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  • The five sensory ‘gatekeepers’ of our bodies – taste, smell, touch, sight and hearing – help us survive.

    Every day, our ears, nose, tongue, eyes and skin are constantly bombarded with massive amounts of information from the environment around us that must be processed and responded to. Find out more about the structure and function of our senses, and how this improves our ability to grow, reproduce and survive.

    Curriculum links

    Our resources look at the structure and function of our senses, and how this improves our ability to grow, reproduce and survive and link to these requirements of the New Zealand Curriculum:

    • Living World – levels 3–4: Recognise that there are life processes common to all living things and that these occur in different ways.
    • Physical World – level 5: Explain a technological or biological application of physics.

    New Zealand research

    Cutting-edge research in the area of molecular sensing is being undertaken at Plant & Food Research. We feature 2 scientists who are both considered leaders in their respective fields:

    • Dr Sara Jaeger is leading research into revealing how our genetic background can influence our ability to smell and detect flavours in food.
    • Dr Richard Newcomb’s research focuses on the way biological systems produce and recognise odours.

    This research incorporates some of the science ideas behind this work and illustrates the human side of research in the area of molecular sensing.

    The appearance, flavour and odour of food stimulate all of our senses – sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. Find out more in the article Sensing food.

    Science ideas and concepts

    These are the key science ideas and concepts incorporated into our resources:

    • Body systems – this article explores the fact that the human body is made up of a number of inter-related systems all contributing in some way to our survival. A systems approach is a particularly effective way of studying human biology.
    • Sensory scientists – this takes a brief look at the qualifications needed to work in this field and what might be expected of these scientists in the work environment.
    • Touch, Smell, Hearing, Sight and Taste are all articles that deal, in turn, with the structure and function of each sense.

    Student activities

    Four activities were developed to support and complement the science ideas and concepts included in our resources. They have been devised to give fun, hands-on experiences that make science lessons relevant, exciting and memorable. Each activity uses easily sourced, inexpensive materials. No special scientific equipment is required and there is no need for a science laboratory setting. This makes the activities suitable for all levels from years 7–10 in any type of school environment. The activities could be easily prepared and administered by any teacher regardless of their level of scientific ability or experience.

    Useful link

    An interactive game, from the BBC, where the senses are put to the test (note that this requires Flash).

      Published 25 May 2011 Referencing Hub articles
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