Tomorrow is National DNA Day. Who knew! I can’t think of a better time to share this tutorial to make a DNA model. If you have a child in school, grandchildren, a young neighbor, or maybe you’re friends with a few teachers, pin this DIY DNA tutorial. The next time you hear about a last-minute science fair project, designer Kathleen George has you covered! I’m also sharing the results of my dog’s official DNA test.
First, a little DNA humor:
Q. What did one DNA say to the other?
A. Stop copying me!
And now, here’s how to make your own double-helix DNA model.
To make a DNA Model, you will need:
- STYROFOAM™ Brand Foam: 46, 1” balls; scrap piece
- Wooden skewers, eight
- Acrylic craft paint: yellow, white, orange, pink, bright green and dark green (or six different colors of your choice)
- Chopsticks or ¼” wood dowel
- Thick, white craft glue
- Tools needed: Scissors; toothpicks; stiff bristle paintbrush; knippers
Finished size: The DNA Model is approximately 17” long, including the hangers.
To make a DNA Model:
1. Insert a wood skewer through the center of each 1” foam ball. Rotate the skewer to smooth out the inside and the edges around each hole. This will make it easier to string the balls.
2. Insert a toothpick into each ball, which you’ll use as a handle when you paint the balls.
3. Paint the balls:
- Paint 16 balls yellow. These will represent sugar.
- Paint 14 balls white. These will represent phosphate.
- Make four groups of four balls each for the nitrogenous bases. Paint each group of four a different color (Kathleen used bright green, dark green, pink and orange paint). Four balls will represent cytosine; four will be guanine; four will be thymine; and the last four are adenine.
- Once the balls are painted, insert the toothpicks into a scrap of STYROFOAM Brand Foam to hold the balls upright while the paint dries.
- Let the paint dry thoroughly.
4. Cut two, 28” lengths of string. Spread white glue to cover 2-1/2” on one end of each string. Roll the ends between your fingertips to work the glue into the string. Hang the strings over the edge of your work surface to dry. When dry, the stiffened ends will make it easier to thread on the balls.
5. Prepare the pairs of nitrogenous bases. Using knippers, cut the wood skewers into eight, 3” lengths. Thread two balls onto the center of each skewer:
- Make four pairs of one cytosine with one guanine
- Make four pairs of one thymine and one adenine.
6. Thread eight yellow sugar balls and seven white phosphate balls onto a string, starting and ending with a yellow sugar ball and alternating the colors as you go. Tie a large knot 3” from the end, and glue the knot in the hole at the bottom of the ball at the end of the string. Don’t cut off the excess string. Squeeze a drop of glue at the top of each hole to secure the balls. Repeat, creating a second string with the balls in matching order.
7. Add the pairs of nitrogenous bases, inserting the skewers into the yellow sugar balls. Be sure to insert the skewers firmly into the balls; add a drop of glue if needed to help hold it in place.
8. Cut a chopstick or ¼” wood dowel into two, 8” lengths to create the hangers. Tie the strings onto hangers and add a dab of glue to hold the strings in place. Trim off the extra string. To create the look of the double helix, twist the double strands in a counterclockwise direction.
I shared the story about our pup’s DNA test a few years ago, but I imagine most of you didn’t see it. My daughter fell head-over-heels when she saw JoJo at the shelter, and he’s been our best buddy ever since. When my daughter studied DNA in science class, we decided to officially test JoJo’s DNA. It’s an easy process – we swabbed his cheek and sent the swab to the lab. The results confirmed that JoJo is an all-American mutt with traces of Chihuahua and Maltese. Most of JoJo’s DNA is so mixed up that it’s too hard to identify.
And that’s o.k. with us. I’ve always had mutts and they’re my favorite kind of dog. How about you – is there a breed that holds a soft spot in your heart? Or are your furry friends mutts, too?