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Sensory explorers: back to nature

Sensory explorers: back to nature

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Animals rely on their acute senses to find food and water, avoid danger, find a mate, protect their home and so many other important things in life.

As animals ourselves, we too have the power of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste to help us navigate through life but in our modern world we rely on these special powers less and less. This can means that we are now less observant of the natural world around us, where changes can be subtle and secret.

The good news is that, with a few tips and hints and some practice, we can easily find and use our sensory powers again.


  • Your eyes
  • Your ears
  • Your touch


Sensory power of sight – owl eyes

This is first in the list because it is arguably the sense we use most. But we tend to focus our attention on what is immediately in front of us (our centre of gaze). When we’re reading a book, watching telly, using the computer, having a conversation, we look straight ahead, using a relatively small field of vision. This means we get concentrated detail, but we may be missing things happening around the sides (in our peripheral vision).

Owls have brilliant binocular eyesight just like humans (we can both see in 3D). But their eyes are even more developed than ours. Their big, wide eyes gives them big, wide vision. We can see like an owl too with a bit of practice.

  • First we need to find the edges of our peripheral vision.
    • Standing or sitting still, look straight ahead of you.
    • Now stretch out your arms sideways and wiggle your fingers. If you can’t see your fingers wiggling, slowly move your arms closer together until you can see them. This is the edge of your peripheral vision.
  • You can find the top and bottom of your peripheral vision too by wiggling your fingers with your arms above your head and down by your sides.

Now it’s time to test out your “Owl Eyes”. What can you spot in your peripheral vision and centre gaze? Try it outdoors next time you go on a nature walk or into your garden.

Sensory power of hearing – deer ears

We humans are not known for having particularly sensitive hearing. Our little ears, close to the sides of our heads struggle to pick up a wide range of sounds. But, in contrast, a deer’s large ears act like a satellite dish, funnelling sound from far and wide.

We can have deer ears too!

  • Cup your hands around the back of your ears, making them bigger and wider. Now point your face in the direction of a sound. Have a go at removing and then re-cupping your ears to hear the difference. This same method can be used backwards too. Stand with your back to the sound and cup your ears backwards.

What can you hear?

Sensory power of touch – spider legs

Our sense of touch can be underestimated, but we use it all day long. We might squeeze an apple to test whether it’s still firm and crunchy, enjoy the feel of a cool breeze on a sunny day, or rub our fingers across our clothes to feel their softness.

Spiders have hyper-sensitivity to touch. They have very hairy legs (the hairs are known as trichobothria), which enable them to detect another animal, possibly a snack, landing in their web. As a result, hunting their prey becomes as easy as standing on their self-made web.

Test your sense of touch with your family.

  • Ask someone in your family to collect an object for each person, everyone else closes their eyes or uses a blindfold.
  • The first person puts the objects in the middle of the table, then everyone else selects one object each and feels it with their fingers.
  • When everyone’s ready, put the objects back in the middle and the first person jumbles them up.
  • Now the others remove their blindfolds and find their object. Can they get it first time?

Now that you’ve practised your super sensory powers it’s time to test them out. Indoors or in your garden, go on a sensory adventure to discover what you can see, hear and touch like an animal.

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