National DNA Day commemorates the successful completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and the discovery of DNA’s double helix in 1953. Since many in-person DNA Day celebrations are moving online, I’m hosting this compilation of educational resources to celebrate Digital DNA Day: April 25, 2020. This list has something for students of all ages, parents, and educators. Detailed resource summaries are primarily by Audrey Drotos, and this list was compiled with help from Dr. Christina Vallianatos. We note the best places to start for DNA novices with a Start here!.
Check back as we continue to update the list and release some custom content.
Image from NHGRI.
DNA in My Research
National Human Genome Research Institute
- DNA Day Activity Ideas: (Start here!) Check out the HHMI Biointeractive resource on this page for middle and high school lesson plans in genetics, educational videos on genomics, and instructions on how to do DNA extraction from a strawberry. This link also includes video lessons from MIT on DNA, and more animated videos about the history of DNA discovery appropriate for middle and high school aged students. Some of the activities are also listed below.
- 15 Ways Genomics Influences Our World: Once students are more familiar with concepts surrounding genetics (see educational videos at the links above), explore real world examples on this website. These resources are geared towards high school students, or middle schoolers with a parent or sibling’s help.
- Teaching Tools: (Start here!) Start with this resource, which covers thorough DNA lesson plans and instructions for making DNA origami, which can help students to visualize DNA structure. This link also includes lesson plans for transcription and translation and a history of genonomic. These resources are geared towards high school students, or middle schoolers with a parent or sibling’s help.
- Lessons From the Human Genome Project: This YouTube video gives a brief history of the Human Genome Project and some of its applications. This is geared towards high school or middle school students.
- National DNA Day Twitter to learn about programming and DNA Day information.
Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code
- Curriculum from based on the internationally touring museum exhibit—-a partnership between the Smithosonian Museum of National History and the National Human Genome Research Institute. This link includes complete lesson plans for high school students exploring genetic variation and human identity. These were made to supplement normal high school instruction, and include both lessons and activities.
- Animated Genome: (Start here!) These videos are animated introductions to what DNA is and would be a great introduction for high school and middle school students. The video runs pretty fast, so elementary students might want a parent or sibling present to help with reading. The animations are really fun! This link also includes videos on “Parts of the Cell” and “Chromosomes and Genes”.
- Explore ethical, legal and social implications with What do you think?: This link launches into an interactive website where high school and middle school students can explore ethical implications of DNA sequencing. This would be most useful after students have gotten a solid introduction to DNA and sequencing (see some of the above links).
- Explore the human origins with In and Beyond Africa: This is another cool interactive website where students can explore different time periods and how human DNA has changed over time. This would be most useful for high school and middle school students after they’ve received an introduction to DNA and sequencing (see some of the above links)
- Strawberry DNA Extraction Experiment: Now that you’ve got a handle on what DNA is, extract some yourself with directors of the NIH and NHGRI! All you need is a few strawberries and some other everyday household items. This would be great for students of all ages, with a parent’s help!
American Society of Human Genetics
- DNA Day Activity Ideas: This PDF file includes a link to the Strawberry DNA extraction above and another video about how soap works. In addition, it has an online activity involving space. The videos are great for kids K-5, and the online activity is for high school students.
- American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) K-12 Educational Resources: Check out the “Discover Genetics” page in the menu and then click “Genetics Basics” for access to 6 mini-lessons on genetics concepts. These would be great for high school or middle school students, with a parent’s help.
- DNA Day Essay Contest for high schoolers. This year’s submission is closed but check back later in the year for the essay prompt to submit! This is geared towards high school students.
- May 1, 2020 Reddit AMA: For high schoolers on Reddit, check out this link on different science topics, including DNA!
- Genetics Engagement & Education Network: This would be useful for teachers and the public interested in connecting with a scientist regarding a genetics-related question or getting a speaker at a school from ASHG. This resources is more for parents and educators.
- ASHG Twitter to see #GENEfacts: Check out the ASHG’s Twitter feed to see lots of new information and fun facts about genes.
- In Those Genes: Looking for a road trip podcast? This one combines genetics and history using a lens of Black culture to look at the descent of African Americans in the US. This is a great one for high schoolers and parents alike!
- DNA Today: This podcast aims to educate the public on genetic and public health topics and has guest speakers who are genetic counselors, researchers, and professors. Check it out to learn some new advances in genetics.
- Science Friday and their STEM Resources: Tune in to Science Friday by National Public Radio (NPR) to hear the lastest and greatest in science news, and check out the STEM resources to hear about new resources for science teachers.
Michigan DNA Day
- Modules: Use these modules to build on your DNA knowledge and apply it to cancer, forensics, pharmacogenetics, and more! Appropriate for high school students or middle schoolers with some help.
- This student organization at the University of Michigan is releasing a daily activity for the next week.
- Create origami DNA: Video and Activity
- Spot the difference: Explore the use of Zebrafish to understand human disease
- Meet three UM Genetic Counseling alumni and learn how to build a pedigree
- “Not all genomes are made of DNA! Choose an activity and explore what makes up a virus and learn how RNA viruses (like coronavirus!) can live on household surfaces and assemble more copies of their RNA genome.”
- Extracting DNA from fruit
- Inherited traits presentation (target audience 5th grade) and family traits trivia
The Jackson Laboratory
- The Minute to Understanding playlist has quick explainers about genetics topics from gene therapy to mouse models.
- Celebrate DNA Day with this Career Chat to learn what a genetic counselor does!
Miscellaneous DNA resources
- 23 & Me Education: (Start here!) Check out the “Educational Videos” tab to learn Genetics 101 concepts, from “What are Genes?” to “Out of Africa”. These instructional videos are great for middle and high schoolers.
- PBS Documentary with author of The Gene, Siddhartha Mukherjee, and Ken Burns: (Start here!) This awesome documentary is a great stay-at-home resource for students and parents alike! Good for all age groups, it covers the basics of genes and societal implications along with history.
- Part 1
- Part 2
- Clips from the documentary associated with companion support materials for grades 9-12 and 6-12
- Personal Genetics Education Project Lesson Plans: These are great lesson plans for high school or college students who already have a basic understanding of genetics and want to apply some of that knowledge. There are more than ten lesson plans here that explore the societal and ethical implications of DNA sequencing, and allow students to explore decisions scientists face when sequencing DNA.
- NC DNA Day Modules: If you’ve already mastered genetics, check out this link on epigenetics! This includes resources for a presentation which could easily be adapted for a lesson plan at home. This is great for middle or high school students who have already done some of the basic genetics learning.
- University of Utah Genetic Science Learning Center Resources: (Start here!) This website has a ton of great resources for learning basic genetics all the way to epigenetics, stem cells, and cloning. This would be great for high school students or middle schoolers with some help. Pigeonetics comes highly recommended!
- Science Tools in the Classroom DNA Inquiry Activities: : Start with learning how to use BLAST for DNA sequences, and then apply that to different DNA inquiry activities! This is a more advanced activity for high school students who have already completed the basic introductions.
- Guide To Live Action Role Playing Biological Processes: : This is a great resources for teachers looking for a classroom activity that helps to teach DNA.
- Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame Barbara McClintock Lesson Plans: This PDF has great lesson plans for high school students about Barbara McClintock, a woman geneticist. Check out the article in the PDF at the end, and then have your student complete the questions in the worksheet.
- National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science DNA related resources: Explore some ethical questions and case studies with your high schooler about DNA sequencing, cancer, genetics, and many others. These are great activities to apply genetics knowledge and think deeply about the concepts.
- DNAdots simple explanations of modern genetic technologies: These are great applications of genetics and could be used as small lesson plans for high school students who already have a good understanding of genetics. Learn about Prions, RNA-Seq, RNA Interference, and lots more.
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) BioInteractive Genetics Resource Playlists: Check out this link with tons of videos you can filter by topic, including biology, evolution, and genetics. These are great for high school and college aged students.
General Science Learning
- Mrs. B TV: A science teacher from North Carolina is providing science activities to do at home and instructional videos via Tik Tok and Instagram.
- Skype A Scients Want to talk to a real-world scientist? Help your students skype a scientist in a field they’re interested in! Sign-ups for classrooms seeking scientists and scientists wanting to contribute happen each semester.
- Amoeba Sisters Videos: (Start here!) The Amoeba sisters are great for elementary, middle, or high school students and cover tons of basic genetic topics. They’re short and great for younger students!