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Goal: Introduction to genetics and the basis of the building blocks of Life. Become a science sleuth and investigate what DNA is and its role.
Build a DNA Molecule with Origami
Build a DNA molecule Using Candies
Enjoy your usual opening, have everyone sit down and ask the group what they know about genetics, DNA, cells and genetic diseases (if they know of any genetic disease). In this activity, you will extract the DNA of a kiwi and build two DNA models. Both models present the major components of a strand of DNA.
Cells are tiny, round essential entities (like bricks), assembled together to make your own body. Your body is built of trillions of cells (10,000,000,000,000) and each cell has its own job. Plants and other animals are made of different types of cells.
The genetic information for making every cell of your body is contained in the chromosomes. In animals and plant cells, chromosomes are segregated in the nucleus of the cells. The chromosomes are what is transmitted from one mother cell to a daughter cell when a new cell is built. Chromosomes are also the information transmitted from the parents to the baby.
The human genome is composed of 23 pairs of chromosomes per cells, while Chimpanzees have 24 pairs, Cows 30 pairs, Chickens 39 pairs, Fruit flies 4 pairs, and Bananas 11 pairs. It is made of pairs because one copy comes from the mom and the other copy from the dad. Our genome is 98.5% identical to the DNA of Chimpanzees.
Chromosomes are the condensed structure of the DNA molecule (Deoxyribo Nucleic Acid). DNA is the biological instructions/molecule that contains the genes, which encode for every cell’s and organism’s components, structure and purpose. In other words, DNA is a record of instructions telling the cell what its job is going to be. The genes are written in a molecular alphabet of 4 “letters/molecules”: A, T, C, and G. A stands for Adenine [ËˆædÉ™nÉªn], T for Thymine [ËˆθaÉªmiËn], C for Cytosine [ËˆsaÉªtÉ™sÉªn] and G for Guanine [ËˆÉ¡wÉ‘ËniËn]. While A and T only pair together, C and G only pair together. Organized sequences of these A-T, T-A, G-C and C-G pairs form the genes. In 2003 the human genome (the complete set of genes to make a human being) has been completely sequenced and most of the genes mapped. So far, your genome is known to contain close to 20,000 genes each of them coding for a specific function.
The genetic information is what makes you physically similar to the other people around you, but also makes you different. Natural genetic variation (the order of the A-T and C-G pairs) is what makes hair, skin or eyes color, height, male or female different. Each person has their own version of the “human instruction manual” and only identical twins share the exact same genetic information. When a mistake happens in the ATCG text it is called a mutation and it can cause genetic diseases such as albinism or dwarfism.
A DNA molecule has a coiled braid or ladder shape that has been twisted into a corkscrew: two strands are tight together like jigsaw puzzle pieces and that’s called the double helix. One strand of the molecule is the "negative" of the other and both strands serve different instruction purposes. The strands are made of Deoxyribose (sugar) and phosphoric acid, with the corresponding 4 organic bases A, T, C and G inside the strands.
Picture DNA as a ball of wool. All your DNA is densely packed into 23 pairs of chromosomes that form the human genome. Now if you were to unravel the DNA strand, imagine rolling the ball of yarn along the floor, the DNA strand would measure 2 meters (6 feet long) – just for one cell. If you took the DNA strands in every cell of your body and stretched them out, you could make a DNA line all the way to the Moon.
Different species have different DNA sequences, and different numbers of chromosomes, depending on the quantity and organization of their genes and DNA molecules.
In 1953, James D. Watson & Francis Crick got the Nobel Prize of Medicine for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids (DNA) and its significance for information transfer in living material. Their model of the DNA double helix is mostly based on an X-ray observation from another scientist Rosalind Franklin before she had the chance of formally publishing her data. No acknowledgement was publicly given to Rosalind at that time.
Here is a video you can all watch about DNA, the instructions contained in genes and different species genomes: http://kidsciencestuff.blogspot.ca/2009/12/dna-video-for-kids.html
Time: Approximately 45 minutes
The DNA you’ve extracted comes from billions of kiwi cells, which is why you can see it. However, DNA is so thin (2 nanometers in diameter, which is 10,000 times smaller than a human hair) that if you unravel it you won’t be able to see a single DNA strand without an incredibly powerful microscope.
Time: 25 minutes including a quick colouring.
If you unravel the DNA molecule that you’ve just extracted from the kiwi and observe it under an X-ray microscope, this is what it would look like.
For more detailed instructions go to http://www.yourgenome.org/activities/origami-dna and select if you want the Instructions for Coloured Template or Instructions for Blank Template.
Time: 15-20 minutes
This is the DNA molecule that is condesned in the jelly blob that you just extracted from the kiwi.
Enjoy your regular closing and ask the group to remember what you talked about life, science, genetics and cell biology. Have them bring home their craft (origami DNA and/or candy DNA strand) to show their parents.
Updated May 25, 2015
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