UCMP Lessons  

What In The World Do You Smell?

Author: Sharon Janulaw

Overview: Students take a walk outside and use their sense of smell to discover odors in their world. They record their observations and compare their observations with those of their classmates.

Lesson Concepts:

Grade Span: K–2


Advance Preparation:

— Put paper on clipboards.
— Prepare containers with pencils and crayons.
— Select the area in which you will take the smelling walk.

Time: 30 minutes

Grouping: Whole class

Teacher Background:

It is essential for children to learn that rational thought and the scientific enterprise are based upon observations, both direct and indirect. Observations using our senses and extensions of our senses are the starting points for knowledge that reaps benefits for our daily lives and contributes to scientific understanding.

Explore this link for additional information on the topics covered in this lesson:

Teaching Tips:

Make sure your students understand and agree to follow guidelines for expected behavior on the smelling walk.

Vocabulary: odor


  1. Talk about the sense of smell. Ask students what they know about the sense of smell. Which body part do we use when we use our sense of smell? Talk about words that can be used to describe smells. Differentiate between words that describe smells and words that describe how one might feel about the odor. Saying that something smells strong or smells like vinegar, etc., describes the smell. Saying that something smells gross describes how one feels about the odor. Have students sniff the air. Have them share the odors they think they can smell inside the classroom.
  2. Talk about rules. Tell them they will go on a Smelling Walk outside. They will have a clipboard on which to record what they think they smell because of the odor they are detecting. Explain that they can draw the object they think they smell and write the name of the object on their clipboard. They can also write a descriptive word for the odor.
  3. Give each student a clipboard with paper and a container with pencil and crayons. Have each student draw a nose at the top of the paper and write the words, “I Smell...”
  4. Take students outside. Tell them you will walk and stop a few times. Each time you stop, they will sniff the air to detect any odors. If they do smell an odor, they can draw what they think is causing the odor and write its name. They can write a word that describes the odor.
  5. After they have had the opportunity to draw several objects that they discovered through their sense of smell, have them share by standing in a circle. They will each have a turn to tell one odor they noticed and to identify the item that was causing the odor. For example, “I smelled something that smelled like oranges and the flowers on the mock orange bushes were making that smell.”
  6. Return to the classroom and make a list of odors that were smelled. Have students help you spell the names of odors as you record. Discuss similarities and differences in what was observed through the sense of smell. Have them share what they discovered that they had not noticed before.


Just before students enter the room in the morning or after recess or lunch, open a container of a substance such as peppermint, orange flavoring, cinnamon, etc. and place it where students cannot see it. When students arrive in the classroom, tell them you want them to use one of their senses. When they notice something different, they should raise their hand to tell you that they notice something. Have them put their thumb up when they raise their hand if they think they know what it is. Do this more than once. Notice how long it takes for the students to detect the odor. You can keep track of how accurate their identification of the substance they are smelling is.

Updated October 31, 2003

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