‘AromAtom: Discover the Smell of Space’ is an educational experience designed for schools, particularly those with pupils aged 7-14, that provides inspiring and engaging learning activities relating to Space and Earth Sciences.
Using the olfactory sense as a tool to engage the imagination, children are taken on an imaginary journey during which they discover the Universe, by smelling a number of odours related to the composition of the planets and moons of the Solar System, and to the accounts of Apollo and ISS astronauts.
The whole experience is delivered by AromAtom’s founder Marina Barcenilla, with the assistance of teachers and school staff who already know the children.
Who is Marina?
Marina is one of those rare creatures, a scientist-artist, or an artist-scientist, who has a passion for space and for making science accessible and fun, especially for children.
As a child, she loved biology and natural sciences, but she gave up on STEM subjects at the age of 14 after a lack of encouragement from her teachers, who told her that science subjects were clearly too difficult for her to grasp, and that she was ‘not made for it’ and should focus on more artistic pursuits. She believed them, and chose to focus on languages, business studies, and on her passion for everything smelly, which lead her to become an award-winning perfumer with a successful career in the fragrance industry.
Fortunately, she rediscovered science in her early thirties and, at forty, she went back to university to study a BSc in Planetary Science and Astronomy at Birkbeck University of London, where she developed an unwavering interest in science communication and outreach. Marina is now a Doctoral Researcher studying a PhD in Astrobiology at the University of Westminster where she hopes to get more involved in science outreach work. With AromAtom, she hopes to make science fun and engaging for all, but especially for children and teenagers who might be struggling with difficult subjects just as she did, and to encourage them not to give up.
The sense of smell
Creating the ‘smells of space’ was inevitable for Marina, since the two main things that occupy most of her time are studying space and the creation of fragrance. After more than twenty years working with fragrance and researching the sense of smell, she has witnessed first-hand the effect that olfactory memories have on people, from helping them to learn difficult concepts, to recalling events, places and information by simply smelling the right things. Research on the role of the olfactory sense in education has also found that aromatic stimulus may play a crucial role in cognitive learning (Akpinar, 2005).
During the AtomAtom experience, different smells are used not just to enhance the learning experience, but to engage the imagination and prompt children to ask questions and offer their thoughts and ideas, making the experience inclusive and interactive.
If you would like to bring AromAtom into your school, please get in touch with Marina at
aromatom @ mail.com