Life Science Curriculum 8-12

(To return to K-12 Science Curriculum Page)


Submitted by: Angela Young

Position: N/A

Institution: Azusa Pacific University

Title of Experiment: DNA-The Backbone for Genetics, What makes the Chromosome?

Materials Needed:

6 Play-Do colors, 4 toilet paper roll tubes, wax paper

Scientific Background of Experiment:

This project is designed to teach what DNA is made from and how it forms into chromosomes, the building blocks for genetic information. As the students form the nitrogenous bases and the phosphate and sugar rings to the DNA, they will learn how the structure is built. They will see the separation of the nitrogenous bases into the four parts: adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytocine. Students will see how proteins are used in the body, and for what purpose they serve in the genetic make-up.

As the DNA then begins to make up the chromosome, the students will see the intricacy of the information one chromosome carries. They will also be able to visualize the different patterns that each nitrogenous base carries. As each student makes their own chromosome, they will represent the diversity that each chromosome is different and unique to each individual.

Designate each color of Play-Do for the separate bases of sugar, phosphate, nitrogenous bases and the centromere. Have students describe what each represents, including the toilet paper roll as the histone, and the centromere represented by the center ball. Keep wax paper on the desks/surfaces at all times to avoid stained surfaces.


1. Separate each of the colors of Play-Do into balls

2. Make skinny, short rolls for 4 of the colors and small balls with the last 2 colors

3. Make connecting sets of 2 of the rolls. Alternate the connecting patterns vertically so they appear like a ladder, without the sides, on top of the wax paper. Don't connect the separate pairs.

4. Form 2 vertical links of the balls by alternating the colors. These balls wills make up the sides of the "ladder."

5. Connect the balls to the paired "rungs"

6. After the "ladder" is formed, (it should be a decent length), make 3 other ladders and wrap around the 4 toilet paper rolls in the shape of an "X."

7. Connect the 4 sections with the remaining color of Play-Do, to represent the centromere in the center of the 4 sections.

8. The chromosome is complete!


Misc. Helpful Information/ Hints/ Suggestions: