Five Senses Hike
Standards: 4.3 Environmental Health
Duration: 20 – 40 minutes
Vocabulary: sense, exploration, observation, texture
Summary: Students will use their five senses to experience the natural world around them
Objectives: Students will learn the differences between the five senses and how they are useful tools for experiencing the world, especially nature
An observation is something that you notice about the world around you. We make observations using our five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Our five senses are very important to us. If there were a fire, for example, you would see the flames, feel the heat, and smell the smoke. Using your five senses you would know to stay away! In addition to keeping us safe, our five senses also help us experience the beauty and wonder of the world around us.
Ask students if they know their five senses, and have them demonstrate each one. Ask them why we want to pay attention to our senses when we are out in nature.
Take a group of students outside—they will stay in the group for this activity!
Start with the sense of sight. Have children find different colors in nature. Have them explore whether the objects that are the same color are the same thing. For example, dandelions and buttercups are both yellow, but are different plants! Also ask them if anything they see reminds them of something they usually find inside, like clouds looking like marshmallows.
Next explore their sense of hearing. Tell children to close their eyes and ask them what they hear. Are there birds singing? If so, is it just one kind of bird song, or are there different ones? Can they hear leaves rustling? Can they tell if the wind is blowing hard or softly by the sound of the leaves? Is there any moving water nearby?
Explore the sense of touch next. Ask students to find a few different objects with different textures. If there are trees nearby, have them compare the way bark of different trees feel—some trees are rough, while some trees are smooth. If you have a group you trust not to splash, have them put their hands in a nearby stream. Does the water feel cold? Can they feel it moving through their fingers? They can explore many things with their sense of touch—even regular grass can be interesting when you focus on it this way.
The sense of taste is difficult to explore in nature, because it can be dangerous to eat things in the wild unless you are with someone who knows how to identify plants well. This is a good time to explain this to the children! Let them know they shouldn’t eat anything in the wild unless a knowledgeable adult says it is okay. If the teacher feels comfortable bringing in or finding honey suckle or raspberries, etc., this could be a nice way to remind students these treats come from nature.
Finally, have the children explore their sense of smell. Have them close their eyes and smell the air. This can be done any time of year—in the winter when the air is cold, after a rainstorm, or on a sunny day. Do they smell flowers? Wet earth? Cut grass? When have they smelled these things before?
To conclude this activity, ask students if they think the area they are in is ‘healthy’ or not. Have them decide this by remembering what they saw using their five senses. Did the air smell clean or like rotting/garbage? Did they see different kinds of plants and grass, or a barren space? Can they hear birds or insects, or is nothing living in the area? Explain that in this way we can get an idea of how healthy a space is by using our five senses.
Ask students to tell you the five different senses. Ask them to name one thing they discovered using each.
Ask students why it is useful to have five senses, and name a situation in their day when it is important.
Have students repeat the five senses activities inside the classroom. How do things feel, look, and smell inside compared to when they were outside? Did they like exploring inside or outside more? Is a classroom a healthy place for animals and plants to live? Why or why not?
Have students try to draw pictures of the five senses. Not just a picture of an eye or a nose, but something that they noticed when studying each sense.