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DNA Day Activity Ideas

Browse through a list of high-quality educational activities to engage students on DNA Day.

List of Activities

DNA Day Essay Contest from ASHG
American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) DNA Day essay contest is open to students in grades 9-12 worldwide and asks students to examine, question, and reflect on important concepts in genetics. The submission site is closed and winners will be announced on DNA Day (Tuesday, April 25, 2024).

Genetics and Genomics Lesson Plans by NSTA and NHGRI
Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code provides free lesson plans and storyline units to help guide your students as they explore various genetics and genomics concepts. Units will culminate in community-focused projects. High-quality professional learning experiences will also be developed to support teachers’ use of the instructional materials.

Microbiome Lesson Plans from NHGRI Short Course in Genomics Alumni
The microbiome lesson plans were inspired by lectures and resources on the microbiome offered at the National Human Genome Research Institute’s (NHGRI) Short Course in Genomics. The four lesson plans focus on an introduction to the microbiome, inquiry-based and virtual labs, and the microbiome’s connection to Metabolic Syndrome.

Make A Candy DNA Model
This tasty activity from the Science Buddies website helps you to explore the shape and structure of DNA. Four colors of gummy sweets represent the four bases that make up DNA. Using the tooth picks you can pair the bases correctly and make up the ladder-like shape of the DNA helix. And the best part of the activity - it's edible!

’15 for 15’ Resources
Discover vetted resources highlighting advances in genomics created as part of the 15th anniversary celebration of the completion of the human genome project and the discovery of the double helix. These resources provide an explanation of the advance, videos highlighting various topics, and how anyone can engage in the science. Resources for the interested public, educators, and healthcare providers are also included.

Educational Videos from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)
Five educational videos produced by 42 Degrees North for NHGRI, presenting genomics in a visually stunning and easily understandable manner. The videos present topics on lessons learned from the Human Genome Project, commentary from scientists and politicians on what the genome has revealed to us, what genetic testing can and cannot tell us about where we come from, the impact genomic medicine can have on patients, and finally, a wonderful presentation on the “dance” between the genome and the environment.

Strawberry DNA Extraction
This video includes everything you need to know about getting DNA out of strawberries. Learn easy and fun ways to extract DNA from fresh or frozen strawberries as explained by Dr. Eric Green and Jenny Montooth. Instruction sheets of the activity are available in English and Spanish.

Modules for Classroom Outreach from NC DNA Day
North Carolina DNA Day Ambassador Program has designed modules for outreach in the classroom, including presentation slides, activity protocols, presenter guides, and handouts. Module titles include "Epigenetics", "The Science behind E-Cigarettes", "Personalized Medicine", and "Forensics".

BLOSSOMS Lesson Video Library from MIT
Video lessons created by teachers on a number of topics including lessons on DNA in the fields of human evolution, forensics, cancer biology, and the study of animals. Some videos are NGSS aligned.

Ask a Biologist from ASU
Ask a Biologist by Arizona State University was created primarily for use by K-12 students and teachers and lifelong learners. The tools allows users to ask biology-related questions to professionals from the field who volunteer their time to answer.

Timeline of the Human Genome from Genome: Unlocking Life's Code
Zip through landmark moments in genetic and genomic research. Beginning with Mendel's work with peas in the mid-1800s, the timeline includes major landmark events in genetics and genomics, and culminates with completion of the Human Genome Project.

Timeline of Ancient DNA from Genome: Unlocking Life's Code
In the early 1980s, scientists began isolating ancient DNA from sources such as museum specimens, archaeological finds, fossil remains, fossilized feces, permafrost ice cores and other unusual sources of DNA. This timeline outlines the history of researchers in many fields, retrieving genetic information from ancient specimens and making ancient DNA research a fertile area of collaboration between research institutions and museums.

The Animated Genome from Genome: Unlocking Life's Code
A beautiful, informative animated video about what a genome is and why it matters to each of us. This video clearly and simply explains DNA's triplet code, DNA replication, forensic and genealogical uses of DNA, and much more.

Genomics and Human Identity Lesson Plans from Genome: Unlocking Life's Code
Genomics and Human Identity, an exciting new teaching resource for grades 7-12, was inspired by the NHGRI/Smithsonian Museum exhibit, Genome: Unlocking Life's Code, and developed with support from the Promega Corporation. Divided into two  free lesson plans, the classroom resources include a teacher's manual, student handouts and supplementary PowerPoint slides. Lesson plan 1 introduces four easily observed human traits and their variations and identified differences between the DNA sequences of two individuals. Lesson plan 2 takes students further into the human genome than Lesson 1 - and into the dark world of shark attacks and forensic analysis.

Teaching Evolution through Human Examples from NMNH
The "Teaching Evolution through Human Examples" project is produced by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). These robust tools for teaching evolution were created especially for AP Biology classes but are also valuable in basic biology classes. Its four teaching units focus on: Adaptation to Altitude; Malaria; Evolution of Human Skin Color; and What Does It Mean to Be Human? The materials also include a Cultural and Religious Sensitivity resource.

In & Beyond Africa from Genome: Unlocking Life's Code
"In & Beyond Africa" is an animated set of interactive learning resources freely accessible on the website for Genome: Unlocking Life's Code. Subtitled "follow our genomic journey," this interactive opens with an overview of human migrations throughout Africa and beyond, and contains five mini-games focused on topics of human development.

Resource Library from Genome: Unlocking Life's Code
The Genome: Unlocking Life's Code multimedia database is composed of free, copyright-free, downloadable illustrations, animations, and mobile apps related to genetics, genomics, and topics discussed on the website and in the NHGRI/Smithsonian exhibitionGenome: Unlocking Life's Code.

Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms from NHGRI
The "Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms," is a learning tool created by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) designed for use by teachers, students, and the general public to help explain the terms used in modern genetics and genomics. It features the voices of leading scientists in genetics explaining the definition of each term in their own words. The Talking Glossary is available in English and Spanish language versions online, and is available in English as a free downloadable iPhone or iPad app.

Visible Proofs: Forensic Views of the Body Lesson Plan from NLM
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) has created this lesson titled "DNA - A Molecular Identity". In Lesson 1, students learn about what DNA is and several different DNA typing techniques. In Lesson 2, students examine three different situations where DNA typing was used to carry out justice. Students also identify and evaluate different uses of DNA typing techniques and its possible benefits and misuses.

Tour of Basic Genetics from GSLC
The Tour of Basic Genetics by the Genetic Science Learning Center (GSLC) at the University of Utah walks through simple explanations of a number of key genetics terms, including "What is a gene?", "What is DNA?" and "What is Heredity?" These clear, plain language explanations are paired with helpful visuals allowing participants to fully grasp this important terminology.

Epigenetics Resources from GSLC
This series of resources about epigenetics by the Genetic Science Learning Center (GSLC) at the University of Utah includes an introductory video called "The Epigenome at a Glance," a number of interactive tools demonstrating key epigenetics concepts, and other great resources exploring the relationship between epigenetics and nutrition, the brain, inheritance and more.

Informational Videos from Stated Clearly
These engaging animated videos by Stated Clearly, accurately explain the basics of genetics and evolution. Together they act as an introductory course to these fields of study, with videos including "What Exactly Is a Gene?", "What is DNA and How Does It Work?" and "How Does New Genetic Information Evolve?"

Characteristics of Inheritance from GSLC
This series of resources by the Genetic Science Learning Center (GSLC) at the University of Utah about characteristics of inheritance covers difficult questions like "What is Heredity?" and "What is a Trait?" with simple language. These resources also include information about specific inheritance of gene examples, and ten straightforward, printable activities to learn about traits with your family or class.

Coloring with Cell Science Coloring Book Pages
Want to celebrate DNA Day with a younger crowd? Or just the young at heart? Enjoy Cell Press' Coloring with Cell: coloring book pages exploring the world of cellular biology. These color-in comics are graphical representations of a bioscientific process, left black and white for your coloring pleasure! Pages include a double helix, DNA replication and an RNA polymerase.

Molecules of Interitance from GSLC
This collection of resources by the Genetic Science Learning Center (GSLC) at the University of Utah includes information about molecules involved in inheritance, including DNA and Genes, RNA, Proteins and The Central Dogma, which explains the relationship between these molecules. These resources for each molecue include interactive exploration tools, explanations of core topics, and applications and examples.

Lesson Plans from pgEd
This lesson plan database from the Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd) includes interactive lessons for high school and college educators to engage their students in discussions of ethics and personal genetics. The lessons are relevant to multiple subjects, including biology, health, social studies, law, physical education and psychology. All contain background reading for teachers and students, a selection of classroom activities, discussion points, in some cases a slide presentation or video clip, and an evaluation. Topics include "Introduction to personal genetics", "Direct-to-consumer genetic testing", "History, eugenics and genetics" and many more.

3D Animation Database from DNALC
The DNA Learning Center (DNALC) at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has a large database of 3D animations that can be viewed within your Web browser or downloaded to play from your computer. These animations can be helpful for visualizing complex biological concepts. Videos include: "Transcription & Translation: RNA Splicing", "DNA Molecule: How DNA is Packaged", "DNA Unzips" and many more.

Chromosomes & Inheritance from GSLC
This group of resources from the Genetic Science Learning Center (GSLC) at the University of Utah cover the topic of chromosomes and inheritance. Resources discuss "What is a Chromosome", and "How Do Scientists Read Chromosomes" with a number of resources on karyotypes. Also, articipants can make their own karyotype in an interactive exploration activity.

'Your Genome and You' Infographic from NHGRI's PCOEG
This infographic - Your Genome and You - from the National Human Genome Research Institute's (NHGRI) Partnership for Community Outreach and Engagement in Genomics (PCOEG) offers the general public an introduction into the basics of genetics and genomics.Your Genome and You gives information on how the science of genetics and genomics impacts what a person looks like (physical traits) and their health (risk for disease). The images and text highlight the progress being made in this rapidly growing field and its impact on the lives of us all.

Pigeon Breeding: Genetics At Work from GSLC
This series of resources about inheritance by the Genetic Science Learning Center (GSLC) at the University of Utah uses the model of a pigeon to convey complex inheritance concepts, such as independent assortment, probability, epistatis, linkage and more. These resources include interactives, songs, games and a gallery of interited characteristics in pigeons.

Timeline: Organisms That Have Had Their Genomes Sequenced
In this timeline from the Genome Research Limited and Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, you can follow the timeline of organisms that have been sequenced. Starting with the Bacteriophage MS2 in 1976 to the Zebrafish in 2013, we now have a large catalogue of genomes that have been sequenced that we can study and compare. Included for each organism is: "What is it?", "Why was it sequenced?", "Who sequenced it?", "How many bases?" and "How many chromosomes?"

Genetic Variation from GSLC
These resources from the Genetic Science Learning Center (GSLC) at the University of Utah discuss "How Variation Comes About" and "What is Mutation?" Through a number of interactive exploration rools and informational resources, students can learn about sources of genetic variation and models for learning more about it.

Evolution: DNA and the Unity of Life from GSLC
This collection of resources by the Genetic Science Learning Center (GSLC) at the University of Utah covers topics on genetic variation and selection, and their relationship to time. This includes a number of evolution interactive exploration tools, where you can learn about drivers of evolution, track traits through time or explore rapid evolutionary change through "rock pocket mice." Resources also discuss artificial vs. natural selection, models of evolution through corn, the eye and the stickleback fish.

Sequence Bracelets from the Wellcome Genome Campus
In this activity from the Wellcome Genome Campus' "yourgenome" website, make a bracelet of DNA sequence from organisms including a human, chimpanzee, butterfly, carnivorous plant or flesh-eating bacteria. This activity is an enjoyable way of exploring the basics of DNA sequences and complementary base pairing. A DNA sequence is provided for a chosen organism. Make one strand of the bracelet and then create the other strand using the basic rules of base pairing.

Genetic Science and Society from GSLC
This section of resources from the Genetic Science Learning Center (GSLC) at the University of Utah includes current topics of interest in genetics and how they relate to society. These topics include: "Transgenetic Mice", "Genetically Modified Foods", "Pharming for Farmaceuticals", forensics, conservational biology and more.

DNA Origami activity
Create a paper DNA helix orgiami in this hands-on activity from the National Human Genome Research Institute. This activity brings to life the double helix structure of DNA in full colore. Download the instruction sheet and model, or watch the short step-by-step video on how to arrange the helix.

Last updated: March 5, 2024