DNA in TA

The last time we were in Tierra Amarilla to meet with our 5th-6th grade River Classroom, we discussed cells. During this class our students had some wonderful questions about how cells came to be and also about blood and blood cells. We decided to address some of these topics in class.

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Eager students with wonderful questions

We discussed cells, how they’ve changed with time, where DNA is located within a cell, and how your genes determine your characteristics. Then we constructed some super cute dogs with varying characteristics based on pulling “DNA” out of an envelope.

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Pulling “DNA” out of an envelope
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Using that “DNA” to determine the characteristics of the dog
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Drawing a dog with the appropriate characteristics
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Comparing dogs

Even though all of the envelopes contained the same “DNA,” every dog looked different. Each dog had the same DNA, but different genes were expressed!

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After comparing dogs all around, we decided to have a race across the gym. The only catch: students must pretend to have the characteristics of their dog. If their dog had short legs, they have to crawl. If their dog had medium-length legs, they had to hunch over, and if their dog had long legs, they could run normally. The long-legged dogs had a clear advantage in this first race!

For our second race, the “dogs” had to make it under a hurdle. Guess what? The short dogs won! This lead to a great discussion about how different characteristics (and genes) are better suited for different situations.

After this break, we jumped back into microscopes and examined blood cells, which do not have a nucleus.

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Blood cells in the microscope

Since we had the microscopes out, we also took a closer look at some benthic macroinvertebrates collected earlier in the day on the Rio Chama. We see these all the time when we go to the river, but this is the first time we’ve taken a really close look at them with microscopes.

We’ll check these out in the field as soon as the ice melts on the Rio Chama!

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