DNA Is Elementary: PCR Bridge

DNA elementary2This workshop provides a set of hands-on, engaging activities designed to teach young learners about DNA and genetics. The activities present DNA as an instruction manual that makes us who we are. Our goal is to produce students who can ultimately make informed decisions about the numerous genetics-related topics (e.g., cloning, genetic engineering, stem cell research) that will impact their lives.

As part of the Georgia Bio-Bus program*, we will present a set of activities we have designed to help young students DNA elementary1(grades K-5) gain fluency in the language of DNA. Principles of DNA structure and function are introduced in the primary grades using manipulatives, puzzles, and direct laboratory experiences. These include:

  • an initial “hook” for getting students’ attention that involves a game in which they match dog owners and their dogs,
  • construction of “bag babies” whose appearance follows Mendel’s rules for inheriting dominant and recessive traits,
  • a discussion of the role played by environmental factors such as UV light in producing mutations (nature’s typographical errors),
  • the use of DNA-based forensics to work through case studies that do not involve a crime,
  • addressing the riddle of the giant panda (bear or raccoon?) through DNA sequence comparisons, and
  • the use of kinesthetic activities to copy and de-code the instructions spelled out in DNA.

Materials needed to carry out these activities, along with a manual containing instructions for conducting the entire DNA Is Elementary series, will be available to all workshop participants.


Michelle Ventura

Michelle Ventura began working with the Georgia State University (GSU) Bio-Bus project in 2004 while she was a M.S. student in the University’s microbiology program. After graduation, she taught high school biology for three years. She subsequently rejoined the Bio-Bus project and is currently the project’s program manager. Under her direction, Bio-Bus students and staff members have given over 250 genetics-oriented presentations to more than 15,000 K-5 students and their teachers. She is currently finishing her doctorate in microbiology.

Lorna Gitari-Mugambi

Lab Coordinator, Bio-Bus Program, Georgia State University

Lorna Gitari-Mugambi has been a Laboratory Coordinator with the Bio-Bus Program at Georgia State University (GSU) since August 2016. She received her B.S and M.S in Biology at Georgia State University in 2012 and 2014. While working on her M.S, she was integral in the development of the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Module; a bridge module between DNA is Elementary modules 1-8 and Soil Metagenomics. This teaching module is geared to provide fun, hands-on activities to facilitate the learning of PCR by high school students