Our Senses

Take the Touch Challenge!

  • Time Length
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    < 1 hour

  • Mess Level
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    A Little Messy

  • Cost

    Materials or Fees

  • Difficulty
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    easy

Question and Wonder:

  • How do our hands know what we are touching?
  • What makes something feel soft or hard? Smooth or rough? Hot or cold?
  • If you touch something with your feet does it feel the same? Why?
  • Can you guess how something will feel before you touch it? How?

Imagine and Design:

  • Do you think it will be easy to find the pebbles in the spaghetti? Why?
  • Which senses will you use to play with the spaghetti and find the pebbles?
  • What do you think the spaghetti will feel like? What about the pebbles?
  • What do you think the oil will do? The colors?

Separate the spaghetti into bowls, add a small amount of cooking oil to lightly coat spaghetti. Add a few drops of food coloring to each bowl. Stir until spaghetti changes color! Put spaghetti in a large bowl and mix in the pebbles.

Test and Discuss:

  • Was it harder than you thought to find the pebbles? Why?
  • How did the pebbles and spaghetti feel the same?
  • Did the colors make it easier or harder to find the pebbles? Why?
  • How did the oil change the way things felt?
  • Which did you like better to touch? Spaghetti or pebbles? Why?

Did you Know?

In order to process so many different bits of information, the skin comes equipped with millions of sensory nerve receptors. There are several types of sensory nerve receptors. Some receptors tell the difference between hot and cold; others sense an itch or a pain. For this reason, touch is one of the most complicated senses for researchers to study.

Once the sensory nerve receptors have picked up on a specific type of touch, this message is passed to a neuron, or nerve cell. The neuron passes the message to more neurons along a specific pathway. Different types of touch travel along different pathways. Pain has its own pathway. Temperature has its own pathway. Basic touch has its own pathway. But eventually, all pathways lead to the brain where the message is sent.

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