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What does the nose do?

Child smelling container

Project information

Eating without smelling

When we noticed that some children were not trying new foods offered at lunchtime, we suggested they hold their noses while eating. This started a conversation about what the nose does. Why would you hold your nose while eating? How is smell related to taste? Why is the nose important? “So you can breathe?” “So you can smell?”

Identifying scents

We began by blindfolding the children, holding fragrance pouches to their noses, asking them to identify the scents. The children were invited to play with the bags and the blindfolds, and they tricked each other with different scents. During this experiment we talked a lot about our smell preferences and the children suggested other scents they wanted to test out on each other.

Tasting different flavours

Embracing the diversity of our families, we invited parents to help us create delicious-smelling dishes. One child’s favourite food was garlic bread. The children crushed garlic, spread it over bread with cheese and baked it in the oven. As the smell wafted through every room, they could not wait to taste it.

Who owns the nose?

Then we studied the physiological features of the nose. The children remembered that we had previously used a digital microscope for another experiment and asked to use it again to look up their own noses. They laughed when they saw their nasal hairs on the big screen. We photographed our noses and the children played a game trying to guess the owner of the nose. One of the children pointed out that the grown-ups had much “bigger” noses leading some children to conclude that their own noses would change as they got older. The children each drew pictures of their own nose, trying hard to draw all the features.

The ENT Doctor

An Ears Nose and Throat Specialist visited and talked to us about the physiology of the nose, showing pictures of inside the nasal canal and how it connects to the ears and throat. The doctor also blindfolded some of the children and asked them to hold their nose and taste an apple and a potato and guess what they were eating. There were many giggles when they got it wrong and we learned that our noses help us taste our food.

The nose movie

After we had learned about the shape, structure and function of the nose, the children made noses out of plasticine and clay. They were keen to use these model noses in a stop-motion animation. Their animated nose breathes air, smells delicious food and yucky poo. The brain is represented as a jellyfish: “The nose smells, and then the smell goes to the jellyfish, the jellyfish then thinks if it’s a good or bad smell.” The children wrote the script, made all the props and loved sharing it with their families.

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