Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students will learn how we create memories of the smells in our environment. It is through those memories, that our sense of smell helps us-- in times of danger, in determining what to wear as well as when we are trying to relax.


  1. Students will provide at least two ways that our sense of smell helps us.

Recommended Grade Level(s): First, Second

Time Allotment: 

45-55 minutes


2 plastic cups (1 with water, 1 with vinegar)

*Based on your needs, have up to 5 stations for students to experiment at. Each station should have the following:

paper cups labeled with numbers 1-8 (8 cups per station),

black tissue paper (cover the top of each cup with a piece of black tissue paper and a rubber band so samples are not seen)

rubber bands (1 per cup)

sharp pencil (poke small hole in the black tissue paper so items can be smelled)

smelling samples: onion, lemon, orange, popcorn, peppermint, chocolate, coffee, and flower/flowery perfume

Smell and Tell Worksheet (1 per student)

Real-life pictures (from books, magazines or Google images) of the following: a skunk, field of flowers or someone smelling a flower, a cup of hot chocolate, dog, clean or dirty socks/clothes, onion

Anticipatory Set: 

With the children gathered together, begin the lesson by stating the objective. Show students the two cups-one with water and one with vinegar. Tell students that each cup has something different in it. Ask students how they could find out what each has. Students may recognize that since it is not safe to drink things we aren't sure of, we could use our sense of smell to determine what each is. Ask students to recall which body part provides our sense of smell. Invite a couple of children to smell each cup and determine what is in each (inform the other students that they will have the same opportunity later in the lesson). Tell students that we use our sense of smell for many things.

Guided Practice: 

Show students pictures to demonstrate how our sense of smell helps us. As you introduce each, have students make guesses. Help them to make connections to each by remembering a time that they have used their sense of smell for that reason. Picture 1(skunk): warns us of dangers. Picture 2 (field of flowers): enjoy nature. Picture 3 (cup of hot chocolate): makes us warm and happy. Picture 4 (dog): who we like to be with. Picture 5 (clean or dirty socks/clothes): what we wear. Picture 6 (onion): how long we stay in a room. Finally, tell students that our senses are so smart, that each time we smell something we make a memory of that smell. We will also remember that we do not like certain smells. Ask students how many of them could recognize a cake baking in the oven, oranges, soap, or the exhaust from a car.

Independent Practice: 

Tell students that they are going to explore their sense of smell. Tell students to pair up with their "Science Buddy". Each pair will go to a station where they will take turns smelling cups. As students explore each station, they will fill out the "Smell and Tell" worksheet. Direct students to draw a line from the picture to the cup that matches it. Be sure to have the water and vinegar cups available for students to smell who did not get a try guessing.


Bring students together and discuss the results of their findings. Reveal what each cup had in it. Ask students how they knew what each item was. Students should recognize that their sense of smell and their memory of those smells helped them determine what each was. Ask students to share some ways that our sense of smell helps us.


Students will be assessed according to their ability to:

  1. Provide at least two ways that our sense of smell helps us.