Our Senses Will Lead the Way

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Students will be able to make claims by gathering evidence using their senses.

Big Idea

Mysteries are fun to solve. In this lesson, students have a chance to step through a guessing game using their senses to gather evidence.


5 minutes

To begin the lesson, I have 8-10 opaque containers previously filled with items at the front of the room.  I gather my students at our community area and ask the question: "What is in these containers?"

Obviously, they just begin guessing.  At this point, I remind them that scientists don't guess. They gather evidence in order to make their claims.  Of course, their claims may change, based on new evidence.  

I use different size containers, in order to give clues regarding size.  Cottage cheese containers, shoe boxes, yogurt containers with tops, all make good mystery containers.  I also number each container to make transition during the activity more organized. I use the two sets of containers, so groups will travel between 5 different items. 

In the containers, I place items with and without scent. They may be:

  • an orange/or lemon cut
  • pennies
  • a heavy rock
  • a bar of soap
  • liquid dish detergent

Mini Lesson

15 minutes

Modeling how to gather evidence and make a claim is essential when building a science community. In order to do this, I have an extra container with a tube of chapstick without the top inside. (If you choose to use this template, download it first for optimal font and layout).

I show the students the 5 senses chart and remind them that they have learned in previous grades that scientists use their senses to help them gather information. "To be safe, we never taste unless the teacher gives the permission to do so." 

I explain to the students that I will "think out loud" and show them how I gather evidence, fill in the data chart, and make a claim. My example chart is included in the resources. 

As I work to show the students how to move through evidence in an organized way, I make sure I stop and look at the 5 senses chart to see if I have used as many as possible.  I explain that this is how scientists develop a plan or experiment.  For example, I might look at the 5 senses chart and say "Hmm, how can I use my sense of hearing?  I know, I can move the container around and see if the object inside makes a noise!"

As we work, we may end up with a chart looking something like this example

Active Engagement

20 minutes

At this point, it is time to give the students a chance to work through figuring out how to test with their 5 senses. I post the student teams, which I will have already created and then explain to the students that they will rotate through 5 different containers and work to fill in this Mystery Container Template

They are not able to open the container until the very end of the lesson, when we check them as a class. 

As they work in their teams, I circulate and ask probing questions. My goal here is to push students to think of ways to describe sounds when an object is rolling in the container, or how to use the sense of touch in order to explain the weight of something. 

These students are excited and pushing deeper into their ability to describe evidence they are compiling.

In this clip, you will notice that with just a little prompting, these girls communicate a more detailed statement.

Working with these boys brought a chuckle to my day! Helping them figure out how to make a positive statement with supporting evidence was the challenge.

Sharing and Close

10 minutes

To close the lesson, I assemble the students at our community area, where we share our claims and evidence for each container.  

Of course, I then open and reveal the items for the group. This is a good time to discuss with the group any challenges they had in making just one claim in their groups. Many of the claims probably would have made sense, yet the debates in the group help define what they settled on. 

I then show this short video that I created on PowToons.com as a fun review of the senses before ending the session.