Wolf Science: exploring the sense of smell

My science posts are designed to show children that science is all around them in everything they do.  When I just started a unit on wolves with my kids I wasn’t sure what element of science we would address.  My kids pointed the way.  They got really interested in a fact that wolves can smell a prey from two miles away if the wind is blowing in their direction.  Two miles!?  We have a favorite cafe that is two miles away from our house and we sometimes walk there for a treat and back.  Kids walked this route multiple times and it seemed mind-boggling that we could sit in our house and smell what cafe is cooking in its kitchen!  We just had to come up with some fun ideas for exploring the sense of smell.    

 

Wolf Science: fun ideas for exploring the sense of smell.  Four science experiments to explore your sense of smell.  Plus free Fact cards that can be laminated and used in a game.

People have been fascinated by wolves from the beginning of times.  I don’t think there are many animals that instigated such a deluge of fables (Aesop had at least 14), folk tales (Little Red Riding Hood, Three Little Pigs, Peter and the Wolf, The Boy who Cried Wolf, The Goat and her Three Kids to name just a few), poems and, of course, books, from Kipling and London to Mowat and Paver.  If you go to Goodreads and enter “fictional wolf books, no werewolves” you will get a list hundreds of books long. For many writers wolves have been a symbol of strength, independence and freedom.  For others, wolves were a symbol of danger, treachery and destruction.    

 

We had  lot of fun exploring interesting facts about wolves.  You can print the Fact Cards HERE.  We like to cut out the cards and laminate them.  

 

Wolf Science fun ideas for exploring the sense of smell10

 

Wolves are fascinating in many different ways.  They are beautiful, highly intelligent and extremely loyal.  They also have a sense of smell that is 100 times better than humans.    You can begin exploration of the sense of smell with your kids by asking, why do we need a sense of smell at all?  If kids have trouble getting started you can give them a hint.  Would smelling fire alert you to danger and prompt you to get out of a burning building?   Would smelling tasty foods help you know that it’s ok to eat them?

 

Does everything have a smell?  Kids have walk around the room or backyard and smell everything they see.  Table, floor, walls, trees, grass, toys, flowers, sandbox…  

If you want to have fun with senses, follow the directions below.

 

Wolf Science: exploring the sense of smell

Activity 1 – Test your Nose

 

What you need

Vinegar (we used Balsamic Vinegar)

Lemon

Essential Oil (we used Lavender)

Vanilla Bean

Any other things with smells that travel easily.  Some suggestions: freshly minced garlic, sausage that has been thrown in a pan for a few minutes).

Cotton ball or small pieces of cotton fabric to saturate in aroma

Tape Measure

Paper and pen to record findings

 

Wolf Science fun ideas for exploring the sense of smell

 

 

What to do

Note: this experiment can be done inside or outside.  It’s obvious that outside smells will disperse in a completely different fashion than indoors.  The purpose of this experiment for us was to see that our range of smell is much less than two miles, so the nuances of a foot of space or two do not make a difference.

 

One child stands blindfolded at the end of your work space.  Another child (or adult) holds a cotton ball soaked in vinegar/ lemon juice/ lavender (one at a time!) and starts slowly moving in the direction of the blindfolded child.  This second child might stop from time to time to ask the first child, if it’s already possible to smell something.  The job of a first child is to detect a smell and guess what it is.  

 

Wolf Science fun ideas for exploring the sense of smell2

 

Use a tape measure to find out how many feet away the smell could be detected.  What was the easiest to detect?  

Vanilla Bean was the most aromatic item in our collection and the easiest to handle.  Kids would just grab it with their fingers and wave it in the air as they walked.  

 

Wolf Science fun ideas for exploring the sense of smell3Lemon juice freshly squeezed on a cotton ball caused the most confusion.  

 

Activity 2 – Traveling Smell

What you need

Mom’s spray perfume

Timer

 

What to do

Spray mom’s perfume in the direction of the blindfolded child standing a few feet away.  Start the timer.  How long does it for the smell to travel?

 

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In our case Lancome limited edition Benghal perfume took 15 seconds to travel 7 feet.  The blindfolded child didn’t know what we were planning to do.  The instruction was to stand still and tell us when something “smelly” can be detected in the air.  

 

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If you have a group of children, have them stand in a row.  Stand at one end of the line and spray perfume along the row.  Who can smell the perfume first?  Why is that?

 

Activity 3 – Mystery Tea

What you need

Dried fruits (separately, not mixed)

Hot water

Honey (not for experiment, but to add to tea at the end of the experiment)

 

What to do

Brew tea using a single ingredient. Blindfold the child and slowly put a cooled-down tea in front of his/her nose.  Can they use their sense of smell to guess what is the tea made of?

 

Some of my favorite things to use for tea are dried apricots, dried blueberries and dried apples.  

 

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If you have never made a fresh fruit tea before, simply put a bag of dried fruits like dried apricots in a blender and run it until it is completely minced.

 

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 Measure one tablespoon into a cup and pour boiling water over it to brew it.  This fruit tea will have an intense, fruity smell.    

 

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You might want to add a dash of honey for taste, after you are done smelling it.  I bet your kids will absolutely love it.  

 

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Activity 4 – Bonus Scent Experiment

My kids got so excited about smelling things that they refused to be done.  We gathered some other things from around the house that have strong smells that we didn’t include in the first experiment and put them to the test.

 

What you need

Cocoa

Pine needles (from our last Christmas tree)

Dirt from the garden

Mint leaves (from our garden)

Pencil shavings

Ginger

Vanilla

Cinnamon

Bananas

Etc.

 

What to do

Put one smelly object in front of a blindfolded child at a time.  Write down the number, the guess and if it was correct.  Go through all the smells. 

 

Now take the blindfold off and count the correct guesses.   Speculate why some things were easier to guess than others.  What smelled good?  What smelled bad?  Are some smells more familiar than others?  Do some things have more intense smell?   Would wet dirt smell more than dry dirt?  

 

What do you think of our ideas for exploring the sense of smell?  The third experiment The Mystery Tea was the biggest hit with my children.  Mostly because they got to drink some yummy tea at the end of it!  

 

Wolf A to Z

 

This post is part of A-Z Animal Series organized by Nadia from Teach Me Mommy.  Check out crafts and activities for each letter of the alphabet from some of the best kid bloggers around the world!  

 

 

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