Monday, February 24, 2014

Gather Data through All Your Senses

We use our senses—sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell—to experience the world.  These senses are what grounds us and allows us to observe and understand the world around us.  In our world today we rely heavily on sight and sound, yet the other three senses can add depth to our understanding.  Think about someone like Helen Keller who was denied both sight and hearing at a very early age and so experienced the world through touch, smell, and taste.  She learned to speak through words signed in her hand and in that way was able to participate in experiences which helped her learn.  When we use our senses we have firsthand knowledge of something rather than only vicarious opportunities to learn. 

Our senses help us to gather data—not right or wrong data simply data that we then classify in different ways.  For example I might describe the taste of calamari as yucky or chewy while someone else might describe it as delicious and spicy.  The data we collect through our senses connect us with past experience, and we connect with others when we try to share or communicate the information we have gathered with them. 

So how do we support youth in using their senses?  We certainly ask them about things they have seen and heard—this seems relatively effortless.  The third thing we ask is how something “feels,” although this usually refers to an emotion rather than a tactile experience.  We help youth to focus on smell and taste far less often.  When we guide youth in experiencing the world with wonderment and awe, maybe part of that experience is asking how things smell and taste.  Recently I was at a building that experienced a gas leak.  The people talked about the taste the gas left them with.  This is interesting and of course relevant since you couldn’t see, hear or touch the gas, and so they experienced it with taste. 

We need to help youth strengthen the use of all of their senses so they can fully experience the world around them and make observations that help them make connections. 

Do you need support with staff so they can help youth experience the world fully?  At Consult 4 Kids our first Sci-Gineering module focuses on using your senses to observe and then make those connections to prior knowledge.  Check out Sci-Gineering by going to our website at or contacting us at

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