Sensory Science Part One: Vision and Smell

Common Sense?

Most of us are familiar with our basic 5 Senses— vision, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. All of our senses give us information about the world around us. The following experiments and demonstrations use our senses of vision and smell.

Note: Not all science activities are suitable for all learners. Use your best judgement when participating in any STEAM activity. Get a grown up’s permission and help before beginning any activity.

Vision: Can you see through your hand?

You will need:

  • a sheet of paper.
    I tested this with a sheet of notebook paper, printer paper, and construction paper. They all worked fine, but the paper should be at least 11 inches long for the best outcome.
  • tape

Hold your hand in front of your face. Can you see through it? No, you can’t, unless you have super powers!

Roll the sheet of paper and secure it with tape. The roll of paper should be 11 inches long and about the size of a quarter, or approximately an inch to an inch and a half in diameter. Hold the tube of paper in your right hand. Your right hand should be very close to your face. Look through the tube. Now raise your left hand up in front of your face, fingers point up, palm facing you. Place it against the tube, about halfway up. Keep both eyes open. What do you see? Move your left hand along the tube closer to your face and further away. What do you observe? Does it work the same way if you switch hands?

Wondering how this works? Click here for the spoiler.

Smell: Scratch and Sniff Art

You will need:

  • any flavor gelatin powder, such Jell-o®
  • white school glue, such as Elmer’s®
  • water
  • NOTE: Even though most white school glue is non-toxic, this is a not a tasting activity. If you want to make edible scratch and sniff art, please do not use white school glue. Here are 5 homemade glue recipes you can use instead. Results may vary from the original recipe.

Mix equal parts water and glue. How much you mix depends on the amount of paint you want to make. Mix in the gelatin powder one spoonful at a time until your desired color is reached. Now you can paint with brushes or you can fingerpaint.

Alternate Method: If you want to practice your letters or shapes you can use the glue to write or draw. Then sprinkle the gelatin powder over it like sprinkling glitter onto glue. ***If you do this method, you don’t mix the glue with water. Just squeeze the glue out as you would use it when gluing normally.

When the “paint” dries, rub it or gently scratch it to smell the scent. Try this with drink mixes or instant coffee or cocoa for different colors and scents.

Look for our other Sensory Science posts, too!

Natalie Bota

Miss Natalie is the Special Needs Librarian at Westlake Porter Public Library. She enjoys working with patrons of all ages and can usually be found in the Youth Services Department or the Reading Garden. She enjoys reading picture books and poetry, baseball, writing, cooking, and travel. She loves spending time with her pets, family, and friends.