Thursday, March 18, 2010

And then your parents found a strawberry seed and poured your DNA on it!

Today was great, I pulled off the best science demo that I've done to date at a local Catholic school. The kids got to learn about DNA, chromosomes, and genes, and even got to test themselves for certain genes! Then we extracted DNA from a strawberry, which is fun and gooey, and it's also a good opportunity to learn about solubility.

The best part, though, was definitely the Q&A session afterwards. They were so curious, and the whole class was really attentive to the questions being asked so it grew into a great (and really long) discussion that blossomed out in many different directions. Some of the topics included:
-DNA testing
-gel electrophoresis
-goats that make spider silk
-genetic mutation
According to the teacher, the kids were so interested in the discussion that they insisted on spending all of their computer time this afternoon researching DNA and genetics! Wait, kids voluntarily and excitedly learning things? Win! They also asked me to send them the instructions for the demo so that they could try extracting DNA from their food at home. I predict an increase in fruit mortality.

The funny part of all this was, the kids hadn't even studied reproduction yet! It was obvious that some of them knew that things have sex and the babies get their traits, and other kids were totally out there. Did I mention I was at a Catholic school? This resulted in some interesting discussions.

Kid: "So... if I want to make a strawberry at home... do I just plant DNA?"
Me: "Well, seeds have DNA inside of them. Remember how we talked about how DNA is like a recipe? The seed reads the DNA, which gives it the instructions it needs to build the plant."
Kid: "So if I pour DNA on the seed, it will grow?"
Me: "The seed already contains all of the DNA the strawberry will need!"
Kid: "Do humans come from seeds?"
Me: "Yes, a different kid of seed."
Kid: "So, my parents poured my DNA on a seed and planted me?"
Teacher: "I think it's time for the next question..."
Other kid: "No, your parents both injected their DNA into you before you were born!"
Another kid, incredulously: "So... wait... this is why... if you have two different kinds of dog, and they have a baby, it doesn't look exactly like either parent, but it has traits from each? It gets some genes from each parent?"
Me: "Spot on!"

I'm curious as to -
A: How that one particular eleven/twelve year old has absolutely no concept of sex, or that humans don't grow in dirt.
B: What heredity makes so much more sense than.

Other interesting questions:
"If you get an organ from someone and you have their DNA in you, does that mean you're related?"
"If you get a blood transfusion, do you turn into someone else? Does their DNA show up at a crime scene, or does yours?" (for some reason, regardless of what demo I'm doing at a school, one kid ALWAYS asks me something about either committing a crime, or evading the police, hahaha)
"Could Jurassic park really happen?"
"If I put spider DNA in me, can I be Spiderman?" (VERY enthusiastically)
"Do you have to trade kidneys when you get a kidney transplant?"
"Do diseases show up in DNA? Why did the doctor want to test my blood so many times? "

The last one was actually the scariest question I had, she phrased it in such a way that I didn't see where it was leading, so I talked about a whole bunch of diseases that you can screen for and how. I hope I didn't scare the crap out of her and that she doesn't think that she's about to die or anything. Every time I go do these demos I get a bit better, but I always end up saying something regrettable, too. Hopefully the good parts stick around longer :)

(image: MyScienceBox)

1 comment:

Miss Outlier said...

Laugh! I really like the story. Kudos to you for doing such a great job!

I tend to veer off on tangents. Pick your tangent from the menu on the right.