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DNA Model Project Ideas

Instructor: Shelby Golden
Find ideas for DNA model projects with this article. You can get information about the supplies your class will need, as well as easy-to-understand directions.

Delicious DNA

This DNA modeling project is educational, fun and delicious!

Possible Supplies:

  • Licorice
  • Toothpicks
  • Marshmallows (4 different colors)
  • Paperclips
  • Masking tape

What to Do:

1. Students will begin this project by choosing the DNA sequence they'd like to model (a simple option is T T A A G A T T T G G T).

2. Next they will need to assign a marshmallow color to each DNA base (adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine).

3. Your students can review the component parts of DNA with the What is DNA? video lesson. This lesson can help ensure your students are familiar with the basic components that make up DNA before they get to work on this project.

4. The licorice with serve as the backbone for your students. Have them use the toothpicks to stick the marshmallow bases into the licorice in the proper order. They should complete the sequence they chose from one end of the licorice to the other, leaving it looking like a one-sided ladder.

5. Have your students label the licorice DNA-1 and prepare to match their base pairs.

6. Your students will need to slide the matching marshmallow base onto each toothpick (as a refresher: adenine pairs with thymine; cytosine pairs with guanine). They should pair each base, making sure there are two marshmallows on each toothpick.

7. Now students can carefully push the other licorice onto the end of the toothpicks.

8. Have your students twist their model so it forms the proper shape and carefully label their licorice and marshmallows!

Realistic Model

This DNA model is slightly more difficult to build, but offers a more realistic finished project. Students can check out a chapter on DNA before getting started.

Your Students Will Need:

  • Foam balls (6 different colors)
  • Toothpicks
  • Needle and thread

Instructions:

1. Have students pick two colors to represent the pentose sugar and phosphate molecules that form these backbones. Students will alternate these colors and then hook them together with the needle and thread.

2. Students assign the remaining four colors to the bases and hook them in matched pairs to the backbones with the toothpicks. They can use the same DNA sequence for this project, or you can select a different one for them to model.

3. Your students will need to carefully rotate the foam balls once everything is connected to create the distinctive DNA double helix!

4. Make sure your students properly label all of the parts of their model. They can even create a handout that explains what each of the components represents.

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