Science of the Senses

Science of the Senses

Sight. Hearing. Touch. Taste. Smell. The five senses are so easy to remember that kindergarteners can rattle them off. But understanding how they tell us about the world around us, or how the others compensate when one sense is lost to us, is far more complex. Our five senses, combined with our brain and the rest of the nervous system, give us clues about both what is safe, enjoyable, and comforting and what is dangerous, scary, and unpleasant. Without them, the world would be a far harder place to comprehend.

Below, Science NetLinks offers you a taste (and a look, listen, smell, and feel) of some of our sense-related resources.

Filter Resources by Grade:


  • My Senses Tell Me...

    My Senses Tell Me...

    K-2  |  Interactive
    In this lesson, students learn about how their five senses help them gather information from the world around them.
  • Seeing Around Corners

    Seeing Around Corners

    3-5  |  Hands-On
    In this lesson, students will explore the concept of line of sight by recording the conditions under which they can and can't see an object.
  • A Taste of Exploratopia

    A Taste of Exploratopia

    3-5  |  Hands-On
    In this lesson, students are introduced to different types of scientific investigations, conduct their own, and explore how new evidence can modify theories.
  • Skin Cells

    Skin Cells

    In this lesson, students use online resources and perform a lab experiment to learn about the different kinds of cells that make up skin and how the different skin cells relate to one another.
  • Welcome to Your Brain

    Welcome to Your Brain

    9-12  |  Audio
    In this lesson, students explore how the human brain processes sensory and cognitive information, regulates our emotional life, and forms memories.
  • Seeing Eye to Eye with the Umpire

    Seeing Eye to Eye with the Umpire

    6-8  |  Hands-On
    In this activity, students have an opportunity to compare the human system of calling balls and strikes with the electronic umpire system.
  • Nearsightedness


    This lesson gives students the opportunity to examine the nature of scientific research in the context of research pertaining to myopia, or nearsightedness.
  • Lasers Saving Sight

    Lasers Saving Sight

    9-12  |  Audio
    With this lesson, students learn that problems are solved, or new technology discovered, by scientists using information from other disciplines and from earlier discoveries.
  • Communications Technologies

    Communications Technologies

    This lesson helps students develop an understanding of communication technologies and appreciate the opportunities and problems that come with these technologies.


  • Zap!


    3-8  |  Interactive
    Test your reaction time with this interactive game! Take control of a hungry frog and catch a fly as soon as you see or hear it.
  • What Is Sound? Video

    What Is Sound? Video

    6-12  |  Video
    This website provides an animated QuickTime video showing how sound waves work.
  • Listen Up! Infographic

    Listen Up! Infographic

    6-12  |  Interactive
    At this site, an interactive noise meter demonstrates real-world sounds ranging from 30-160 decibels.
  • All Systems Are Go!

    All Systems Are Go!

    3-8  |  Interactive
    In this online activity, a fictional character named Arnold is missing a number of body parts. It's your job to complete each body system so Arnold can function.
  • Nervous System

    Nervous System

    6-12  |  Interactive
    In this interactive, produced by BBC Science & Nature, students will learn about how different body parts are connected to the nervous system.
  • Sound Uncovered App

    Sound Uncovered App

    3-12  |  Audio
    With this interactive collection from the Exploratorium, you can explore sound through auditory illusions, acoustic phenomena, and other things that go bump, beep, boom, and vroom.
  • Human Body App

    Human Body App

    K-5  |  Interactive
    Go on an exploration of what we're made of and how we work with this Human Body app, from Tinybop.
  • Human Body App

    Human Body App

    K-5  |  Interactive
    Go on an exploration of what we're made of and how we work with this Human Body app, from Tinybop.
  • Changing Illusions

    Changing Illusions

    3-8  |  Interactive
    Changing Illusions is an interactive resource that contains five illusions.
  • EyeWire


    9-12  |  Interactive
    EyeWire is an interactive citizen science game to map the 3D neural circuits that make vision possible.
  • EyeDecide App

    EyeDecide App

    6-12  |  Interactive
    The EyeDecide app teaches you about eye anatomy and conditions.

Science Updates

  • Barbie Effect

    Barbie Effect

    6-12  |  Audio
    This Science Update examines how we perceive our environment.
  • Brain Sniff Test

    Brain Sniff Test

    6-12  |  Audio
    This Science Update explores how a simple sniff test may help doctors pick up the scent of debilitating brain diseases.
  • Reading Glasses

    Reading Glasses

    6-12  |  Audio
    In this Science Update, find out why the need for reading glasses seems to be an inevitable part of growing older.
  • Reading in the Dark

    Reading in the Dark

    6-12  |  Audio
    In this Science Update, find out if reading in low light will wreck your eyes.
  • Fish Ears

    Fish Ears

    6-12  |  Audio
    New discoveries about a fish's mating ritual may shed light on a cause of hearing loss in humans.
  • Subvocal Speech

    Subvocal Speech

    6-12  |  Audio
    Researchers are trying to develop a silent communication system using the nerve signals that tell your throat and tongue to form words.
  • Bouncing Babies

    Bouncing Babies

    6-12  |  Audio
    Many musicians will tell you that they don't just hear music – they also feel it in their bodies. Turns out even babies do too. You'll learn about it in this Science Update.
  • Sprinter Advantage

    Sprinter Advantage

    6-12  |  Audio
    In this Science Update, hear why Olympic runners closest to the start gun may get a slight advantage.
  • Asparagus Odor

    Asparagus Odor

    6-12  |  Audio
    Chances are there's a kind of food you like that at least one friend finds disgusting, and vice versa. The same goes for smells. And while many factors undoubtedly affect our personal tastes, this Science Update examines how scientists are learning that things simply smell and taste different to different people.
  • Cola Brains

    Cola Brains

    6-12  |  Audio
    For over fifty years, Coke and Pepsi have spent billions trying to out-market each other. This Science Update looks at a new brain study that suggests that one brand has much deeper effects.
  • Popsicle Flavors

    Popsicle Flavors

    6-12  |  Audio
    In this Science Update, hear why homemade popsicles never taste quite as good as the ones you buy in the store.
  • Pizza Cheese

    Pizza Cheese

    6-12  |  Audio
    In this Science Update, find out why when you heat up leftover slices of pizza, the flavor often isn't quite the same.
  • Sensing Calories

    Sensing Calories

    6-12  |  Audio
    In this Science Update, find out if our brains may crave calories, not just the taste of sweetness.
  • Smelling Diseases

    Smelling Diseases

    6-12  |  Audio
    We all use our noses to make quick judgments from time to time—whether it's checking to see if the milk's still good, or if a shirt needs to go in the wash. This Science Update discusses how doctors are developing a kind of sniff test to screen for diseases.
  • Cold Sensors

    Cold Sensors

    6-12  |  Audio
    Why can you feel cold even when you're sitting in a warm room? Scientists may have discovered the answer.
  • Skunk Removal

    Skunk Removal

    6-12  |  Audio
    The spray of a skunk is not only incredibly stinky—it's also notoriously difficult to get rid of. An old folk remedy is to bathe in tomato juice, but tests show that only masks the odor. In this Science Update, you'll hear about a better way to neutralize the stink.
  • Cancer-Sniffing Dogs

    Cancer-Sniffing Dogs

    6-12  |  Audio
    Dogs are often used to sniff out everything from illegal drugs to explosives. But new research shows that they can also smell cancer.
  • Sniffing Out Cancer

    Sniffing Out Cancer

    6-12  |  Audio
    A previous Science Update examined how dogs can detect cancer with their noses. Now those dogs have inspired new technology that tests for skin cancer based on odorants given off by the skin.
  • Tracking Fastballs

    Tracking Fastballs

    6-12  |  Audio
    To hit a fastball, a batter’s brain has to predict when it’ll come across the plate.
  • Solar Blind

    Solar Blind

    6-12  |  Audio
    We’ve always been warned not to look at the sun, for fear of burning out the cells in our retinas. It turns out that even photodetectors—devices specially designed to measure light—can’t look at the sun either, but for a different reason: they’re rendered useless when flooded with the sun’s intense rays. In this Science Update, you’ll hear about a new photodetector that’s not afraid to stare the sun straight in the eye.
  • Camera Red-Eye

    Camera Red-Eye

    6-12  |  Audio
    Taking flash pictures of someone often gives their eyes a scary-looking red glow. You’ll find out why in this Science Update.
  • Perfect Pitch

    Perfect Pitch

    6-12  |  Audio
    In this Science Update, learn how a Web-based, perfect pitch test reveals new details about musical ability.
  • Mosquito Smell Cycle

    Mosquito Smell Cycle

    6-12  |  Audio
    Researchers have discovered that mosquitoes have a better sense of smell at night.

Afterschool Resources

  • Sensational Sound

    Sensational Sound

    K-5  |  Hands-On
    Sound travels—not just through air, but through liquids and solids, too. Your group will listen to a hanger clanged against a table. Then they’ll put their ear to something attached to the hanger to realize that the clanging sound travels through solids, too.
  • All Systems Go!

    All Systems Go!

    3-5  |  Interactive
    Kids are aware of many parts of the body—organs, bones, blood, etc. Through this online interactive activity, kids learn about the concept of separate body parts working together to build a body system. A system is a collection of things and processes (and often people) that interact to perform some function. Help your kids explore the inside of the human body with this activity.

AAAS Resources

3-D Talking Map
Grades: 6-12
Listen to hear why 3-D talking maps use a variety of sensory modalities to help people find their way around college campuses and other institutions.

Odor Discrimination
Grades: 6-12
This Science Update shares that the human nose may be capable of distinguishing one trillion unique odors.

Prosthetic Touch
Grades: 6-12
New advances are giving amputees the ability touch and feel through prosthetic hands..

Do Carrots Help You See Better?
Grades: K-5
This video helps to answer the question of whether carrots help you see better.

Ask a Scientist: What Is an Optical Illusion?
Grades: 3-12
This video form the National Eye Institute provides a simple introduction to the science of optical illusions.

Calling Strikes as a Baseball Umpire
Grades: 6-8
In this video, Len Bari describes how to call balls and strikes as a baseball umpire.

Other Resources

Diana Deutch's Illusions and Research
Grades: 6-12
Diana Deutch's illusions of music and speech explore the different ways people interpret sound.

Monell Center
Grades: 6-12
The Monnell Center specializes in interdisciplinary basic research on the senses of taste and smell. This page discusses some of their research projects.

Paper Dragon
Grades: K-12
Enjoy a 3-D dragon, whose head seems to follow you as you move. (Also available as a jpeg.)

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