Have a nice DNA
Chromosomes. Ribosomes. Mitochondria — not to mention adenine and thymine, cytosine and guanine. Deoxyribonucleic Acid is proving to be a colorful subject.
The kids remember mitochondria make us mighty by turning food into energy. Ribosomes build protein — think ribeye steaks. The fact that strands of DNA are coiled in a double helix didn’t mean much of anything at all. They needed touchy-feely time to make it real.
The DNA Diagnostics Center offers a great download for making an Origami DNA Helix. The project is fabulous! It helped the kids see and touch something that was only a flat drawing in a book. Speaking of, I highly recommend Have A Nice DNA by Fran Balk and Mic Rolph. Colorful drawings and careful explanations make a complex subject easy to understand.
What about the Legos?
We used Legos to find our secret code names!
Each strand of DNA is made of four chemicals. They’re referred to as A, T, C & G. The letters are used in groups of three, called a codon. To simplify things, scientists have assigned one codon to each letter of the alphabet. We put on our detective hats and set out to determine our DNA Alias by assigning codons represented by colors. Then we built our name using Legos.
Farmboy was very, very happy because his stack of Legos was mostly green and yellow.
While building our Lego names, I remembered an episode of NCIS. There was a brilliant little girl who worked for the CIA and she had paintings in her room that were strips of color. As it turned out, the answer to a murder was spelled out in the painting using codon codes and corresponding colors. So … we used our Lego stacks to paint our names in DNA code.
And then … in a magical transformation that left me satisfied and whole and complete and chanting “Winna winna chicken dinna!” my youngest daughter asked,
“Mommy? Does Papa use those straws to breed the cows so he can choose their DNA?”
I love it when I can practically see the light bulbs going on!