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One Singular Scent-sation

November 29, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 48

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I am writing with regard to the story “Kids’ Books Ease Path to Science” (C&EN, Sept. 20, page 31).

I’ll preface my message with the caveat that I am not a scientist, but I was reading my daughter’s C&EN and found it quite interesting. In my years as a Girl Scout volunteer and naturalist, the scent activity described in the story is one that I have used with children numerous times. Because of the rising number of people with latex allergies, however, I do not recommend balloons (far too dangerous); instead, put the scent on a cotton ball placed in plastic containers (for example, film canisters or medicine bottles without locking caps). We also discussed how our sense of smell can become more confused as we smell different scents.

Children do love this activity. When I did it we made it a game called “Are You My Mother?” focusing on how various insects use the sense of smell to identify their own. I would have even numbers of various scents and pass them out to the girls. Their task was to find the scent that matched their own. At the conclusion of the game, we would discuss our findings: How many did they have to smell before finding their match? Did it become more challenging to distinguish smells after a while? If so, at what point did it become more challenging? If some were mismatched, we talked about whether they were confident in their decision or if they were so confused they just matched up?

Linda J. Hoff
Grand Blanc, Mich.



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