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Taster or Non-Taster? Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #:AELP-GET000
Author: Judith H. Westbrook, Oregon School for the Deaf, Salem, OR Date: May 1994

Grade Level(s): 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12


  • Science/Genetics

OVERVIEW: The study of genetics/inherited traits is more than simply tracing back or predicting eye and hair color. Our genetic code is specific from one person to another. We do pass on other, more unusual traits, such as the ability to discern specific tastes in foods.


This activity was designed to involve students, family members, and selected peers in the process of determining whether an individual can be classified as a taster or a non-taster.

OBJECTIVES: The student will be able to:

  • Determine whether he/she is a taster or non-taster.
  • Test selected individuals from his/her family and peer group for the trait.
  • Chart all findings from all students to determine which trait is dominant.
  • RESOURCES/MATERIALS: Teacher materials:

  • Large sheet of butcher paper
  • PTC Taste Paper
  • Sodium Benzoate Taste Paper
  • Thiourea Taste Paper
  • Control Taste Paper
  • (Frey Scientific: Vials of 100)
  • Envelopes containing three complete sets of Taste Papers,
  • numbered to match the sequence of the activity.
  • Student materials:

  • Notebook paper
  • pencil
  • paper cup of water

  • Students will share traits they know are dominant in their immediate families and peer group. (i.e., hair and eye color, right/left handedness) List traits and post.
  • Students will number 1-5 on notebook paper.
  • Distribute paper cups of water to cleanse the palate.
  • Distribute PTC taste paper, one to each student with instructions to taste the paper, and without sharing with others, write down what it tasted like. It is OK if it tastes like nothing, or like paper. (That would be the control!) It could also taste salty, sweet, bitter, hot, etc.
  • Continue with the other taste papers, students recording how each paper tasted.
  • Collect results and graph the data on large sheet of butcher paper. (save!)
  • Using the chart, predict which trait (taster or non-taster) is dominant in their families, and in the general population.
  • Assignment: Each student will take three complete sets of taste papers home to test parents and one friend. Test papers are to be numbered to correspond with the sequence of the previous activity. (If a student has one parent or is living with a relative, he may go ahead and test that person or persons.)

    Students will share their experiences with their families and friends. Students can place tally marks on yesterday’s chart. Discuss whether their predictions were correct. Analyze findings.

    Follow up activities could include the construction of a Punnett Square using the information collected from parents. The percentage of offspring that are tasters could be predicted, and more testing done to check.

    Some may hypothesize that people who tend to be overweight are tasters, or that thinner people are non-tasters. Is this how obesity seems to run in families???? An experiment could be designed and carried out to prove the hypothesis.

    This is a great activity to get family members involved in Science. It can snowball into a very large data gathering activity. The MacIntosh has a great program, Excel, that is very helpful organizing and graphing this kind of data.

    May 1994

    These lesson plans are the result of the work of the teachers who have attended the Columbia Education Center’s Summer Workshop. CEC is a consortium of teacher from 14 western states dedicated to improving the quality of education in the rural, western, United States, and particularly the quality of math and science Education. CEC uses Big Sky Telegraph as the hub of their telecommunications network that allows the participating teachers to stay in contact with their trainers and peers that they have met at the Workshops.