DNA Experiments for Kids

Instructor: Shelby Golden
Find out how to teach kids about DNA with these fun experiments. In this article, you'll get directions for these activities and to find additional educational opportunities.

Fruit DNA

This experiment allows kids to extract DNA from fruit. Get ready by collecting these supplies:

  • Fruit (softer fruit works better)
  • Water
  • Clear dish soap
  • Ice cold rubbing alcohol (at least 70%)
  • Salt
  • Plastic bag
  • Coffee filter
  • Toothpicks
  • Clear glasses

Before you begin this experiment, make sure your alcohol is very cold. Putting it in the freezer to chill is a great idea. Once your alcohol is ready, collect your fruit sample. Now, get your students ready to squish it! They can easily do this by placing about 1/3 cup of fruit in a plastic bag and mashing it into pulp. Each child can work with his or her own piece of fruit.

Next, the kids are going to break down the cell walls of the fruit. That's what the dish soap is for! Have the kids mix ½ cup of water, 2 tsp. of dish soap and ½ tsp. of salt in their glasses. They should try to mix this without making bubbles and then add what they've created to the bag of fruit. Note: they don't need to add all of the liquid. Their mixture should not be see-through.

Once everything is mixed together, your students should remove as much air as they can and seal the bag. This experiment works best if you have around fifteen minutes for the mixture to sit.

Next, your students need to filter their creation. Have them put a coffee filter onto of one of their glasses and pour their mixture into the filter. Now they have juice! The rest of the fruit can be thrown away, and then it's time to add the alcohol. The kids should pour it slowly down the side of the glass, trying not to mix it. Instead, allow the alcohol to form a layer on top of the juice. The alcohol pulls the DNA from the juice in stringy white strands.

Congratulations! Your students or children have just extracted millions of tiny strands of DNA from a piece of fruit! They can remove the DNA with the toothpicks and even store it in a container full of rubbing alcohol. Kids can find out more about DNA and how it works with this chapter on DNA replication and mutation. Including these lessons with this experiment can help them absorb this information quickly.

Your DNA

This experiment allows older kids to get an inside look at themselves! Get these supplies ready:

  • Water
  • Clear dish soap
  • Food color
  • Salt
  • Rubbing alcohol (at least 70%)
  • Clear cups
  • Toothpicks

Your students can begin this experiment by mixing 500 ml of water with 1 tbsp. of salt, stirring until the salt dissolves. Have them pour 3 tbsp. of this mixture into a different cup and then gargle with it for approximately one minute, before they spit the water back into the cup.

They've just harvested their cheek cells! Now to extract the DNA.

Instruct your students to stir a drop of soap into the liquid they gargled. This will break down the cell membranes and free the DNA. In another cup, have them combine the alcohol and three drops of the food coloring of their choice. They should then tilt the DNA cup and carefully add the alcohol, taking care to avoid mixing the two layers if possible.

After allowing the new mixture to sit for approximately two and a half minutes, your students should spot white strings or clumps. It's their DNA! They can examine it with toothpicks to get a close-up look at the building blocks of their bodies. Additional information about the component parts of DNA and its functions are found in these chapters on DNA and RNA and DNA replication. Having the kids work on these lessons can help reinforce what they learned throughout the experiment.

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