Science corner

5th March 2004 at 00:00
Sophie Duncan makes scents of smell.

This is a great activity if you want your students to explore the sense of smell and work out how animals use scent to identify food, and potential mates.

To play this game you need a film canister (or other opaque container) for each child in your group. This canister is going to hold the "animal scent".

Make four or five small holes in the lid of each canister. These holes will enable other "animals" to smell the scent. Although pupils can hold the scents in their hands, you could also make a wrist band using thick paper, and mount the canister on that.

Scents can be made in lots of different ways. Dry material can be placed in the canister as it is, but liquid scents should be applied to cotton wool, to ensure they do not leak out.

You can use dried or fresh herbs (garlic, cinnamon and rosemary work well) perfume, slices of fruit (oranges are particularly good).

You can buy commercial scents if you prefer.

It's important to make sure none of the children is allergic to any of the scents and that you use scents that are safe to smell and touch.

Create two of each of the scents. Mark each of the canisters with a number and write a list detailing which canisters contain the same scent. Give one canister to each child and give them all 10 minutes to find their partner - the person who smells the same as they do.

How easy do they find it to find their partner? Are some smells more difficult to distinguish from one each other? Repeat the game, giving the children different scents.

Your students could then investigate what adaptations they would need to survive if they relied on scent alone.

Another alternative is to make larger numbers of the canisters of each scent, and get the children to find their pack.

Sophie Duncan is project manager for science at the BBC

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today