Using a few items most people have at home, seventh-graders at Elkin Middle School got to extract their DNA so they could see it and take it home in a vial strung around their neck Thursday.
The science project is part of their genetics curriculum in Angela Adams’ classroom, and was led by Summer Cortinas, a member of the North Carolina BioNetwork Outreach program from Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.
Once the students scraped the inside of their cheek for DNA, they added to the scraping saltwater, diluted dish detergent and meat tenderizer, then put the tubes of mixture in an incubator of warm water for three or four minutes. The mixture dissolves the cell membrane. After removing the tubes, rubbing alcohol was added to the tube, which causes the DNA to constrict and solidify in the liquid, so it can be extracted.
Each student got a small vial and a strand of black yarn, and after finding their floating DNA in the tube, they used a skinny dropper to suck it out of the tube and put it in the vial, before stringing it around their necks for safe keeping until they got home.
Cortinas explained that the BioNetwork outreach has about 20 projects its offers to classes for ages up through community college.
This is the third year Adams has welcomed BioNetwork into her classroom after learning about its programs during a conference for science teachers in Charlotte.
“In reality, DNA is colorless, and when it’s smushed together it is white,” Cortinas explained to the students as she held a large colored model of a spiral DNA strand. “DNA is important, because it makes you you.”
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.