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Activity

Taste tests for the five basic tastes

Summary: 
Taste different clear liquids and match them as sweet, salty, sour, bitter or unami.
Science content (2016 curriculum): 
Biology: Sensing, Organ Systems (4, 5, 6)
Materials: 
  • Cups to hold tasting liquids
  • Q-tips
  • Water to cleanse mouth between tastes
  • Sugar solution, 1 Tbspn sugar in 100ml water (for sweet liquid)
  • Salt solution, 1/2 tpsn salt in 100ml water (for salty liquid)
  • White vinegar (for sour liquid)
  • Baking soda solution, 2 tspn baking soda in 100ml water (for bitter liquid). Or try tonic water
  • MSG solution, 1/2 tspn unami in 100ml water (for unami liquid)
Procedure: 

Students in pairs. One student closes their eyes and the other one uses a Q-tip to put one of the tastes on their tongue.

Version 1: students guess which taste type the liquids are (salt, sweet, bitter, sour or unami).
Version 2: students put 6 liquids in pairs by their taste (sour, sweet, salt)

Notes: 

A good opportunity to teach that the tongue is NOT divided into different areas of taste sensitivities.
A good opportunity to introduce tastes other than the familiar 4 e.g. unami. Can also discuss spicy as a taste/pain sensation.

Use fish sauce for unami taste?

Version 1 did not work well at all. Students were not able to distinguish well enough to make it fun. (Keep in mind that it was probably not taught well - it was done at the beginning of my teaching experience.)
Verson 2 worked better with 7 year olds, but not with 5 year olds.

Grades taught: 
Gr K
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Gr 4
Teacher: 
Ingrid
Teaching site: 
After School Program at Elementary schools in New York City
Activity originally developed and delivered: 

The School at Columbia After School Program