What the Dog Nose Knows

Madelyn Baker
Barnard College, Columbia University
Teen Science Cafe @ Greenburgh Nature Center


Hands on Activity


Baker illustrated how much humans rely on their sight compared to their noses like dogs by isolating our olfactory senses. She passed around plastic cups filled with jelly beans of various flavors, and divided the students into groups of two. One student would close their eyes and noses, and the other student would give them a jelly bean of a random flavor. The student would eat the jelly bean blind and anosmatic, and would try to guess the bean flavor. This proved to be a much more difficult task than one would think! Then the student would open their nose and try to guess the flavor again, which was much more easier.


After both students in the pair had a chance to try out the beans activity, Baker selected a few students to demonstrate her next activity. She had a student close their eyes and held various objects under their noses, like a book or a mint. She then had the student try to guess what the object was based on its smell. It was very difficult for a person to guess what’s under their noses when not using their eyes! These activities really accentuated the different ways animals perceive the world, especially between dogs and humans.