Friday, January 16, 2009

Vortex Cubes

Our Vortex Cubes from Dale Air in the UK arrived today just in time for our Oztastic sensory story. They were worth every penny! The "farm" one smells pretty much like a farm, or at least one with lots of cattle. The "burnt wood" brought back fond memories of sitting around a camp fire and "forest" smells like the evergreen woods in Colorado. "Apple" made my mouth water and "freesia" is just heavenly (and really really strong). The cubes are hefty at around 2 inches (OK, I'm really bad at estimating sizes, but they are big enough to hold onto while fitting comfortably in the hand), made of sturdy plastic, brightly colored, and well labeled. The scents were strong enough to be smelled through the box, styrofoam peanuts, 2 plastic bags, and an adhesive seal, which I'm sure made the package very popular with the dogs when it went through customs. The cubes cost around $9 apiece, which includes shipping and import tax, and took exactly 7 days to arrive. I have found nothing like them here in the US, but I'm sure they would be at least that expensive, if not more, if there was a US manufacturer. Customer service is excellent as well. I received quick and friendly responses to emailed inquiries. And the company has so many scents to choose from! There are 82 food related scents and 117 non food related scents as of today. Some interesting titles include Boiler Room, Dragons Breath, Street 1930's, Flatulence, and Dinosaur. And if you have a specific scent in mind but can't find it on their list, try emailing them to see if they can recommend a substitute or maybe create a new scent. They add scents all the time. I can think of a few right off hand (in case Dale Air is reading :-) ): swimming pool, gym shoes, locker room, wet dog, snow, autumn day, asphalt, large vehicle exhaust.

The uses of these cubes are limited only to the imagination. Put a container of them in a multisensory area for olfactory exploration. Buy two of several scents to create an olfactory matching game. Use with sensory stories, typical literature, history lessons, science experiments, etc., to increase understanding and enhance memory/recall (since scent is supposed to be the strongest memory trigger). Match to familiar community outings (although suprisingly I did not see one for Swimming Pool unless the Brits use a different term) or use as transition cues for various activities. Use scents of favorite or common foods to make choices at snack or meal times. Pair specific scents with colors for people with visual impairments to make art projects more meaningful (we have done this successfully using liquid potpourri on cotton balls stored in film canisters but the Vortex cubes would work so much better). Match scent cubes to objects, photos, symbols, or words. Use them to do a like/don't like inventory with individual students or classes. Or branch out and quiz random people in the hall. Play a "guess what this is" game with the cubes, another fun hallway/peer activity. For even more fun, pair the scent game with taste testing Every Flavor Beans (hmm...think I might have just found my "after spring break" activity).

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