Educational Highlight: Getting “up close and personal” with DNA
April 30th, 2021
Naiyiri-Blu Brooker, B.S Biology, returns to GSM for a very special workshop
As part of GSM’s science/Sachkunde curriculum, we invited a very special guest teacher for a monthlong workshop called “Meine DNA und Ich” (4/7-4/28 2021)
Naiyiri-Blu Brooker, B.S Biology (Organismic Sciences):
As an intro to Science Week, the second grade Owls learned about the importance of DNA not only to us, but to all living things, such as plants, animals, insects and even bacteria.
Over the course of four weeks, they got up close and personal with our DNA structure. Like the term ‘Deoxyribonucleic Acid’ is extremely long, DNA is an extremely long ‘thread’ full of information, like our skin, hair, and eye color; our hair texture; our height; if we are left or right-handed; and most importantly, that all humans share about 99% of our DNA. They also learned that humans share 95% of our DNA with chimpanzees, 60% with a fruit fly and 50% with a banana, to show that DNA is the center of all life and that we are all connected because we have all at one point, far far in the past, shared a common ancestor.
Activity after activity, from drawing self-portraits to building our very own unique DNA structure, the second grade Owls soaked up all they could about the important ‘code’ that makes us Us.
They learned that every little detail about themselves, such as eye shape, ear shape, the way our paper cuts heal, the phenomenon of how we’re able to breathe, comes from a computer in our body that translates the building blocks that make up our DNA structure (A,T,C,G) into proteins that carry out the work and projects in our body. To help the Owls remember these important building blocks, the class came up with very funny phrases: “Gorillas trinken gerne Cola” (Gorillas like to drink Coke) and “Ananas/ Aepfel schmeckt am besten auf einer Torte” (Pineapple or Apples tastes the best in Pie). Both phrases were used to show the importance of the pairings of the building blocks in our DNA.
Through another fun activity the Owls learned about how sometimes our computers in our bodies make translation mistakes, how, in simple terms, misreading a building block (A) as (C) could accidentally give the person allergies against peanuts or pollen. How forgetting to translate a ‘code’, for example (ACG) becomes (AC), could give someone dimples or freckles. The owls learned that farmers do this all the time with our vegetables and fruits, for example expressing specific genes to get our modern-day bananas or strawberries. With a quick genome reading of four vegetables (Wild Cabbage, Kohlrabi, Cauliflower and Broccoli) the students were delighted to find out that Cauliflower and Broccoli are technically the same plant, just that farmers chose to express different genes to cultivate different looking plants.
As a final activity to ensure our students have become Future Scientists, they used the tools we all need as scientists: creativity, critical thinking, and a magnifying glass, to solve the stolen cookie case. They understood that even though our DNA tells us apart, it is inside our body and too small to see without special tools, but we still have another way to show how although we are all similar, we are also unique – our Fingerprints! Not one set of Fingerprints is like the other, even with twins. With this new information, and fingerprint clues spread around the classroom, the owls spent their final minutes of this science project finding the culprit of the stolen cookie case: Naiyiri-Blu Brooker.
With their Future Scientist Certificate and DNA knowledge, the second grade Owls are ready to be able to discover new things, create, think, and most importantly play. All the things that make each and every one of us a Scientist. From a Baker to a Painter.