Chemistry Makes Scents

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In "Chemistry Makes Scents," participants use their noses to distinguish between chemicals with very similar structures. While these chemicals can behave similarly, they often have very different properties (including the way they smell). The activity also uses large molecule models, so participants can handle and visualize their structural differences. Activity includes a facilitation guide with potential misconceptions, relevant science infosheets with real-world connections, table sign, and activity training video. All public-facing materials also available in Spanish.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 6 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Model

English, Spanish

Materials List (per group of students)

  • Spearmint scent bottle: squeeze bottle and cotton ball with spearmint essential oil
  • Caraway scent bottle: squeeze bottle and cotton ball with caraway essential oil
  • Coffee bean scent bottle: squeeze bottle half filled with coffee grounds
  • Extra cotton balls (for reset)
  • Spearmint and caraway essential oils (for reset)
  • Small hand-held mirror
  • Mini Magic Nuudles
  • Tray
  • Black chenille stems (pre-cut into sixths)
  • Step-by-step instructions for making mirror-image molecules
  • Spearmint and caraway graphic
  • Marker and labels
  • Gloves (optional)


  • Life Sciences
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Smell
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Bonding


Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities