Cells and DNA in the classroom
Fantastic DNA! is a primary school outreach session involving activities based on the topic of DNA. The Cell EXPLORERS Fantastic DNA! School Roadshow is funded by a Science Foundation Ireland Discover award, which allows the different Cell EXPLORERS teams to visit schools in their localities. You can view the 2015 report on the Fantastic DNA! Roadshow here.
Meet real scientists
An important aim of this Roadshow is to give children the opportunity to meet a scientist and to act like scientists themselves in their own classrooms. Small demonstrator to pupil ratios mean that there is an opportunity for each child to talk one-to-one with a science student or scientist. In addition, we spend some time at the start of the session discussing the breadth of science and what different jobs scientists can do so that children can get an idea of what it is like to study and work in science.
Act like real scientists
During the session the children get to do an experiment following a protocol and using equipment brought into the classroom, just as a scientist would do in a lab. In this way the Fantastic DNA! Roadshow allows the children experience what it is like to work as a scientist. We also introduce the children to important biological concepts such as cells being the basic unit of life, and DNA as the instruction book for the cell.
Watch our Fantastic DNA! extraction steps video created by Corrib Digital to learn about DNA, why scientists study DNA, and how it can be extracted from cells. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more DNA extraction and cell biology videos.
Where and when and how to request a visit
The Fantastic DNA! Roadshow will be run by 12 teams during this year in 10 counties.
Our 4 newly established teams in 2019 will run school visits for the second year. These teams are from Dublin, Cork, Galway, and Limerick institutes; Future Neuro, Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), and Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT). All our active teams will be conducting the school visits in their respective counties.
The Fantastic DNA! school visits mostly take place during academic term 1 around Science Week (13th - 20th November), and the Galway Science and Technology Festival (13th-27th of November) for NUI Galway visits. Other partner teams may also run visits at different times of the year, depending on the availability of their volunteers.
You can request a school visit by contacting the team closest to your location via e-mail. Note that the number of visits that our teams can deliver is dependent on the availability of our volunteers, your geographical location and our funding. If we cannot visit your school this term, we will add you on our waiting list and visit you as soon as possible.
To locate the Cell EXPLORERS team near your location and to contact them, click here.
What does the session involve?
The session begins with a presentation that has a quick introduction to the demonstrators as scientists, the importance of science, and the breadth of careers in science.
We then go on to talk about cells, the basic unit of all living things. Then we move on to the location and role of DNA in the cell, and how DNA affects some aspects of how a person looks. We explain how the extraction of DNA from cells is the important first step that scientists must do to study DNA.
Each child then gets the opportunity to extract DNA from a piece of banana under the guidance of mentor scientists. The children follow a step by step protocol similar to the one used by scientists in laboratories.
After the DNA extraction experiment there is a short introduction to the basic structure of DNA which is reinforced by building a DNA model. The children will go home with a tube containing the banana DNA that they have prepared and a certificate with the newly learned DNA facts!
The session is divided into 4 sections and last approximately one hour.
Activity 1: Introduction presentation (15 mins)
Activity 2: DNA Extraction (25 mins)
Activity 3: Presentation on DNA structure (3 mins)
Activity 4: Construction of the DNA model (12 mins)
End of session (5 mins - quiz, certificates, good-byes)
This session is aimed at senior cycle primary school children (designed for 5th & 6th class, adapted for 3rd & 4th).
The session can be run in a class of max 30 students. The class is divided into 5 groups of between 4-6 children, and each group has their own trained scientist demonstrator who will work with them through the DNA extraction experiment and model building.
On one school visit the Cell EXPLORERS team will visit two classes in a school (1 hour with each class).
You can have a look at some of the feedback on the sesion from children and teachers on our 'What people say' page.
DNA is the key molecule to life, present in all living things and containing all the information required to make that living thing.
Understanding what DNA is and how it carries this information is becoming more and more important in todays world. Sequencing or 'reading' the DNA of a living thing is increasingly becoming easier and cheaper. Also, recent advances in techniques have made it easier than ever to edit or change the sequence of DNA.
Healthcare is moving towards a personalised medicine model, where evidence from a person's DNA will allow tailoring of medical decisions specifically for that person.
Research in DNA will also be important for tackling the global problem of food supply as well as addressing genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis.
In addition, the advances in gene editing techniques have created ethical and practical questions. These questions will need to be addressed both now and in the future.
Because of these reasons, Cell EXPLORERS believes that introducing primary school children to the concept of cells and DNA early in their education is important for these citizens of the future.
Why small group activities?
At Cell EXPLORERS we believe that hands-on activities are the best way to learn. We try to design our session so that the participants can work like scientists in their own classrooms.
Our DNA extraction experiment is designed to allow each child to get the experience of following a step-by-step protocol and using equipment and techniques similar to what is used in the laboratory setting to extract DNA from cells.
The small group setting of 4-6 children per one trained demonstrator allows for more one-to-one interactions and questionning to facilitate better learning and engagement.
Each child has an opportunity to ask questions and talk to someone who loves and studies science.