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Anytime Lesson Plan: Guess That Spice


In this at home lesson, students will learn to use their sense of smell to identify spices and herbs. They will then research the uses of spices and herbs in cooking and in the medical field and explore where spices and herbs are grown and research ancient trade routes.


In this lesson, students will:

  1. learn to use their sense of smell to identify spices and herbs
  2. research the uses of spices and herbs in cooking and in the medical field
  3. explore where spices and herbs are grown and research ancient trade routes


  • 5 different spices and/or herbs
  • 5 identical containers for each spice and herb
  • blindfolds
  • paper
  • pen or pencil
  • markers or colored pencils
  • World map to write on



  1. Look at your spice cabinet at home and choose 5 different herbs and spices so that you have a variety to choose from.
  2. Have the 5 identical containers ready on the table, with a different spice in each one.
  3. Set out blindfolds on the table
  4. Have a world map you can write on printed and ready for the later part of the activity, either from the internet or magazine. 


  1. Have one member of the family transfer the spices and herbs into the containers and set them on the table. 
  2. Assign numbers to the containers.
  3. Have a couple of family members put on their blindfolds while the other records their guesses.
  4. Have the recorder number 1 through 5 on a sheet of paper
  5. Put one spice or herb at a time under the blindfolded person’s nose and give them time to think about which spice they believe it is, and then the recorder will write down their guesses for containers 1 through 5.
  6. After your family members have made their guesses, have them take their blindfold off and see how many they got right!  
  7. Ask them, “Was it easier or harder than you expected to use your sense of smell to guess which spice and herb was which?”
  8. Mix up the order of the 5 spices and herbs or get more from your cabinet and have the children test the adults!
  9. After completing the guessing game, sit down as a family and write a list of all the spices you used.
  10. Gather information about your herbs and spices, and compile your research as a family. Research online or at your public library about the history of your spices and whether it was traded in the Ancient World or during the Middle Ages. Try to answer the following questions:
    • Where is this spice or herb traditionally grown in the world? Indicate with markers or colored pencils on your map the country or region your 5 spices or herbs come from. You can even put a small sample of the spice or herb into a small clear bag and attach it to the country on the map for a visual.
    • Were there ancient spice trading routes associated with this spice or herb?
    • Is there any research in the medical field that indicates your spices or herbs have positive effects on human health? If, yes, which ones, and what do they contain high levels of? (e.g.: antioxidants, etc)


  • Once you have completed your research on the 5 spices, discuss as a family how you can incorporate more spices into your weekly menu.
  • As a family talk about growing herbs at your home such as oregano, rosemary, thyme, etc. and start a sustainable herb garden for your kitchen.
  • See if there is a botanical garden or conservatory nearby which grows the spices you chose.


  • For younger children you may want to set out some index cards with the names of the spices you will be using before they put on their blindfolds.
  • Next to the names, write down the foods they eat that contain these ingredients.
  • Perhaps relating that spice to their favorite foods would make it much more exciting.
  • You may even want to put a picture of the spice next to the name.
  • Once they’ve had time to look over the names and pictures, they can then try and guess that spice.


California Content Standards

Grade Five

History-Social Science

  • 5.2.3 Trace the routes of the major land explorers of the United States, the distances traveled by explorers, and the Atlantic trade routes that linked Africa, the West Indies, the British colonies, and Europe.

Grade Six

History-Social Science

  • 6.6.7 Cite the significance of the trans-Eurasian “silk roads” in the period of the Han Dynasty and Roman Empire and their locations.

Grade Seven

History-Social Science

  • 7.2.5 Describe the growth of cities and the establishment of trade routes among Asia, Africa, and Europe, the products and inventions that traveled along these routes (e.g.,spices, textiles, paper, steel, new crops), and the role of merchants in Arab society.



Have you ever been at home while dinner was cooking, and it smelled so good you could almost taste it? Scientists are curious about how flavors and odors in our food are perceived by our brains.  Your nose and mouth work together to deliver the smell and taste particles to your brain which then identifies what you are smelling or tasting. Most “flavors” we think of are actually smells that reach olfactory nerves in the back of our throats when we inhale smells through our noses. Our senses are a lot more complex than we think they are!

Humans have used spices and herbs for thousands of years. A spice is a dried seed, fruit, root, bark, or vegetative substance used in nutritionally insignificant quantities as a food additive for flavor, color, or as a preservative that kills harmful bacteria or prevents their growth. In the kitchen, herbs are leafy, green plant parts used for flavoring or as a garnish. However, spices and herbs are also used for medicinal purposes.  Spices also stimulated trade routes, wars, exploration, medical discoveries, and new cuisines. They dominated ancient world trading routes; people weren’t able to go to a grocery store and buy spices from around the world like we can today.


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