Lesson Plan

Pathways to Discovery - "Scent"sations!

An ant crawls over a caterpillar to get at flower nectar
Find out how one ant can lead another to something like a food source

NPS Photo / Robbie Hannawacker

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Grade Level:
Second Grade-Fifth Grade
Biology: Animals
20 minutes
National/State Standards:
Alaska State Standards
Science: A12, 14, 15; B1, 2, 3; D1, 2;


Use America's largest national park as a pathway to discovery!

In this lesson, students learn how insects find one another using their sense of smell through smelling activity.


Using discovery, activities and observation, students will better understand the role of little creatures as they relate to their habitat and other living things.


Use an area that is fairly large and flat. Ask the students, “How do animals find one another in the forest?” (Mostly through the sense of smell.) Many animals have glands located on their legs or their lower body. These glands produce odors which are left on the ground. These odors help one animal track another. Tell the students that they are going to take part in an activity that shows how they can find a partner using their sense of smell.


Pairs of small closed containers with scents on cotton balls (cinnamon, peppermint, lilac, etc.), blindfolds



Ask the students: Would we be able to track an ant without seeing it? How about a prey species, such as a hare or moose? (Probably not, our sense of smell isn’t sensitive enough.) Was it difficult to identify the scent? Why or why not? What are some other ways little creatures might be able to recognize prospective mates or other members of their kind? (sound, light)

Additional Resources

This lesson is part of our "Pathways to Discovery" unit. The individual lessons can be done individually or as a larger unit of learning. They encourage the development of a student’s awareness and appreciation of the natural world and people’s relationship and role as a part of that natural world.

The lessons are a series of shorter activities that have been blended together under a specific theme with the intent that the activities will be coordinated with units in the existing school curriculum and texts. The materials are organized by grade level, but can actually be adapted for use at any grade level. Check out the full Pathways to Discovery unit of lessons, as well as links to other stand-alone lessons like this one.

Last updated: April 14, 2015