DNA Unit Plan

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

As you teach about DNA, you can utilize this unit plan with its activities and projects to improve the analytical, communicative, and cooperative skills of your high school students.

Why DNA?

DNA is in every cell, and it may shape our personalities and mental abilities, as it certainly shapes our physical traits. While the debate between nature and nurture rages on, scientists continue to study DNA to one day be able to eradicate debilitating illnesses. By learning about DNA, your high schoolers will understand how it affects these medical issues, legal issues such as court cases, and social issues such as where their ancestors lived. When teaching this DNA unit plan, it may be helpful to start with a broad general outline, and then work your way down to more precise subject matter. They will work on activities and project in pairs or groups.

Getting Started and the Structure of DNA

Before starting with this unit plan, inspect some of the activities in the various resources within the unit. In several of the lessons, you will notice students create a DNA model. It may be to your benefit to select your set of materials ahead of time to use throughout the lessons. For instance, if food interests your class, use gumdrops, licorice sticks, and toothpicks. If costs are an overriding factor, use art supplies and paper. Then as each lesson unfolds, use those same materials to make those models, or simply make changes to the previous model. In the initial lesson, they create a basic model. Next, they can play around with various nitrogen bases. After that, they can play around with combining bases, and then how they are mutated or changed artificially. To save on resources and time, utilize the same set of materials for each of the models, and arrive at creative ways to address the new concepts by amending the previous model.

Because DNA is such a broad topic, it is a good idea to start this unit with some basic questions about DNA, to gauge your students' knowledge. Help students imagine what DNA is like and its relation to the human body with this DNA Structure Lesson Plan.

DNA Replication and Mutation

Cells divide to produce new cells, and each cell has its own DNA. Educate your students with this DNA Replication Lesson Plan & Activity.

Furthermore, a lot of students might not realize that DNA can change over the course of time. Consult the DNA Mutation Lesson Plan.

Chromosomes, Genomes, and Genes

Closely related to DNA are the concepts of chromosomes, genomes, and genes. Study the Chromosomes Lesson Plan.

Recombinant DNA and Genetic Engineering

In addition, recombinant DNA is used in the health fields and for modifying foods. This Recombinant DNA Lesson Plan will discuss these sometimes contentious issues.

Probably the most controversial topic related to recombinant DNA is the concept of genetic engineering. The Genetic Engineering Lesson Plan will shed some light on the subject.

Activities and Discussion Questions


Do you want to aid your students as they practice their knowledge and skills, and add a touch of fun to this unit plan as well? Then introduce one of these hands-on activities to your students.

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