Hello friends of the Magic Wood! I’ve got a marvelous piece of news for you. The days when I was dying for the Farmer are over; as you know a new charming Physical Education teacher has come to the Magic Wood to be part of the staff of the Magic Wood School, Mr Pompeus Greek, and yesterday I got an invitation from him to spend the night at his cottage.

I magically made up my face so that I didn’t look one second older than one hundred thirty years (actually I’m ten or twenty years older) and I did all my Brain Gym exercises dutifully so I was in perfect shape and ready for a romantic meeting. Uhmmmm… I really couldn’t wait to be with him!!!

This is just the beginning of an exciting story whose title is...

 

It was almost midnight: I had to hurry to his cottage. How strange, even from outside I could smell an exotic scent of patchouli, and lurking under the window I could also see that, besides burning aromatic sticks in every corner of his bachelor apartment, he hads also lighted candles. What an exquisite man!!!

“Oh Pompeus! I’m astonished at seeing how much care you’ve put in preparing the scenario of …” It was on that very moment that I pursed my lips feeling like a mountain climber who realizes he has mistook an abyss for an shelter just a few seconds before jumping into it. In the parlour there was the whole staff of the Magic Wood School including the headmaster (the Farmer) sitting on the sofa and two armchairs. Obviously the male colleagues had not understood my confusion but Ms Big Valley (have I told you about her before? NOOO?! Well she has a faint resemblance with prince Charles’s *beautiful* second wife…) was strangely sneering and presumably (or it was my imagination?) she had understood in what awful misinterpretation I had fallen… HOW EMBARASSING!!! But, as usual, my self-control and quickness saved my life.“

“How wonderful to have a surprise party!!! You didn’t tell me how carefully you had planned this event… You devil!!!”

Pompeus, blushing: “Hi Ms Hazel! Actually it not a surprise party but a *surprise* teachers’ workshop. I wanted to show everybody how memorable an occasion can be if we simply associate a particular smell or scent to it.

That’s why he burned all these patchouli candles, the rascal… I thought sourly

“Oh.. How interesting! Tell me more. I’m dying to learn more about this…” I could kill him if there weren’t so many witnesses around…

Pompeus went on with his demonstration which I’m dutifully reporting: “Everyone has had experienced smell memory in their lives: it is that type of memory which is usually triggered by the smell of their favorite food. Perhaps it's freshly baked cookies that evoke childhood memories of mum cooking in the kitchen for your birthday party. Or a chicken roasting in the oven could remind you of a happy family Sunday lunch. Similarly, we're all disgusted by certain other odors; some can even make us anxious.

How does smell affect our memories, feelings, and even blood pressure? Smell is the most acute of the five senses. As volatile essential oils are inhaled, they activate receptors in the olfactory bulb at the top of the nasal cavity. These, in turn, induce nerve impulses, which travel rapidly to the brain, where they trigger responses in areas involving heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, emotions, stress levels, and sexual arousal. Research is directed toward fully explaining how different smells cause different psychological and immunological reactions.

Ms Valley petulantly asked (just for once I sympathized with her nastiness…): “Yes, but what does all this have to do with learning? Because it’s for getting some deeper knowledge of the learning process that we have all come here tonight?” And she gave an askew glance at me, grinning maliciously. I grinned back.

Pompeus: “I’m going to tell you now: odor, memory and emotion are anatomically connected. The primary olfactory cortex, which collects information about smells from the nose, is directly linked to the amygdala, which controls emotion, and the hippocampus, which controls memories.

Memories evoked by smell seem more intense than other memories because they are more closely connected to emotion than memories induced by visual, audio or other types of cues…”

Ms Valley: “What should we ask our students to do? Smell the literature book? A smell is a smell: it doesn’t carry any information along…”

Pompeus: “It’s true but, while odors don’t represent information by themselves, on the other hand the they evoke emotionally-charged memories.

Have you ever experienced perceiving a smell and suddenly remembering an event that you'd forgotten for years? Or, just think how that au de cologne can make you think of a person you haven’t seen for ages to the point that you almost can see him (or her) before you. I confess I can’t but think of a certain woman when I smell Angel by Thierry Mugler... All these I’ve mentioned are examples of the connection between olfaction and memory”.

“How interesting and fascinating!” Said I blushing: You all know, I hope, that Angel is my favourite perfume… It was my imagination or Pompeus was winking at me? I decided not to let anything spill out about the perfume trickery and so I wore my most professional look: “Please Pompeus, tell us more about smell, it’s simply… fascinating!!”

 

Pompeus: “It is important for us teachers to understand the dynamics of olfaction. The primary olfactory cortex forms a direct link with the amygdala and the hippocampus, as I’ve said before. The olfactory nerve is very near the amygdala: I remind you that amigdala is involved in experiencing emotion and also in emotional memory. Besides, the olfactory nerve is directly connected to the hippocampus and hippocampus is in charge of s memory, especially working memory and short-term memory. As you know hippocampus and amygdala are a part of the limbic system, so we can say that olfaction is the sense that is physically closest to the limbic system which is responsible for emotions and memory. Indeed this may be the reason why odor-evoked memories are generally emotionally powerful…”

Ms Valley interrupted brusquely: “Very good! Now tell us what should we do in the classroom? Should we spray perfumes on our students as they enter the classrooms. In some cases it would be a good idea, especially if we sprayed it on their rubber trainers… “ She nastily giggled at her vulgar joke.  

Pompeus: “I talked to you about the role of smell in memories because it can be useful for enhancing learning. Actually I noticed that some colleague already uses this strategy. For instance, Ms Hazel, always keeps scented candles in the classroom. I’ve always appreciated this habit of hers because I’m sure that her pupils associate the scent to a nice experience and they will certainly remember what they have learned much more easily, because, as we all know, we tend to remember positive experiences and forget unpleasant ones”.

Believe me friends, I thought I was going to faint… and I even perceived a light reddish flush on Pompeus’s cheeks.

Pompeus: “What we could do to make the most of the powerful effects of smell on memories is to link a particular scents to a distinct topic. For instance we could use jasmine when talking about grammar, rose when discussing literature, or daisy when doing Maths”.

Ms Valley: “Daisies do not smell!”
Pompeus: “It was only an example… however the idea is to use a smell to trigger a memory, and to make the classroom a more agreeable place where kids have to spend part of the day. Don’t you agree?”

How much distinction and courtesy in this man! I thought.

Pompeus: “Now let’s have some tea and biscuits before starting the group works. Each group shall devise a different way of using smells in the classroom. Hazel (he called me by my first name!) You will help me to organize the groups because I can see you’re already deep into aromatherapy”.

 

My friends, you can’t believe how life has changed for me after this evening: new horizons are stretching before me and the only limit is the sky! Wait patiently for new events to happen because I will soon *update* you about the development of my story with Pompeus and I will also introduce you into more practical ways of using scents in the classroom and, why not?... in your PRIVATE LIFE!!!

Sequel of the story: Aromatherapy activities!

For ever yours

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