Fantastic DNA in a box is a classroom kit, complete with both materials and resources, that allows every pupil/student to extract the DNA from a banana in a classroom environment.
Teachers can either run this activity themself in their classroom, guided by downloadable resources, or they also have the option of inviting 1 or 2 Cell EXPLORERS scientists to remotely facilitate the experiment, through a video conferencing platform, on the day of the experiment.
Pupils/students who have done the experiment with their teachers can also meet the Cell Explorers scientists online for a Questions and Answers session about the experiment, the science behind the process, what the Cell Explorers scientist study, and what they do as a hobby when not doing science.
With the help of the box’s pre-packaged materials, video instructions & optional online support, teachers can set up this session with ease and run a discussion on the science of cells and DNA, as well as facilitate a hands-on DNA extraction in their classroom, as well as have a discussion science as a career.
A very similar workshop, Fantastic DNA at Home, has been developed for families: a science kit is sent to participants in advance of a live online meeting, where children and their guardians can prepare DNA in small groups, and ask as many questions as they want to the Cell Explorers scientists.
- Children 3-6
- Children 7-12
You can do it with all those groups, but we did it with professionals from different fields like public engagement or the cultural and creative sector.
Fantastic DNA in a box give an opportunity for children to practice hands-on science. DNA extraction is a real experiment done by all modern biology working on cells and living organisms.
The resources provided to the teachers can empower them to run the experiment themselves, transforming any classroom, into a laboratory.
The online sessions are designed to help broaden young people’s ideas of what it means to be a scientist, and to address some scientist-related misconceptions such as ‘scientists are all clever/brainy’, ‘scientists cannot be feminine/girly’, ‘scientists do not have any interests outside of science’. This is to make science seem more accessible and relatable to young people.
The sessions with Cell EXPLORERS explainers include a short ‘Q & A time’ during which pupils/students can ask the Cell EXPLORERS different questions about:
• The DNA experiment
• The daily life of a scientist
• The hobbies/interests of a scientist
• The Cell EXPLORERS explainers’ motivations for becoming a scientist
The Cell EXPLORERS can also help answer some of the trickier questions pupils may have after doing the experiment e.g. ‘If I ate this DNA would I become a banana?’, ‘What would scientists do with this DNA in the lab?’.
If you were to use the Cell EXPLORERS box sets, you would need to prebook your delivery and book a session with the Cell EXPLORER facilitators.
Fantastic DNA in a box provides all the required equipment for this experiment as well as access to trained facilitators and researchers for the pupils to communicate with via a QnA session after the experiment.
However, this experiment can be set up by the classroom assistants/teachers themselves, using some household items and supplies, and the following method.
Place the alcohol in the freezer.
Prepare the extraction mixture by placing ½ a teaspoon of salt, ⅓ cup of water and 1 tablespoon of dishwashing detergent in a glass.
Place 1/3 of a banana in the resealable plastic bag.
Start pounding on the plastic bag using your hand or by hitting the bag continuously against a hard surface until a pulverized mixture is obtained.
Now add about 3 tablespoons of the extraction mixture in the bag containing the mushy banana and mix the mixture using your hand.
Place the coffee filter in a funnel and placed it on top of a glass.
Pour the mixture containing the banana and the extraction mixture into the funnel.
Collect the filtrate in the small glass, when the liquid has finished filtering, remove the funnel.
Tilt the glass gently, taking care not to spill anything, and pour the rubbing alcohol down the side to form a layer on top of the banana mixture.
Allow the contents to settle for 10-15 minutes.
A white clumpy, stringy layer forms between the two layers.
Use the tweezers to gently pull this stringy layer which is the DNA.
In addition, a similar QnA experience could be created by the school’s teachers or event organisers by liaising with local researchers or scientists. But this may require additional planning in advance.
Cell Explorers is an educational science outreach programme created in Ireland. Learn more about the programme on www.cellexplorers.com
Based on the activity of a network of volunteers from 15 Higher Education institutions, our programme aims to inform, inspire and involve young people and their families in science. This way, we contribute to raising public awareness of the value of science to society. We are funded by our partner institutions and Science Foundation Ireland.