In this 3-part lab, students will get an up-close and personal look at DNA, including its structure, how that structure is important for its replication, and how it is packaged and regulated.
Download the labs!
- Both versions of the lab use a ruler to make basic measurements, which should be understandable for almost any age.
- The advanced lab has a few thought / concept questions which are likely difficult for those below high school science levels.
- DNA is made of strings of nucleotides. A nucleotide is a chemical molecule composed of one phosphate group, one sugar ring, and one nitrogen-containing base.
- DNA has 4 types of bases: Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine, and Guanine (A, T, C, and G). These bases have strict binding rules, as A only bonds with T (and vice versa), and C only bonds with G. This is important for DNA replication to work.
- DNA is carefully packaged in the nucleus to compact it, protect it, and control which parts of the DNA are turned on and off in different cells.
Part 1 & 2 (per group of 2-4 students) – DNA Models
- 1 box DOTS gumdrop candy (5 colors per box) per 3 groups
- 1 box Crows licorice candy per 3-4 groups
- 1 box Twizzlers Bites (or similar*) per 3-4 groups
- 35 Toothpicks (flat, not round, if possible)
Part 3 – Strawberry DNA Extraction (also done in groups)
- Measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- Rubbing alcohol
- Strawberries (3 per group)
- Dish detergent
- Cheesecloth or coffee filter
- Tall cup / glass
- Sealable sandwich bags
- Test tubes (optional)
Part 4 – DNA Compaction (per group)
- A ruler
- A calculator
- 2 meters of sewing thread
- 2 pieces of white string or yarn, with colored patches (location is important (one towards the end, and one roughly centered), but you don’t need to label them)
- 2 strips of Scotch tape, wrapped into a circle (sticky side out)
*Other pliable, but firm, candies can be substituted, such as “Circus Peanuts” or small caramels