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Learning Objectives

  1. Students will perform background research on human and dog vision.
  2. Students will use reasoning skills to accurately apply researched information towards solving problems.
  3. Students will gain an understanding of their own visual acuity capabilities.
  4. Students will compare their sense of smell with that of a trained K-9 police unit.
  5. Students will critically analyze their own data and that of their peers in order to make conclusions.


Grade Levels



Common Core Standard

National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) practices addressed:

  • Asking Questions and Defining Problems
  • Developing and Using Models
  • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
  • Middle School Specific: Gather and synthesize information that sensory receptors respond to stimuli by sending messages to the brain for immediate behavior or storage as memories. MS-LS1-8:

Materials Needed

Sensory Challenge: Human vs Canine Sheet

Access to internet-enabled devices (computer lab, laptop carts, personal phones, etc.)

District (or school) guest speaker approval for a Police officer and K9 unit

At least 10 paper/cardboard boxes (shoe boxes, department store clothing boxes, etc.)

A small quantity of the substance that the K9 unit has been trained to smell. The police officer will need to bring this in. Detection Dogs can be trained to identify: illegal drugs, currency, blood, firearms, explosives, electronics, plants, animals, produce, and agricultural items.

Prior to the Lesson

  • Organize with the local police department and arrange a date for the officer to bring in a K9 unit. Make sure proper school approval is obtained and to mention the set-up needed with the boxes, etc.


  • Explain to students that today we will be learning how dogs use their superior senses and how they compare to human senses.

Explicit Instruction/Teacher Modeling

  • Have students first complete questions 1-3 based on their research.
  • If possible and appropriate, use social media platforms (or the class website) to post the AKC links. If this is not available, students can type in the link themselves manually or utilize a search engine.
  • For students who are unaware of their visual acuity, the teacher can utilize one of several options. Read some of these options here: It is recommended that the teacher, at most, only provide a “ballpark” estimate and explain it as such. For this activity, students only really need to know if they have better/worse/same visual acuity than 20/75 in order to be able to complete question 6.
  • Teacher and police officer should have several boxes available to place around the classroom. Police officer should be the only one handling the drug being used and should discreetly place it in one of the boxes. No student or adult should be between the box containing the drug and the starting point for the dog (likely classroom entry doorway). If possible, complete this activity in a larger area than a classroom (gym, cafeteria, etc.)
  • Once students have completed question 10a, arrange for students to walk by each box in an orderly fashion. Be clear that students are not to touch or open any of the boxes.
  • Ask students to complete question 10b.
  • The teacher or police officer should provide clear instructions on what is about to happen and that students should absolutely stay in their seats (or stand where instructed) at all times. Police officer may have further specific instructions regarding actions and noises with their specific dog.

Independent Working Time

  • Allow police officer to issue command(s) and let dog do what it’s been trained to do. Notice and highlight the distance from which the dog knew by sense of smell which box contained the drug.
  • Allow students time to complete questions 11 and 12.

Review and Closing

  • Follow-up class discussion as needed if educationally meaningful and appropriate. Many police officers are happy to share stories, advice, and hold Q&A with students.
  • In another class session, review the students’ answers.


A New Look at Canine Vision. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Segre, L. (n.d.) What’s an Eye Test? Eye Charts and Visual Activity Explained. Retrieved from