5 Fun Ways to Teach Your Students About DNA


Discussions about deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) are an essential part of the curriculum in many educational institutions, from elementary school through college. While much of the information is technical, teaching students about the importance of DNA is not necessarily boring. Below are five fun activities to include in the curriculum when teaching students about DNA.

1. The ancient art of Origami
What better way to intrigue students than through artistic creation? Similar to a spiraling staircase, DNA is identified by its double helix structure as its strands are intertwined as they convey genetic information throughout living organisms. The four bases – adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine – compose the steps of the staircase and may be paired into corresponding groups. For additional ideas and easy to use templates, visit Yourgenome.org.

2. Have a Q&A session
Create an interview panel. Make the discussion personal by asking students about specific traits they notice in themselves and their relatives that other individuals do not have. What is DNA’s connection to each student and their family members’ genetic structures? Are there distinct features that are linked to the maternal or paternal lineage?

3. Play Bingo
Much like the traditional game of bingo, allow students to color or mark off the squares on a bingo card if he or she has one of the traits mentioned. Award the winners with fun yet educational prizes such as books or home-team themed school supplies. Motivate them even more with incentives including homework passes or an additional recess during the day.

4. Design Jewelry
Ask students to choose a living animal, then provide them with that organism’s DNA code. Each learner creates two strands of the DNA ladder following the rules of base pairing (adenine binds to thymine and cytosine binds to guanine). Once completed, the result is an original necklace or made-up of complementary DNA strands.

5. Fun with Food
Using a few simple snacks (marshmallows or fruits), create the steps of the DNA ladder with toothpicks and use licorice sticks as its strands. After pairing the bases to create the ladder, twist and shape the figure into the double helix form. After the lesson is complete, let the students dismantle their project into a quick snack.

Bringing It All Together
Students are more receptive and easily retain information when teachers incorporate fun and engaging assignments into the learning process. No matter if you choose one, two, or all five of the assignments above as part of your classroom agenda, your pupils are certain to have an interesting and enjoyable time learning about the wonderful world of DNA.