DNA Jewelry: Patterns & Impressions, Math and Science

A lesson on DNA may seem overly complex for first graders, but visiting Bakken Museum scientists today made the concept kid-friendly through an interactive lab that made DNA visible.

Students sat in groups on the library floor, clad in colorful, plastic goggles. Thomas leaned over a container containing light green foamy liquid. “It’s squished up pee, or something,” he shared. Clarification: The liquid is what they called a “green slurry” made up of green peas broken down in a concoction of chemicals such as dish soap.

Zach used a plastic pipette to transfer the liquid from the container to a tiny vial in his hand. “I call it a sucker-upper,” he said of the pipette.

Once students had a vial half filled with the pea slurry, they added contact lenses solution, one drop at a time. “Oh, that’s so hard!” said Thomas. “It’s so tiny!”

Gideon ended up with solution on his knee. “I squeezed it too hard,” he laughed.

Thomas thought “it smells so weird,” but Jacqueline had a different reaction. “I love the smell of a doctor’s office,” she said.

Jacqueline dropped the contact solution into her vial until the liquid rose to the top. “This is supposed to be 10 drops, but I only did 5 because it’s almost full,” she said. She wasn’t sure if that would make a difference in the final result. She capped the vial and slowly turned it upside down then right-side up again to mix the slurry and the contact solution.

She held it up in front of her. “It looks kind of like lemonade,” she said.

Tanner had a different take on it. “It looks like cloudy snot,” he remarked as he peered at his mixture through a magnifying glass.

The Bakken teachers asked students to look for any stringy-looking strands in the mixture. “That is the green pea DNA,” she said.

Xander shared his observation from the activity. “When I was done, there was a bubble thing on top and I mixed it up and the bubble was inside and I think that was the DNA,” he said.

After the activity, students tied long pieces of yarn to their vials to wear around their necks, because DNA jewelry is so hot right now. It’s a good thing those vials are not really filled with pee and snot.