In this activity, students explore the senses of taste, touch, and vision. They begin by watching video clips about taste, touch, and vision, and discuss the importance of each sense to an organism's survival. Students get an opportunity to learn what it's like to be blind by going for a "blindfold walk" with a partner. Then they create a multicolored painting using just three colors--a process that mirror's the eye's ability to see many colors with cone receptor cells that perceive only red, green, and blue. Next, they describe the role the brain plays in the senses, and consider what it would be like to live without one sense. Finally, they discover how the adolescent brain differs from the adult brain. If time allows, they learn about the effects of high altitude on brain function and/or compare the night vision of a variety of animals.
- Explore the senses of taste, touch, and vision
- Discover how just three types of eye cones can detect a variety of colors
- Describe the role the brain plays in the senses
- Understand how the adolescent brain differs from the adult brain
- Two to three class periods
- The Sense of Taste QuickTime Video
- The Power of Touch QuickTime Video
- More Than an Image QuickTime Video
- The Teenage Brain QuickTime Video
- Dr. Jay Giedd: The Adolescent Brain HTML Document (teacher resource)
Optional Multimedia Resources
- Blindfolds (scarves, bandanas, or strips of old sheets)
- Red, green, and blue poster paints
- Color wheel
Before the Lesson
- Gather materials for the blindfold walk and painting activity.
After the Lesson
- Have students make a taste map of the tongue, using sweet, sour, bitter, and salty foods and cotton swabs.
- Display students' paintings.
1. Show the The Sense of Taste video. Discuss the following:
- What role do the four kinds of taste buds play in our survival?
- The narrator says "sweet taste makes sure that the baby will drink the mother's milk." Do you think that:
- the milk is sweet because the baby likes the taste of sweetness;
- the baby develops a taste for sweet because the mother's milk is sweet; or
- the two traits developed side by side?
- Why doesn't food taste very good when you have a bad cold?
2. Show students The Power of Touch video and discuss the following:
- Why do you think massage helps children sleep and improves their relationships with adults?
- How does the sense of touch help organisms survive in their environment?
- How important do you think touch is compared to the other senses? Support your answer.
3. Have students explore the sense of vision by going for a "blindfold walk." Working in pairs, have one student wear the blindfold and the other give directions or use the sense of touch to help his or her partner walk safely. Then show the videoMore Than an Image and discuss the following:
- How important do you think the sense of vision is compared to the other senses?
- If a person injured a small section on one side of the visual part of the brain, what do you think might happen to his or her ability to see form, depth, and color?
- What role does the brain play in our perception of images?
- How can the human brain see a variety of colors with cone receptor cells that perceive only red, green, and blue?
4. Have students create a multicolored painting, using only red, green, and blue paint. Discuss how this process relates to the way the three kinds of cones of the human eye work together to perceive many different colors. (If available, use a color wheel to show the relationships between colors.)
5. Discuss the following:
- What role does the brain play in the senses?
- If you had to live without one sense, which would you choose? Explain your answer.
6. Ask students:
- How do you think adolescent brains differ from adult brains?
Then show The Teenage Brain video. Discuss the following:
- Does this video clip explain your own behavior?
- Teen behavior can be inconsistent. Does this brain research explain why?
- Why do you think substance abuse is riskier for adolescents than for adults?
Note: Use the Dr. Jay Giedd: The Adolescent Brain Web interview as a teacher background reference for your discussion.
7. Optional: Have students do the Everest: Test Your Brain activity. Discuss the following:
- Why do you think brain function is impaired by low oxygen levels?
- Can you think of other situations in which brain function would be impaired?
8. Optional: Have students explore the Night Vision Web activity. Then discuss the following:
- What differences would you expect to find between the eye structure of animals that are active primarily in the daytime and that of animals that are active at night? Support your ideas with reasons.
- What are the challenges faced by animals that hunt for their food at night?