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Genetic Mutation Activities & Games

Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

By understanding mutations, students will have an understanding of other biological principles. This series of activities allows students to learn all about mutations in a fun, engaging manner.

Learning about Mutation

Understanding mutations, or when genetic material is altered, is an important part of biology. Not only will it further student understanding of the function of DNA, but it will also help students understand a mechanism for evolution. This series of activities can be used together or independently to explore mutations in fun, hands-on, class building exercises.

Food Mutations

This activity can be modified to fit the food ingredients you have available and works to demonstrate what can happen to the phenotype of an organism when there is a mutation in its DNA. Below are the instructions for a turkey sandwich, but other suggestions include peanut butter and jelly, ice cream sundaes, and chocolate chip cookies (if an oven is available).

Materials

  • Strips of DNA with instructions with and without mutations (see tables)
  • Ingredients for a turkey sandwich
    • Loaf of bread
    • Turkey
    • Mayo
    • Tomato
    • Lettuce
    • Butter knife
    • Plate

DNA without mutation Instruction
TAA Remove the tie on the loaf of bread and open the bag
GCG Remove one piece of bread and place it on a plate
CCC Remove the other piece of bread and place it next to the first
TTT Open the mayo
GTC Place the knife in the mayo
CTA Spread mayo on a piece of bread
TTC Close the mayo and open the turkey package
GTG Place three pieces of turkey on a piece of bread
TTA Add a piece of tomato on top of the turkey
ATT Place a piece of lettuce on top of the tomato
TAC Make a sandwich by placing one piece of bread on top of the turkey, tomato, and lettuce.

DNA with mutation Instruction
TAA Remove the tie on the loaf of bread and open the bag
GCG Remove one piece of bread and place it on a plate
CCC Remove the other piece of bread and place it next to the first
TTT Open the mayo
GTC Place the knife in the mayo
CTA Spread mayo on a piece of bread
TTC Close the mayo and open the turkey package
GTA Place three pieces of turkey on your hand
TTA Add a piece of tomato on top of the turkey
ATT Place a piece of lettuce on top of the tomato
TAC Make a sandwich by placing one piece of bread on top of the turkey, tomato, and lettuce.

Activity Instructions

1.) Students should have a minimal understanding of protein synthesis prior to this activity. Inform students that they are going to 'read' the DNA and then follow its instructions.

2.) Have 11 students come to the front of the class. Move tables so there is a line of tables in front of the line of 11 students.

3.) Give each student his or her DNA instructions (copy and cut the table, so each student has a DNA code and the corresponding instructions).

4.) Each student needs to read his or her DNA code and then follow the instructions, passing down the bread (or other material) to the next student in line.

5.) At the end, show students how the DNA 'built' a turkey sandwich. You can pretend that the turkey sandwich is an organism and the students can give it a scientific name.

6.) Now, tell students there is going to be a mutation in the DNA. Repeat the activity.

7.) Now, see the final product. Is it a turkey sandwich?

8.) Repeat this by making additional mutations.

9.) Discuss how each type of mutation changes the phenotype.

Mutation Sentences

This activity goes into more detail about insertion, deletions, and silent mutations and can be used as a follow-up to the Food Mutation activity (or as a standalone activity).

Materials

  • Premade sentences with a key (see examples in the table). An internet search can provide other templates.

Codon Word
AAA I
AAC Dog
AAT Dog
CAT Eat
CCG Cats
CGC A
CGG All
CTC Have
GGG Big
GTT Day
TAA Long
TTA Rat
TTT Hairy

Activity Instructions

1). Students are going to use the key to decode the DNA and see what it produces.

  • AAA CTC CGC GGG TTT AAT
    • I have a big hairy dog

2). Now tell students there is a mutation in the DNA called an insertion. Ask students to identify where this insertion is located and then decode the DNA.

  • AAA CAT CCG CGG GTT TAA T
    • I eat cats all day long (note the final 'T' will not code for a word because it is not a complete codon).
  • Discuss with students how the sentence now means something completely different. What if this were a protein in the body? How could this impact an organism?

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