions. Whatís important is that the kids are engaged in the scientific process. Donít let kids get frustrated or give up if theyíre unsure of what a smell is. When all the kids have had a chance to predict each item, you can go through each one, revealing what the kids thought it was, and what the item really is.

This science activity is interesting and engaging for kids of all abilities so give all children a chance to participate. Assess the abilities of each child and help them accordingly and give the child more assistance if he or she needs it.
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