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Evoking the Senses

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This method gives participants the opportunity to identify associations and emotions related to a specific issue or case.


This method is for use when exploring a particular case or issue, especially one that is linked to a specific place. Participants are asked to consider the case using their full range of senses (hearing, taste, touch, sight, smell, and emotions or energetic feeling), and to record words, thoughts, and associations that come to mind. They are then invited to share a few of the words or concepts that they found especially illuminating. Consciously designating time and focus to imaginatively engaging all of the senses can lead to new insights and perspectives. Moreover, by capturing and sharing associations, sensations, and emotions, the group becomes more empathetically connected to the case, and to each other.

As a next (optional) step, participants can be asked to group keywords into clusters of related words, or “affinity clusters” (Silent Conversation). This practice highlights both the similarities and the differences in the way that participants perceive the case, and can be a good opening for further dialogue.


  1. Introduce the issue or case, for example via Storytelling
  2. Provide participants with paper, sticky notes, and pens and invite them to do the following (sample script):
    • Using keywords, write down sensations, associations, ideas, or emotions that are evoked by the story. Use all of your senses when thinking of the case. For example: What does the place smell like? What kind of feeling does it give you at the touch? Is it loud or quiet?
    • Next, choose 3 keywords (5 maximum, if time allows), and rewrite them on separate sticky notes in all capital letters. Place the notes on the flipchart when you’re done;
    • (optional) Read all the final words and, in silence, cluster them according to any intuitive relationships based on similarity.
  3. Summarize what has been written on the post-its and how they have been clustered (if time didn’t allow for clustering, as a facilitator you can cluster the sticky notes yourself following the same logic);
  4. (optional) Ask participants to reflect on similarities or contrasts that they notice;
  5. (optional) Leave the sticky notes visible on a flip-chart for the duration of the session.

Place on U
5-10 minutes
Materials Needed

Sticky notes; flip-chart paper; pens or markers.

Disruptive Practices
Ecological Mindsets
Human-Nature Connection
Ideation & Brainstorming
Sense of Place
Tip and Experiences
  • Make sure you ask people to write only a few keywords, to narrow down the number of associations;
  • Make sure they are written in clear language that everyone can read.

Relevant References & Resources

Chatterjee & Hannan (2015). Engaging the Senses: Object-Based Learning in Higher Education.

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