King Middle School students get into the nitty-gritty of DNA

King Middle students get into nitty-gritty of DNA

jajones1@bradenton.comMay 9, 2014 

BRADENTON -- No wonder they call it DNA.

Trying to pronounce deoxyribonucleic acid, the genetic code found in every living cell, is too much of a jaw breaker.

Eighth-graders in Alyson Colosia's science class at Martha B. King Middle School have been extracting DNA lately, first from strawberries and then from their own cheeks.

More importantly, they have daringly plunged into critical thinking about the experiment, which makes them active learning participants rather than passive spectators.

Wearing a shirt that reads: "I'm a science teacher -- what's your super power?" Colosia led students Thursday through the process of rinsing their mouths with warm salt water for one minute to loosen cells from inside their cheeks.

The solution was then poured into a beaker and an "extract buffer," actually dish soap, was added to break open the cells and allow DNA to escape.

Cold alcohol was added. DNA is not water soluble, and alcohol helps form DNA form into clumps. Students see the tiny clumps and collect it with popsicle sticks.

Students had instructions to follow minus a step deliberately omitted to stimulate problem-solving skills.

"It's high-order thinking. I want them to hit the ground running when they get to high school next year," Colosia said.

Students responded with excite

ment, and some confusion.

"Am I an alien?" Hunter Storey asked after failing to see DNA in her solution.

"No honey, the strands are on the top of the solution. You have lots of DNA," Colosia responded.

Jaszmine Stubbs, who hopes to become an anesthesiologist or perhaps a medical examiner, was enjoying the exercise.

"I love it. I love science," she said, adding that humans are diploid, meaning they have two sets of each chromosome, while strawberries are octoploid, meaning they have eight sets of each chromosome.

Strawberry DNA is easier to see because it has larger clumps, Jaszmine said.

Students have been looking into the practical applications of DNA analysis as part of college and career readiness standards, Colosia said.

They have a paper to write, which requires them to think about their DNA lab experiences.

Questions inlcude:

• Would students submit to DNA testing, if it were offered?

• Why?

• What's your opinion of a DNA database? Support your opinion.

• Why is DNA analysis important?

Colosia picks up on the excitement in the room and all the student questions.

"I love that you guys are thinking and asking: 'Can I do this?' That's what scientists do," she said.

James A. Jones Jr., Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter: @jajones1.

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