Students in the DP Biology program recently concluded a unit on the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, otherwise known as DNA. DNA is in the class of nucleic acids and is the molecule responsible for transmitting genetic information from generation to generation. DNA is central to the study of biology and carries with it an intriguing history rife with scientific inquiry, communication, cooperation, and discovery!
The unit began with a comprehensive study on the discovery of the molecule as the carrier of genetic information. We progressed into the discovery of the specific shape of the structure and culminated with an investigation of the structure utilizing model construction and gene mapping.
Our study of DNA highlighted historic key players, including the role of a scientific genius named Rosalind Franklin, and two Nobel prize winners, Dr. James Watson and Dr. Francis Crick. As part of our study, students reviewed actual Nature Journal entries made by the Nobel prize winners, which included their early thoughts and impressions of DNA. Students also watched video footage of Watson and Crick speaking on how they came to discover DNA.
Our study included readings, videos, model manipulation and model construction. Students ultimately displayed great feats of
creativity when they were challenged with the task of researching an actual gene sequence for a particular trait and then transforming that sequence into a 3D genetic model. Some examples of student-selected genes are ADHD, Breast cancer, hair color, vitiligo, and diabetes.
Student models were chemically accurate, scaled to size, and creative in design. All models required a great deal of ingenuity to accurately shape the material into proper form; most were constructed with everyday household items such as clay, popsicle sticks, wires, old spoons, ping pong balls, straws, and Styrofoam swimming pool toys. Students were able to build, explain, and present their models with a high level of competency and learned about DNA in a fun, engaging way!