Blue Tongue

Blue Tongue

Follow the directions for the experiment, and write your observations for Steps 10-12 of what happens as you follow directions.


• 1 pink or red pipe cleaner
• Blue food coloring
• Eye dropper
• 2 paper towels or napkins per student
• 2 cotton swabs per student
• 2 cotton balls per student
• 2 sticky notebook hole reinforcement circles per student—these are available at office supply stores
• 1 flashlight for 2 sets of partners (4 kids) to share
• 1 hand mirror for 2 sets of partners to share
• 1 magnifying glass for 2 sets of partners
• 1 ruler, with millimeter scale


1. With your partner, stick out your tongue at each other. See those pink bumps—that are sort of hard to see? Each bump is a fungiform papillae, and each has 1-15 taste buds on it. We want to really be able to see the fungiform papillae, so you’re going to dye your tongue blue with a chemical made to be eaten—food coloring—and it will really make the pink bumps stand out from the blue background. Scientists often use dyes to help them see structures.
2. Dry your tongue by wiping it with a cotton ball, and then throw the cotton ball away at the end of the experiment.
3. Put a few drops of the food coloring on the cotton swab.
4. Paint the tip of your tongue with the dyed cotton swab.
5. Move your tongue around in your mouth to make sure the dye covers your whole tongue. Swallow—it’s OK, this is edible dye.
6. Pat-dry your tongue, using a paper towel or napkin—1 or 2 light pats is enough. Don’t scrub!
7. Place 1 reinforcement circle on the tip of your tongue.
8. Have your partner shine the flashlight on your tongue. Use the mirrors and the magnifying glass to examine the part of your tongue inside the reinforcement circle. That is our “sample” area. Scientists examine samples to get a sense of the whole.
9. You should see pink bumps rising from the blue-black background. Each bump is a fungiform papillae, and each has taste buds.
10. Count the number of bumps within the sample of tongue defined by the reinforcement circle. If there are too many to count, estimate. Count half the circular sample, and multiply by two.
11. Write down your results in the space provided.
12. Repeat the experiment with your partner(s) and write down the results of the number of fungiform papillae each has, in a row clearly labeled with his or her name.

Name of Student                                                   Number of Bumps


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