DNA and RNA are the blueprints for all cells. As a science teacher, I have been looking for a way for students to build a model of DNA that shows the base pairs (A=T, C=G) in DNA and RNA (A=U, G=G).
If you want to watch a video, please visit https://youtu.be/eVgUMtTA06c for my overview of how to demonstrate these tiles.
I also wanted a way that they could use to demonstrate RNA transcription. This set has all the parts of DNA and RNA, as well as a tRNA block and Amino Acid (AA) to help model transcription.
I found some paper versions similar to this, but I wanted something reusable and shareable with other science teachers. The labs are now for sale on my teacher pay teacher site,
This set has the deoxyribose sugar (D) and Phosphate group (P) for the backbone, as well as the Purines (A, G) and Pyrimidienes (T,C).
For RNA, it has the Ribose sugar (R), Uracil (U), tRNA, and Amino Acid (AA). Using the tRNA block and Amino Acid piece (AA), you can use this set to build, copy, and transcribe DNA into a protein.
While these can be kept in a plastic bag, I know that storage space is at a premium for your science closet. I've kept a class set in a school lunchbox. Each set is designed for a group of 2-3 students. There is enough for 6 base pairs.
UPDATE: The D pieces has been reshaped to prevent students from putting the T & U In the wrong location and orientation.
UPDATE: The 3 prime and 5 prime markers have been reshaped.
UPDATE: The A & T letters have been transposed to better illustrate that A is a larger molecule then T & U.
UPDATE: The U piece has be switched to keep in line with the update above.
UPDATE: Expansion sets for gene editing are now published. http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1321230
The lesson plans and lab sheets are now for sale on https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/3D-Genetics-DNA-Manipulative-Lab-1-3452084
If you want to expand upon this set, I have the Amino Acid set available http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1282936
A partial index of available restriction enzymes is posted here, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_restriction_enzyme_cutting_sites
If you want any enzyme model designed, please contact via PM or email@example.com to commission a model.
I split the file so you can print runs in the same color. Each piece (i.e. A & T) should be printed in contrasting colors for visual pop. Make sure to trim or sand off any rough edges. I found that emery boards work great. You can also print in contrasting colors to provide more visual pop to the pieces. If you print them in sequence (A & T, C& G, D&P) you can quickly change colors.
You can use a permanent marker to highlight the edge of the lettering if it is hard to see.
For the Purines (A & G) I printed them in bright colors, while the Pyrimidines (T & C) I printed in dark colors. For RNA, I printed the U piece and the R piece the same color to help distinguish that they go together.
For the tRNA block, AA, and 3 prime & 5 prime pieces, I'd print them in one color.
For a teacher demo set or group of 2 students, I recommend printing the following.
12 D & P
6 A, T, C, G, U
2 tRNA blocks
2 stop / start codon blocks
1 codon marker
6 AA pieces
2 3 & 5 Prime end tags.
I found that all of these can fit neatly inside a lunchbox.
The RNA booster file contains a marker for start / stop codons, as well as a codon marker to show your students how RNA codes for a protein.
Student set can have the following (per pair).
12 D, R, P
12 A, T, C, G, U
1 tRNA block
3 AA pieces
1 Codon block
2 Start / Stop blocks
1 3 & 5 Prime end tags.
Trim all sharp edges and break of any brim. I use a flush cutter and hobby knife to clean the edges. You can also use magnetic tape to stick a set on the whiteboard.
This was inspired from other paper based manipulatives that I have used in the past to teach DNA.
I wanted a way to have the students handle all the parts of DNA, so I designed this set in TinkerCAD.
You can construct DNA, copy it, and model RNA transcription to a final protein with this set.
For this I did put a 0.5 mm tolerance between the tabs. I'd rather the pieces fit loosely then have students smash them together and shoot them over the class.
The pieces are coded with a letter as follows
Deoxyribose sugar (D)
Ribose sugar (R)
Phosphate group (P)
5 prime & 3 prime end tags
Amino Acid (AA)
Stop / Start codon blocks
Overview and Background
This set shows the parts of DNA and RNA. You can use this to manipulate DNA and show transcription.
Lesson Plan and Activity
You can stick some magnetic tape on the back to have a teacher set to display on the whiteboard.
You can print one large class set.
For teams of 2-3 students, print the following.
Dozen D, P pieces
6 A,T, C,G
Rubric and Assessment
This can be graded as a station test, lab, or rubric assessment.
Students should understand what DNA and RNA do for the cell.
Students should understand Chargafs Rule and match base pairs (A-T, C-G)
Students should demonstrate how base pairs match in DNA and RNA.
Students should show the 5 prime and 3 prime ends of DNA.
Students should describe why DNA is a double helix and anti parallel.
Students should describe all the parts of DNA / RNA.
Students should demonstrate DNA replication, RNA transcription, and protein synthesis.
Students should explain how proteins are produce from DNA.
Students should show 4 types of mutations (deletion, insertion, inversion, frame-shift).
Students should use a mRNA table to describe the amino acids produced.
Students should learn the code for DNA/RNA.
Students should show how DNA serves as the basis of our genetic code.
Advanced students can do the following.
Discuss possible ways to edit or change a humans DNA.
Discuss the ethics of gene editing.
Research the Human Genome Project, or present on a genetic disorder.
Discuss or present on past efforts at human genetic manipulation.
Research the Eugenics movement around the world.
This set can be used from middle school to high school aged students.
Elementary students may practice just with the base pairing.
For lower cognition students, this can help demonstrate base paring. Advanced students can show more about the structure of DNA with this set.
You can also have your students actually model a simple protein with this set.
Have your students work in pairs.
For a DNA beginning set, print 8 D & P pieces, 2 A,T,C, & G pieces.
For RNA, print 12 R & P pieces, tRNA block, and 8 U pieces.
For your bio class, you can print the 3 & 5 prime tags to put on the ends.
You can expand these sets as you need.
Before this, your students should have studied Mendelian genetics, and understand the basics of heredity.
Have a checklist for each set that they are accountable to.
Have a "Piece flies, you fail "lab policy to deter students from throwing them.
A. First have the students learn what each part of the model is.
B. Build a basic strand of DNA with the D, P, and base pair pieces.
C. Test the class by having them encode DNA, and matching the base pairs.
D. Have the class then build RNA (Use the R piece), and describe how it differs from DNA.
E. The students then explore how DNA is copied.
F. The class then models how RNA is transcribed. You can use a bubble shape cut from paper to model ribosomes.
G. They can then model the production of a protein using the tRNA block. It can go along the mRNA chain and produce the matching amino acid. You can use a post-it note labeled with the amino acid to build a complex protein.
H. For a unit exam you can use this set as part of a station test.
At the end of this unit, students should demonstrate mastery of the composition and construction of DNA / RNA.
Students should understand how DNA encodes for the proteins of the cell.
Students should demonstrate what the components of DNA / RNA are.
For assessment, students can make the DNA / RNA model for you. They can demonstrate the process of DNA replication, transcription, and protein synthesis.
For a challenge, have them film the process, make a stop-motion film, or teach this to elementary students.