5 Engaging Ways to Teach the Structure and Function of DNA

Job Brisby Eloja

DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the fundamental building block of all life. But the molecule is so small that students can’t even see it under a microscope.

Teaching a topic like DNA can be daunting, especially if students have a hard time grasping the concepts. But there are more exciting ways to teach this topic. Here are five things instructors can do to make the structure and function of DNA more interesting to students.

1. Use Interactive Models of DNA

DNA has a distinct double helix structure that any student can recognize. It’s easy enough to identify the DNA double helix in textbooks. But with interactive models, students can take their learning to another level.

3D models of DNA let students have a feel of what the molecule is like. Models that they can rotate and freely move around work well. With these, students will gain a greater appreciation of DNA. 

Interactive DNA models can also help students identify the different parts of DNA more easily. If the models are color-coded, students can more easily find the sugar-phosphate backbone and the four nucleotide bases.

Models that demonstrate how DNA replicates and how genes are expressed are great teaching tools as well. Students will comprehend this topic in more detail if they can see how processes like transcription and transcription occur.

2. Make DNA Fun with Games and Activities

Contrary to popular belief, games and fun activities actually boost students’ learning capabilities. When they’re having fun, they don’t even know that they’re also learning along the way. You’ll be surprised that many of your students can ace tests when they play educational games.

For topics that involve complex molecules, like DNA, games work well to help students understand key concepts. The virtual lab simulation called DNA: Structure and function from Labster is a fun way to teach this topic. In this simulation, students can peer inside cells and see chromosomes. They can even zoom in further to see the molecular structure of DNA. They can even build a DNA molecule from its component parts.

Structure and function of DNA game.

3. Integrate Technology in the Classroom

Today’s students mostly belong to Generation Z. Gen Z kids grew up with technology, and they fully expect you to use it as you teach this topic.

You can use a variety of technological tools, like videos, animations, lab simulations, and mobile apps to enhance the learning experience.

Videos and animations can help students understand processes like replication, transcription, and translation more easily. Mobile apps are learning companions that students can take with them anywhere they go. Apps can make use of gamified elements to make learning more fun. Each learning milestone may allow students to “level up” in the app, giving them a sense of achievement.

Lab simulations are excellent teaching tools as well. Through these, students can experience real techniques used in the lab without the risk of breaking things. Also, they are not in danger of contaminating themselves or causing harm to others. They can do everything in a safe virtual environment.

Discover Labster's DNA: Structure and function virtual lab today!

4. Explore Career Paths to Inspire Students

For students to be more motivated to learn this topic, it helps if they can see how it’s helpful in their future careers. Since DNA structure and function is a fundamental concept in biology, it has many applications in these careers:

  • Medicine
  • Nursing
  • Biological research
  • Biotechnology
  • Pharmaceuticals

If some of your students want to enter these industries, emphasize how this topic is essential. They will learn as much as they can about DNA and take their studies more seriously.

5. Connect DNA to its Real-World Applications

All living things have DNA. It’s even called the fundamental building block of all living things. Within our DNA are the instructions our bodies use to build and maintain us.

Thanks to biotechnology, scientists can use DNA in a variety of ways. Recombinant DNA technology has given rise to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Examples of these include GM tomatoes, which have longer shelf lives. There is also GM salmon, which is bigger than traditional salmon and can grow all year round.

There are also DNA-based therapies that can cure previously incurable diseases. Some patients with hemophilia and Parkinson’s disease have been relieved of their conditions thanks to gene therapy. Also, it is possible to know what diseases a child may develop later in life, even before they are born. All this is possible because scientists know how to work with DNA.

Final Thoughts

The structure and function of DNA can be a complicated matter to teach. But with the right tools and techniques, you can make your students enjoy this topic. They will be inspired to learn, and they will master key concepts as well.

Structure and function of DNA.

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