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Middle School Student Activities

The DNALC program of genetics laboratory experiences includes a variety of hands-on experiments to introduce elementary and middle school students to the wonderful world of molecular biology. We provide onsite field trips to our labs and museum at the DNA Learning Center as well as in-school instruction. Many of these activities are also available at DNALC West in Lake Success and Harlem DNA Lab in NYC.

The following activities can be scheduled as a DNALC field trip or in-school. See below for reservation details.

Suggested for Grades 5 & 6:

Baggie Cell Model
Learn about the structure and function of the cell and make a cell model.
Diversity of Life
Investigate taxonomy using compound microscopes.
DNA Models
Learn about the genetic code and make a 3-D model of the double helix.
Mutant Organisms
Discuss the impact of genetic mutations and observe mutations in fruit flies and/or nematodes using stereo-microscopes.
Mendelian Inheritance
Use corn as a model to investigate the laws of inheritance.
DNA Extraction from Wheat Germ
Wheat was one of the first crops humans domesticated. Learn how to extract DNA from wheat germ.

Suggested for Grades 6 & 7:

Molecular Models and Bubbling Liver
Observe the metabolic enzyme catalase as it reacts with hydrogen peroxide and learn about the factors that affect enzyme activity.
Enzymatic Food Production
Use enzymes to make cheese and apple juice.
Better Milk for Cats
Build a bioreactor to convert regular milk into lactose-free milk.
Bacteria and Antibiotics
Observe the effect of antibiotics on bacteria.
Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria
Genetically engineer bacteria to become antibiotic resistant.
Viral Infection
Infect bacteria with a virus and observe the result.
Glowing Genes
Genetically engineer bacteria with the GFP (Green Fluorescent Protein) gene for bioluminescence.

Suggested for Grade 8:

Glowing Genes
Genetically engineer bacteria with the GFP (Green Fluorescent Protein) gene for bioluminescence.
Protein Purification
Collect and purify green fluorescent protein from glowing bacteria.
DNA Fingerprint
Use gel electrophoresis to analyze and compare amplified human DNA samples.
Gene Therapy
Genetically engineer "lactose intolerant" bacteria to become "lactose tolerant."

Suggested for Grades 5–8:

The Mystery of Anastasia (computer lab)
Students solve a forensic mystery by collecting and analyzing various types of physical and DNA evidence. Conducting DNA sequence comparisons, participants ultimately decide the validity of the claim of Anna Anderson, who presented herself to the world in 1922 as Anastasia Romanov, the youngest daughter of the last Russian Tsar.
Our Human Inheritance, featuring Ötzi the Iceman
Explore our newly remodeled exhibit, which now includes an exact replica of a 5,300 year-old man found frozen in the Ötztal Alps in 1991–Ötzi the Iceman.
Pollen Tells a Story
Investigate the mystery surrounding the last few days of Ötzi's life through the microscopic analysis of pollen.
Human Family Tree
Tour the Our Human Inheritance exhibit, then go to the lab to further explore the fossil record. Using skull casts, students examine a series of traits to investigate evolutionary relationships among early humans and construct phylogenetic trees that reflect their findings.

Reservation Details

In-school Programs

Teachers can select one, or a sequence of several of the above labs.

  • In-school instruction is $1,375/day (for up to 5 classes)
  • Contact Erin McKechnie at dnalc-ms@cshl.edu to make a reservation.

DNA Learning Center Field Trips

  • DNALC classrooms are limited to 24 or 32 students, and are reserved on a first come, first served basis.
  • For most field trips, we can accomodate two classes (64 total students) at the same time (9:30-11:30 am or 12:00-2:00 pm).
  • Two-hour wet lab/museum tour field trips are $350 per class.
  • Two-hour wet lab/computer lab and two-hour lab trips are $400 per class.
  • Contact Erin McKechnie at dnalc-ms@cshl.edu to make a reservation.

Two-hour field trip options include:

  • 1 hour hands-on laboratory and 1 hour tour of the Our Human Inheritance museum exhibition.
  • 1 hour hands-on laboratory and 1 hour computer lab, The Mystery of Anastasia.
  • One two-hour hands-on laboratory, such as Glowing Genes or DNA Fingerprint.
  • Two one-hour hands-on laboratories such as DNA Models and DNA Extraction.

Extended Day Field Trips

CSI: Learning Center Grades 6–8 $750/class
  • 9:30v11:30 DNA Extraction & Mystery of Anastasia
  • 11:30–12:00 Lunch
  • 12:00–2:00 DNA Fingerprint (recommended for 8th Grade)
  • 12:00v2:00 Fingerprint Analysis: Dusting for Prints (recommended for 6th/7th Grades)
Survival of the Fittest Grades 5–8 $750/class
  • 9:30–11:30 Exhibit Tour & Mutant Organisms
  • 11:30–12:00 Lunch
  • 12:00–2:00 DNA Extraction & Better Milk for Cats
DNA Basics Grades 5–8 $750/class
  • 9:30–11:30 Exhibit Tour & DNA Extraction
  • 11:30–12:00 Lunch
  • 12:00–2:00 Chromosome Splats (prepare and view human chromosomes with microscopes) & DNA Models (hands-on)
Ötzi the Iceman Grades 5–8 $750/class
  • 9:30–11:30 Exhibit Tour & Pollen Tells a Story
  • 11:30–12:00 Lunch
  • 12:00–2:00 DNA Extraction from Wheat Germ & Better Milk for Cats
Human Evolution Grades 5–8 $750/class
  • 9:30–11:30 Human Family Tree
  • 11:30–12:00 Lunch
  • 12:00–2:00 Mutant Organisms & DNA Extraction
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