Delicious Smelling Chemistry

Source Institutions

Source Institutions

Add to list Go to activity
Activity link broken? See if it's at the internet archive
In this activity, learners use household materials to investigate and explore their ability to smell an odor. Learners compare and contrast results to determine if some individuals have a better sense of smell than others. Learners also observe the Maillard reaction and how different odor molecules are released into the air. Note: Since experiment #2 requires the use of a hot stove and skillet, we recommend that an adult conducts it as a demonstration, or that the appropriate safety materials are used and safety guidelines are discussed prior to the experiment.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Plastic cups
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Vinegar
  • Coffee beans
  • Pitcher of water
  • Non-stick skillet
  • Corn syrup
  • Amino acid capsules
  • Permanent markers
  • Oven mitts or gloves
  • Stove or hot plate
  • Data table (optional)


  • Life Sciences
    • Human Body
      • The Brain and Nervous System
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Taste
      • Smell
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • smell

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Education, Science Friday


  • All rights reserved, Science Friday, 2011