Sense Organs- An Introduction

By Laura Hospitál on May 31, 2015

As I teach the structures of the  nervous system, I have found it useful to utilize significantly oversized models during instruction to provide accurate description of the sense organs.  This activiy is an introduction to the sense organs. 


Review each student's eye condition so that you will be able to describe how the eye condition effects the eye while you are teaching the structures of the eye to the class.


I like to use oversized models of the sense organs. If at all possible, provide these models for students as you study the sense organs. The ear model I use is reviewed on the site at    The model of the skin that I use is reviewed at   I have had my eye model for a long time and am unsure of which company produced it but there are numerous models available through 3B Scientific. This model looks to be good and is reasonably priced,p_30_277.html.   If it is not possible to purchase models, provide detailed description of the sense organs as students use tactile graphics. There are very good tactile graphics in the APH LIfe Science Tactile Graphics kit. This excellent product is available for purchase with Quota Funds and is reviewed at I would recmmend purchasing one for each braille student taught if instruction is at a school for the blind. If instruction is in a general education classroom, the set would ideally be given to the general education science teacher for the year along with a brief introduction to the contents.  


After initial instruction on the main function of the nervous system including the brain and the spinal cord, the sense organs can be introduced in this manner.   Warm up: As an intro, have each student name one sense and the related sense organ. Students may struggle with which organ relates to our sense of touch. If so, prompt students with the fact that it is the largest organ in the body (the skin). After all of the senses have been named, hand out models of the sense organs or tactile graphics to the students who guessed that sense. Students will observe the models or study the tactile graphics as you work with other students.    Guided: Rather than having students read the text, describe the functioning of one organ at a time (using the text yourself if needed) as you use the models to describe the structures and their functioning. This part of the activity should be completed one-on-one with the students. Begin with the eye. Students will likely have questions related to their eye conditions. This may take a few minutes per student per sense organ. Direct the other students to study the organ they have been given while they wait. Plan to discuss the skin last in order to complete the following:    Additional brief activity to enhance instruction about the skin: This was a fun discussion that I had with my class a couple of weeks ago.  As you complete discussion of the skin, ask students why we read braille with our fingers, and not our elbow, or our noses, etc.    Have students try to read braille with their elbows, their noses, etc. (My class had fun with this.) Guide students in a discussion centered around this question. They will likely ascertain that our fingertips are more sensitive. Ask why this is? Answer: Because we have more nerve endings in our fingertips.   Closure: Briefly review the 5 senses and sense organs.  If time allows, students can be asked to respond in written form.  

NGSS Standards:

High School: Structure and Function:
LS1A: Structure and Function:Multicellular organisms have a hierarchical structuralorganization, in which any one system is made up of numerous parts and is itself a component of the next level. (HS-LS1-2)
Middle School: Structure, Function, and Information Processing
LS1A: In multicellular organisms, the body is a system of multiple interacting subsystems. These subsystems are
groups of cells that work together to form tissues and organs that are specialized for particular body functions. (MS-LS1-3)
sense organs collage
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