Humans have five basic senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste. These send information to the brain and helps us associate and understand the world around us. Exploring these senses are an important component to practicing mindfulness and focusing attention, especially with younger children. We wanted to practice this with our classes and allow them to experiment with each sense, as well as display this in their art.
Touch: This is the 1st sense that we develop when we’re born. Touch includes various vibrations, temperature, pressure, and pain. It not only allows us to interact with the world, but it also gives us the ability to communicate with each other and create emotional connection. To experiment with this, we placed various objects in brown paper bags. We gave one to each cluster of students and asked that they not look at the bag until the end. They took turns placing their hand inside and feeling the object. Then we asked that they draw what they think they felt on a blank paper. Most of the class was able to focus their attention and correctly guess the objects, which happened to be: paper confetti, plastic animals, seashells, or pipe cleaners.
Smell: Humans are able to smell over 1 trillion different scents! Our ability to smell comes from the olfactory nerve that sends the signals straight to our brain and allows us to differentiate each one. We brought in various perfumes and ground coffee for our students to smell. They took turns passing them around and tried to associate the perfumes with a common scents, such as laundry or flowers. They then drew everything from sunflowers to hand sanitizer to lattes depending on how they interpreted each one.
Sight: Sight is one of the most complex senses that uses parts like rods, cones, and the cornea to transfer light to the brain. People who are blind then compensate for this sense by enhanced hearing and touch. For this exercise, we used optical illusions to test our students focus and sight. We handed each table a paper containing two different illusions. Depending on what the person saw 1st, revealed something about their personality. This was a fun experiment because we were able to see which student was more introverted or creative minded, etc. We also brought in Korean hidden pictures where they had to find certain images in the picture. This required them to quiet down and concentrate on the pictures in order to find the images. They were able to also practice teamwork in order to find each item more effectively
Hearing: Sounds are conducted using 3 of the smallest bones in the body: the malleus, incus, and stapes. Hearing is also vital to maintain a sense of balance and equilibrium. To focus on this I played different sounds from my phone. I started with the sound of a waterfall. Most interpreted this as a form of water, but this ranged from rain to waves and some guessed static. I then played the sound of a snowstorm. They were able to identify the wind and associated this with spooky and stormy.
Taste: We are able to identify 5 different taste types: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami (savory). Spicy however, is a pain signal to the body rather than a taste. We each have 2,000-4,000 taste buds that send signals to our brain and work along with our sense of smell. We were able to do this with our smaller class by having each student close their eyes and hold out their hand. We placed different colors of lemon head candies in their hand and asked them to guess what flavor they thought they were eating. This was a little tougher since many candies taste similar, but many did correctly guess lemon or cherry, etc.
This was a really fun, mindful activity to practice with our classes. They were excited to be able to try guessing for each sense, and they excellently demonstrated focus and concentration for each activity. They were also able to use their creativity in their drawings for each sense, especially for the sense of touch. I loved watching them work together in each group to figure out the puzzles they faced in each activity and encourage each other. This took a fun and interactive approach to mindfulness, and they were able to learn about each sense and how they use it.