Tasting What You Smell

By Laura Hospitál on Sep 15, 2015

This activity is a variation of an activity that I have completed with my students.  


The tongue is the organ for taste.  but your tongue can only sense four basic flavors: sweet, salty, sour, and biter.
Your sense of smell is much stronger than your sense of taste.  Often when you think you are tasting something, you are really smelling it.
This activity is from the Pacemaker, General Science, 3rd Edition, 2001 by Pearson Education, Inc.


The instructor should wash, peel, and cut up:
  • apple
  • onion
  • potato
  • mint leaf


  • blindfold
  • onion
  • potato
  • apple
  • mint leaf
  • paper plates
  • plastic spoons
  • paper towels
  • water
  • small plastic cups


1.  Prepare a chart with 3 columns from left to right 
  • Food
  • Nose Closed
  • Nose Open
Under Food the 3 rows will be labeled as follows:
  • Onion
  • Potato
  • Apple
  • Leaf (mint)
2.  Work with a blinfolded partner.  Put a tiny piece of each food on the plate.  Have your partner hold his or her nose closed.  Using the spoon, give your partner the food to taste but not swallow.   3.  Ask your partner to describe the taste and name the food. Write this down in the chart.  Have your partner remove the food, put it into the paper towel, and rinse his or her mouth with water. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 with each food sample.   4.  Now have your partner leave his or her nose open.  Repeat this activity. Again, write down the guesses.   Now you be the taster. Repeat Steps 1 through 4.  

Draw Conclusions:

  1. Which foods did you recognize with your nose closed?
  2. Which foods did you recognize with your nose open?
  3. What can you say about how taste and smell work together?



Please see the following link for a similar activity utilizing different flavored jelly beans.  Students will compare their ability to recognize the flavor of a jelly bean with and without the use of their sense of smell.   The activity was adapted  from scientific american.com http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bring-science-home-jelly-bean-taste-smell


NGSS Standards:

Middle School: Structure and Function:
LS1-A   In multicellular organisms, the body is a system of multiple interacting subsystems. These subsystems aregroups of cells that work together to form tissues an organs that are specialized for particular body functions.(MS-LS1-3)
LS1.D: Information Processing
Each sense receptor responds to different inputs (electromagnetic, mechanical, chemical), transmitting
them as signals that travel along nerve cells to the brain. The signals are then processed in the brain,
resulting in immediate behaviors or memories. (MS-LS1-8)
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