Teaching DNA, Proteins, and Protein Synthesis with the MIT Edgerton Center hands-on models and curriculum

DNA2In previous years we have offered workshops with prototype models of DNA and proteins to teach cell processes. However, this year is the breakthrough year--- we have designed and manufactured DNA/ RNA, Protein, and tRNA models of our own injection-molded design for distribution. This year, we also completed instructional booklets at basic and advanced levels for the DNA and Protein Sets. See the URL for the flyers. Our molecules are made to be manipulated; they teach cellular processes such as replication, transcription, and translation. Overall, our models can demonstrate DNA and protein structures, including protein folding and show how a protein’s shape determines its function. The lessons for the models are easily adjusted to meet different standard levels.

Lessons at the workshop will include:DNA1

  • Bk 1: Basic Protein Structure (including protein folding) and function.
  • Bk 2: Advanced Protein Structure and Protein Examples – A Completely NEW Booklet!
    • Four Levels of Protein Folding: Folding is explained with examples to be constructed.
    • Hormone Protein: build proinsulin to convert it into an insulin molecule.
    • Structural Protein: build actin & myosin to enact sliding filament model of muscle contraction.
    • Digestive Enzymes: build trypsin and chymotrypsin and cut food proteins.
    • Defense Protein: build an immunoglobulin molecule to learn about antigen specificity.
  • Bk 1: Basic DNA/RNA structure and function, includes replication and transcription.
  • Bk 2: Advanced DNA topics includes:
    • Leading and lagging strand replication,
    • DNA oxidative damage and repair,
    • Additional mutation lesson about single nucleotide substitutions and their nomenclature, and
    • Discussion of mutations and resulting diseases.
  • Transcription (mRNA copy made from DNA) from a gene that will be transcribed and translated.
  • Translation (protein made from mRNA) on the ribosome with the tRNA models, mRNA, amino acids.

DNA3This method of teaching provides unique clarity since all the steps are modeled with the tactile molecules and this consistency in presentation helps participants understand the process.
In addition to the manipulatives, computers are utilized for modeling. The instructior will demonstrate Star BioChem a 3-D protein viewer and the Concord Consortium Molecular Workbench, both available free online.


Amanda G. Mayer

Amanda G. Mayer received her Ph.D. in Genetic Toxicology from MIT and earned her Massachusetts Teaching License in high school biology. She has organized and taught hundreds of workshops in biology, chemistry, and environmental science to middle school, high school, and college students; classroom teachers and informal educators; health care professionals; and other groups. She is also one of the main curriculum developers for the MIT Edgerton Center.