With turkey and cranberry, mulled wine and cinnamon sprinkled everything, the festive season is a sensory overload, so why not bring it into the classroom?

Linked with memory and mood, using familiar and wintry scents is an easy, but fun way to teach the class about the fascination of the senses.

You probably already know that smell is a chemical sense that is perceived by chemoreceptors, aka the sensory cells. After a nose picks up different odours, the chemoreceptors then pass electrical impulses to the brain where electrical activity is translated into patterns. Once odours and other olfactory sensations become perception, a smell is born. It’s actually pretty easy, so teaching it to your class should be just as simple.

There are plenty of smells that link to the magic of Christmas, provoking our most heartwarming family memories (even the not so merry memories of arguments about who messed up the gravy)

Make it festive and fun

On the run up to the Christmas break, it can be hard to contain the excitement of the classroom, so it’s worth using a traditional experiment, but with a Yuletide twist. Yule love it (we had to throw in a Christmas pun somewhere…)

As easy as it is, you can make a game out of different scents and tailor them to the upcoming jolly season. You don’t even need to stock up on too many supplies, which is always a welcome bonus. Plus, this experiment will leave a long-lasting scent that will help you to get into a festive mood. It’s better than a classroom filled with the scent of PVA glue, unless you’re into that sort of thing.

Bring different samples of Christmas themed smell to your class, put them in different boxes and then let children sniff each box without taking a sneaky peek. You could always offer them a prize if they’re on the nice list this year.

You can follow some of our ideas for various Christmas scents:

  • Apple with cinnamon and nutmeg sprinkled on top
  • Fresh pine branches and pine cones
  • Hot chocolate or cocoa powder (just make sure nobody inhales the powder)
  • Gingerbread men
  • Orange — sliced orange or peeled orange skin with cloves
  • Candy canes
  • …whatever tickles your festive fancy

Let the class turn the table and try it out for yourself, will you be beaten by one of your class? You could always battle your colleagues, using mulled wine as part of the challenge, after the bell rings, of course!