Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

How do we sense the flavors of food?

Olfactory receptors and olfactory bulb sending messages to other parts of brainIn this minds-on, hands-on activity, students develop science practice skills by developing plans for a hands-on investigation, carrying out the investigation, analyzing the data, and interpreting the results.

Then, students answer analysis and discussion questions as they develop a basic understanding of how taste and olfactory receptor cells function and how sensory messages to the brain contribute to flavor perception and flavor-related behavior.

Download Student Handout: PDF format or Word format

Download Teacher Preparation Notes: PDF format or Word format

The Teacher Preparation Notes provide instructional suggestions and background information and explain how this activity is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.

We invite your comments and questions. If you would prefer to send your comments or questions in a private message, please write Ingrid Waldron at


iwaldron's picture

2017 revision

This is essentially a new activity that helps students meet the Next Generation Science Standards by engaging in multiple science practices as they investigate the contributions of smell and taste to the perception of flavor. Students also learn about the contributions of receptor molecules, receptor cells and the brain to sensation and behavior.

iwaldron's picture

May 2009 revision of this activity

The only changes in this revision of the Student Handout and Teacher Preparation Notes provide updated information on taste physiology.
Ingrid Waldron's picture

The mammal in studying our senses

This is a picture of a cow, but hard to see because crucial edges are missing and many extraneous edges are shown; it's a terrible picture, but very useful for showing how much we emphasize edges in our processing of visual input. Some people find it easiest to see the cow if you look at the picture from some distance. If you still can't see the cow, it's a fun activity to show the picture to a bunch of friends or family members and very likely one of them will be able to see the cow and then show it to the rest of you.

Good luck!
Ingrid Waldron

Sara Rupp's picture

Studying Our Senses

Hello. I am a middle school science teacher and plan on using your lab (Studying Our Senses) in a few days. I have read through both the student and teacher sheets, but cannot find an answer to something. The picture of the mammal that the students are to figure out??? I do not know what it is, nor can I find the answer anywhere. I have searched a lot! Can you please help me?

Thank You,
Sara C. Rupp
Riverview Middle School
Plymouth, WI

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
1 + 0 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.