Supplies for DNA Model Project:
- pony beads (6 colors)
- wire (2 gauges: I use 36 gauge and 18 gauge)
- key rings
- wire cutters
- needle nose pliers
Background on DNA
DNA is found in your cells. When we look at many cells under a microscope we will usually see a darkly stained center. That dark colored center is called the nucleus and it is where the DNA is found. We need to clearly define everyday terms and phrases like “blank is genetic” or its “in a person’s gene”? Students don’t always realize that is referring to DNA.
Need more review?
How to Make a DNA Model
Our DNA models are going to be on keychains. Students love the product of this activity, but they may need quite a bit of help at first. I have typically done this activity with freshman and sophmores in high schoool, but our K-6 grade group didn’t have much problem (with a little extra help).
Once they understand the pattern it is pretty easy. Adult supervision is needed for finishing off the ends with the wire cutters and pliers. The kids loving having something cool to attach to their backpack.
Other teachers would stop by to tell me how the kids have all been showing off their DNA. You can purchase DNA models from Amazon that range in price from $15 and up, but I love this hands-on version.
Steps to Make a DNA Keychain
Precut the Wires
- Cut an 18 inch long piece of the heavier gauge wire.
- Cut a 24 inch long piece of the lighter gauge wire
Pick out Beads
- Two colors to be the phosphate and sugar on the sides of the DNA (I almost always pick black and white, but it is up to you)
- Four colors in two groupings to be the bases. (Adenine-Thymine) & (Guanine-Cytosine)
Bend the Wires and Start Building
- Take the thinner wire and bend into a u shape (around the middle).
- Add two beads from a bead pair
- Take the thicker wire and the thinner wire and add the phosphate and sugar beads to both wires.
Add the First Base Pair
- Now add another base pair on one side of the thin wire.
- Feed the other thin wire through the beads from the opposite direction. The wires will cross like laces in a shoe.
- Pull the ends of the wires to put the beads together (don’t pull too tightly)
Add another Phosphate and Sugar
- The thin wire should now be aligned with the thick wire.
- Another phosphate and sugar molecule go onto both wires.
Continue to Build
- Continue steps to add bases to the thin wire and then phosphate and sugar to both wires.
Finish the DNA keychain:
- End with phosphate and sugar beads.
- Wrap the wires around the end bead.
- Snip the wire as close to the bead as possible to avoid sharp edges.
- Flip the top base pairs to the inside of the thicker wire.
- Attach key ring.
- You can lightly twist to represent the shape of DNA in the alpha helix.
If you were wondering…
By the way, my mom didn’t have the markers that would help to identify her best course of treatment. I look forward to the day when personalized medicine is the norm and not the exception.