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Sniffers

Students learn how snakes and lizards use their sense of smell to help them survive in the wild.

Grades: K-5

Materials:

envelopes
cotton balls
different scents (essential oils, peppermint oil, almond oil, perfumes, vinegar, various extracts)- keep the variety small and diverse

Preparation:

Divide the number of envelopes to be used by the number of scents you have collected. (We suggest you use no more than 5 scents.) You should have one envelope per student.

Swab each envelope on the adhesive strip with one scent using a cotton ball. Each envelope gets one scent only. For example, if you have 20 students and 5 scents, then you should have 5 groups of envelopes with 4 envelopes in each group with the same scent.

Discussion:

Have you ever noticed a snake's tongue? They are constantly flicking it in and out of their mouth and waving it around. Why do they do this?

Snakes have an excellent sense of smell, but instead of sniffing with their nose they use their tongue to "smell" their surroundings. How does this work?jacobson's snake

Snakes and lizards have a special organ called a Jacobson's organ. It is basically a couple of holes in the roof of the reptile's mouth loaded with nerves.

The lizard or snake will stick out its tongue to pick up chemicals floating in the air or odors. It then sticks the tips of its tongue into the Jacobson's organ which turns the "smells" into electrical signals.

These signals travel along the nerves from the Jacobson's organ to the brain. The brain then tells the snake what it is smelling.

Many animals use their sense of smell to find out about the world around them. What would it be like to explore the world with only your nose?

Activity:

Give each student a scented envelope. Tell the students to smell their envelope.

Have them try to find classmates whose envelopes smell like their own. Once they find someone, make sure they stay together in a group while seeking out others with the same scented envelope.

After about 10 minutes of sniffing, make sure everyone has found their scent group.

Close:

Have students describe how it felt to rely on their sense of smell alone. In what ways do animals use their sense of smell? Hints: Finding food, avoiding predators, finding mates, finding water, finding a safe burrow, identifying objects.