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K-1: The Senses

Author(s): Barbara Tharp, MS, Michael Vu, MS, Delinda Mock, BA, Christopher Burnett, BA, and Nancy Moreno, PhD.

Your Flavor Detector

Procedure: Part 1 (cont.)

Ask, Where is your flavor detector? Hopefully students will point to the tongue. Ask, Did you know your tongue is connected to the brain? Discuss how the brain receives and manages “taste” information (receptors in the tongue detect different chemicals and communicate with the brain; the brain interprets the messages as flavors). 

Ask, Have you ever really looked at your tongue? Give each student a mirror with which to exam his/her tongue. Ask, Do you notice little bumps on your tongue? Explain that these bumps contain taste buds, which detect the flavors of anything we place in our mouths. Write the number 10,000 on the board, and tell students that there are at least 10,000 taste buds on a typical person’s tongue!

Have each student draw and color his/her life-sized tongue in his/her notebook.

Tell students that they will be conducting an investigation using their sense of taste. Emphasize that scientists normally do not taste materials, but that, in this case, tasting is necessary and completely safe. 

Give each student a disposable plate (paper or foam) and a set of small portion cups that are pre-numbered (1 through 4) that contain the mystery substances. Tell students that they should test only the substances on their own plates and should not share with any other student.

Give every student one cotton swab. Demonstrate how to dip the tip of a swab into a container and touch your tongue with the sample. Instruct students to test container 1. Ask, How did the substance taste? 

Instruct students to use the other end of the swab to test container 2. Ask, How did this substance taste? Encourage students to pair-share their observations.

Give each student a second swab and have them test containers 3 and 4, using one end for each sample. Again have them share the taste with their partners.

Ask students, How were you able to identify the contents of each container? What was the taste of the sample in container one? How about number two, etc.? Which part of the body allowed you to recognize the different tastes? [The brain] 

Remind students that taste buds in the bumps on our tongues collect information about the flavors of food, and then send that information to the brain. Add a piece of yarn to connect the tongue to the brain on the classroom human body diagram.

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