STEAM Camp: How What You See Changes What You Smell


It’s Week 3 of Summer STEAM Camp and we’re exploring our sense of smell.  It’s such an amazing thing.  It creates strong memories, it can make us want some food and it can even make us sick.  But did you know it can be tricked, too?  Experiment with how our senses work together with these fun and fruity experiments.   This post contains affiliate links.

How What We See Changes What We Smell LBCB

The Science of Smell

Our sense of smell is part of our chemosensory system.  Our noses are filled olfactory sensory neurons that sense these molecules in the air and send messages to the brain.  These molecules reach the sensory neurons in two ways, straight through the nostrils and up through the roof of our mouth.  The mouth pathway is why smell is so important in the food we taste.

Our senses are interlaced together because the processing network for each sense is nearby in our brains.  It’s called synesthesia  when we associate multiple senses together.  For example, if you smell lemon, do you look around for something yellow?  Everyone experiences a level of synesthesia, but some people have more extreme cases.  They may associate colors with letters or numbers or sounds with scents.

For another fun way to learn about the brain, try this Play Dough Brain.  Now let’s try to trick our noses!

See vs. Smell Experiment Supplies

  • Kool-Aid unsweetened flavor packets {affiliate}
  • Colored paper to match Kool-Aid flavors
  • White paper for printable
  • Scissors
  • Transparent tape
  • Smell vs. Color Printable

Smell vs. Color supplies LBCB

Making the Smell Packets

To make the smell packets, cut a 5″x5″ square of paper for each color.  Fold up the bottom about 75% of the way (this leaves an open tab at the top).  Fold each side in and tape.  Fill with a teaspoon of Kool-Aid and fold down top tab. Tape closed.

Taping Packets LBCB

Next you need to code the packets.  Ideally, you want one packet in a scent matching color and one packet in a varied color.  Label each with a couple of small letters in the back corner so you know what’s what.  Yes, you too can be fooled by color here :)  Here’s what I did:

  • Peach: A1 Orange, A2 Green
  • Grape: B1 Purple, B2 Yellow
  • Green Apple: C1 Green, C2 Red
  • Cherry: D1 Red, D2 Orange
  • Lemon: E1 Yellow, E2 Purple

Then print out the Smell vs. Color Printable and cut out the squares.

Create a Hypothesis

The first step was to have my daughter create a hypothesis.  Which flavor is in each packet?  Put out 5 packets, one in each color, and the fruit cards.  Have them match the packet to the fruit card without smelling.

Picking Fruit LBCB

Test Your Smell Hypothesis

Next, have your kiddo sniff each of the packets and place them with the fruit card that matches.  How did the match up go?  You can double check their matching with the codes on the back.

Sniffing the Packets LBCB

Questions to Ask

Making experiments a conversation can help your kiddos work through the process.  Here are some questions to ask:

  • Why did you make your hypothesis (for example, match red with cherry)?  
  • What did the smell of the packets remind you of? (Smell creates very strong memories…)
  • Can you figure out the codes on the back of the smell packets?  This turned out to be one of my daughter’s favorite parts of the experiment.

One More Thing…

In case you’re worried that this experiment will make your kiddo want too much Kool-Aid, just have them taste the powder.  This is my daughter post-tasting!!

Sour Koolaid LBCB

Summer Learning Made Fun

Summer STEAM Camp

Summer doesn’t have to mean that learning takes a vacation.  So I’ve teamed up with some of my favorite bloggers who all love STEAM. Because learning with Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math gives kids the power to do almost anything they can dream up. And these projects show that you don’t have to give up summer fun for a little bit of learning.  This week’s topic is all about things you can SMELL.

Scented Milk Carton Candles || What Do We Do All Day

Citrus Chemical Reactions || Little Bins for Little Hands

Spicy Process Art and Math || One Time Through

Lemon Volcanoes || Babble Dabble Do 

Did you see how we Feel STEAM with a Travel Geoboard ? Or See STEAM with a Magnetic Field Sensory Bottle ?  Be sure to follow along for the next three weeks while we Smell, Taste and Hear STEAM.  Want to be the first to hear how Left Brain Craft Brain Tastes STEAM (hint, it’s shiny)?  Sign up for our newsletter.

How What We See Changes What We Smell LBCB FB


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