Design an experiment testable on 50 people dealing with your 5 senses.

Kathy Jardine, MACCRAY High School, Clara City, MN
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Students will design an experiment in groups of three about one of the five senses using the scientific method. This experiment needs to be approved by their teacher. If they are struggling with an idea I will lead them in a couple of different directions so they still can choose and make the experiment their own. Collection of data and the majority of the write up will be done outside of class. They will test 40-50 different people. They will have to come up with everything for the experiment including question, hypothesis, materials, procedure, data tables, and conclusions. This will be presented to the class as a small presentation as well as handed in as a formal lab write up. Therefore, they will get a group and individual grade.

Learning Goals

Students will understand how to compose their own experiment. Students will use several types of higher-order thinking skills (examples: data analysis, synthesis of ideas). Students will be able to organize their findings in an oral presentation as well as a formal lab write up. Possible concepts students will understand would be relationships between taste and smell, where sense receptors are more prevalent on human skin, or how memory and color are related. The concepts students will retain will depend on the topics picked by each group. Vocab words that will be reviewed will be hypothesis, experiment, and all the parts of the scientific method.

Context for Use

This lab is intended for 11-12 graders. I believe any class size would work since they are working in groups and are going to do most of this outside of class. This is a lab that is student led. Students should probably want to get in groups of people they have study hall with, can stay after school or meet up with. I would give about 2 weeks for students to gather data. Then I would touch base with them and give them a day in class to work on their formal lab write up. I would have the final project due a week later. Students should be familiar with the scientific method. I would review how to survey/question people for their experiment. This lab would go along with the senses part of the nervous system. If teaching another class you would be able to use this lab along with the scientific method.

Subject: Biology
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity
Grade Level: High School (9-12)

Description and Teaching Materials

This activity would be introduced when talking about the different senses during the chapter on the nervous system. I would introduce it in class and have the students pick their groups (reminding them whom they can work well with and also get together with outside of class). I would allow time (15 min) at the end of one hour to start thinking about ideas and then 15 min at the beginning or end of our next class to determine their question, hypothesis, and procedure. The experiment itself will need to be done on their own time. I will give them 2 weeks to gather data. Then I will have students bring all of their data to class so they can "analyze" it as a group in class. I will be available for them to ask questions if needed. They will use an hour to start writing up their presentation and formal lab report. The day these are do I will have students present their question, how they went about gathering data and what they discovered. Then I will interject any ideas I may want them to remember that is related to the text. Description of Senses Investigation (Microsoft Word 54kB Jun3 11) Lab Report Ruberic (Acrobat (PDF) 25kB Aug13 08)

Teaching Notes and Tips

It may be hard for students to come up with an experiment. I will have a list of 5 or so ideas I have thought of ahead of time (such as: using toothpicks and touch receptors in various spots of your skins, using a blindfold and plugging your nose and tasting things vs. a blindfold and tasting things, associating a list of colors written in the wrong color vs. colors written in the correct color and memory or speed in reading, a list of actual words to memorize vs. a list of non words to memorize in a set amount of time, using short term memory vs. long term, using optical illusions) I will only tell some of these ideas to students if they seem really lost. Then I will try to guide them with several ideas instead of just giving them one to do. Currently I do several different labs dealing with some of the topics listed above. This would give students the chance to use what they are interested in instead of what I make them do. It will also allow a lot of thought on their part since they are designing the whole thing.


I will give them a group grade according to what I see when they work in class as well as to how well they do their presentation. Students will also receive a grade on their formal lab write up. They will be given a criteria sheet including everything they must have in their report. See attachments.


9-12.IV.G.1; 9-12.I.B.1; 9-12.I.B.2; 9-12.I.B.4

References and Resources