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 touch and taste.

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.

Touch: Smooth, Rough, and Scratchy, too!

Our sense of touch tells us a lot about our environment. We use our whole body to touch. Our feet feel when sand on the beach is hot, our tongue tells us that ice cream is cold and soup is hot, our elbows bump into things, and our knees get scraped, causing us to feel pain. Our arms can feel a hug and our cheeks can feel a kiss, causing us to feel love.

Our fingers are one of the primary tools we use to touch the world around us. When a person has vision loss, they can use their fingers to read and to give them even more information about their environment. If you want to try out one way that people with vision loss have fun, check out a book called Touch and Feel Mazes by Junko Murayama. The ten tactile mazes inside these puzzling pages challenge your sense of touch. Trace your fingertip along the raised dots that make up each maze instead of using a pencil.

Our Special Needs collection has Braille Books you can explore. Braille is a system of reading and writing for the blind that uses our sense of touch. You can check out a favorite like, Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathan London and compare what the book is like in Braille and in typical text.

Or you can check out a DVD or biography about Louis Braille, the man who invented the Braille alphabet that is still used today. Six Dots: A Story of a Young Louis Braille is available both on DVD and in print form. The library also has Who Was Louis Braille?, which is part of the wildly popular Who Was series of juvenile biographies. Click here for the list of Louis Braille juvenile biographies.

Taste: Eat With Your Eyes?!

A famous foodie said “We eat first with our eyes,” over 2000 years ago! What does that mean? It means that while our tongues indeed have taste buds that allow us to understand food’s flavors like salty or sweet, we also use the information from our eyes to predict what a flavor will be before we eat it. For example, if I gave you a bowl of brown ice cream and didn’t tell you the flavor, would you guess it was chocolate or strawberry?

You will need:

  • a large bottle of apple juice or club soda (unflavored pop)
  • blue, green, orange, and red food coloring
  • plain water

Pour some apple juice or club soda into 4 cups. Add food color to each cup to change the color of the juice or soda so it looks like a new drink. Get some people to volunteer to try some new drinks. Don’t let them know ahead of time that they’re all the same drink! Let the volunteers have some plain water in between to cleanse their palate (a fancy way to say, rinse their mouth). Ask the volunteers to try to guess what flavor the drinks are and to say which is their favorite. After they’ve tried them all, let them in on the fact that all the drinks were the same, only the color changed. Note: Do not consume or serve anything without a grown-up’s permission, especially if you or others may have food allergies. Click here for more information.

STEAM Exploration: Why does orange juice taste so different after you brush your teeth? What do you think? Do other foods or drinks taste different after you brush your teeth? Click here for the reason.

Look for our other Sensory Science posts, too!

Natalie Bota

Miss Natalie is the Disability Resources 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.