Thursday, February 16, 2012

A different strand of chemistry

Yesterday, I extracted DNA from a strawberry. How often do you get to say that?

A parent of one student is a professor of biology at a local college and offered to come in and work with the class for 45 minutes. She started by giving a kid-friendly overview of what DNA is and how it works.
Then she got us garbed up in plastic aprons, gloves and goggles. Times like this I am reminded that as much as most eleven and twelve year olds push for autonomy from adults, they are still little children at hearts. Look how cute they are!

Once we got over how much fun it was to dress like a scientist, we got to work. We mashed the strawberries up and mixed them with a solution of soapy salt water. Vickie brought along lab tools to make this more authentic.
Then we strained the strawberry mash through filter paper and funneled it into a test tube.

Last we added alcohol to precipitate the DNA.

Most kids brought it home in a ziploc and left with their apron and gloves in their backpacks.

Lessons learned:
1) Personal lesson: I don't often get to be a student in a discipline I know so little about. Sure, I attend professional development for topics related to my teaching and personal writing. But I can't think of the last time I got to think hard about something so outside my areas of expertise. I enjoyed having a chance to be a student and will have to seek out other ways to experience this again from time to time.
2) Each of my students furthered their knowledge about DNA. For some this means now they've heard about DNA and know it's a part of who they are. For others this means they have deepened the knowledge they already had from other life experiences.
2) Science is fun! The tools are fun, the garb is fun, and if you keep working hard in school, it is a career choice.
Here I am modelling how it's ok to look like a total dork wearing lab gear.

How lucky I am to have parents willing to donate their time and work with my students!

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