OUR SENSES & Learning – Smell / Taste (4e)

chef smelling soup


PREVIOUS: Olfactory Learners (#4d)

SITEs: The World Though our Senses
Learning Styles Affects How You Play GOLF


– (Smell cont.
According to Dr. Ira Greene, author of “The Nose Knows: A Nasal-Based Curriculum Development Guide”, there are 3 distinct types of nasal learners: the goal-oriented, the activity-oriented & the learning-oriented. Each type needs to be treated differently.
EXP: “…while activity & goal oriented learners may be sufficiently motivated at the prospect of an olfactory reward at the end of a task, the learning-oriented student needs something more to sustain his/her interest.”

Few people appreciate the range of information provided by the sense of smell.
Anosmia – the clinical term for the inability to smell – is a little-known & invisible but serious problem. We do notice it’s loss when we have a cold or allergies, but rarely consider what would happen if that source of info disappeared altogether. Yet olfaction is a vulnerable sense, & smell disorders or total loss are more common than realized. (“A Sense of Hope” – Monell Center. PA)
(Nose recognizes 6 vehicle warning signs), (SMELLS: Consumer preferences)

smell & imagesResearch also has shown that smell has a unique relationship to words & images. Scents are normally formed as purely visceral, subjective experiences that are hard to put into words, yet in spite of this apparent limitation, writers often describe scents in literature.  The “Proust Effect” – from Marcel Proust’s influential multi-volume novel “In Search of Lost Time” – names smell’s ability to trigger involuntary memories, illustrating literature’s crucial role in shaping our understanding of how smell works.

Since 2000, Scholastic Scents is a Cambridge, MA, has been working to fill the void in materials geared towards nasal learners, by providing scratch-and-sniff textbooks & variety of educational packets such as the Oregon Trail fragrance set, & “Speak and Smell” language workshops.   (Scented Children’s books)

L. Stanley’s article “What does purple smell like?” (Childhood Education) describeshappy grapes one of the few studies that examines smell as part of a multi-sensory approach in helping children learn – allowing them to experiment, investigate & discover the world around them.
EXP: In one study, teachers of 2-year-olds matched colors to familiar objects, like purple with the smell & taste of grapes, & then played the blindfold game “Smell the Color.” The children enthusiastically & successfully learned those colors presented, & paid closer attention to other colors in their environment.

In L. Burmark’s article “They Snooze, You Lose: The Educator’s Guide to
Successful Presentations “, he recommends going beyond auditory or visual forms to more engaging, multi-sensory lessons to keep interest among students of all ages. Studies reveal that when educational presentations use a multi-media format, their effectiveness increases by 300%.  Burmark is particularly interested in smell memoryincorporating smell. Research shows that this is a particularly powerful tool for gathering info, strongly related to memory & emotion, & that 75% of emotional responses are based on smell. Because of this connection, scents can be used to improve our ability to remember.

In July 2003, the Summer School on HUMAN OLFACTION took take place  in Dresden, Germany.
Its aim was to provide participants with up-to-date knowledge on various aspects of the human chemical senses, through seminar-style lectures as well as practical demonstrations & experiments carried out by the participants.

* * * * * * * * * *
GUSTATORY Learning (Taste)
In some ways understanding taste is more complex than the other physical senses because even though taste, smell & sight are separate areas of the brain, they overlap significantly in how we experience things in our environment. All our senses work together, but smell and taste are special partners. When we eat, our tongue gives us the taste & our nose the smell of the food. Approximately 80–90% of what we perceive as ‘taste’ is in fact due to our sense of smell, so when the nose is congested, our food tends to lose it’s taste.

Taste & smell are essential for survival, helping to identifying edible material, & preventing the ingestion of toxic material. Activation of these two neural-peripheral systems together lets us identify flavors, & is currently being used to develop food, beverages & pharmaceuticals, in order to enhance or mask tastes and smells.

tongue tastesThe ancient Greeks believed that the two most basic tastes were sweet & bitter, but Aristotle (c. 350 BC) was one of the first to develop a list of other basic tastes. Ayurveda, an ancient Indian healing science, has its own tradition of basic tastes, comprised of sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter & astringent, while the Ancient Chinese regarded spiciness as a basic taste. In the present we know the mouth can distinguish sweet, salty, sour, bitter & umami (the flavor of certain glutamates, variously described as savory, meaty or broth), long known in Asian cooking, which only recently has been found to have its own taste receptors.

Taste is the sensation produced when a substance in the mouth reacts chemically with receptor cells located on taste buds in the mouth, mainly on the tongue, but are also in the roof of the mouth & near the pharynx. (BUDS)  The number of taste buds varies significantly from person to person, greater amount increasing sensitivity. The average is about 10,000 taste buds, each one having about 1,000 taste cells, which act as receptors. In general, women have more than men, & as is the case for color blindness, some people are insensitive to some tastes.
smell process

NEXT: Smell & Taste (Part 4f)

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