When mapping out his walking path, Paul Salopek (The Out of Eden Walk) relied on both fossil evidence and the nascent field of Genography, where mutations found in our DNA provide a map of our lineage across space and time. In order to make sense of what this means, the students have been working on learning more about DNA and RNA. They have done this by reading articles, building models, watching videos and playing games where they can build virtual DNA molecules.
While many of the students were familiar with DNA, its cousin, RNA, was less well known. Debates about which molecule was more important spontaneously erupted. What excited them most was the opportunity to become, “Citizen Scientists,” by playing in the RNA VirtuaLab, where students learned about how RNA folds and were challenged to solve various folding problems by making adjustments to base pairs based on the strength of the connections. Along the way, they were shown how the RNA they created performed a function in the cell. After solving enough problems, the students are invited to join Eterna where they can design RNA molecules online with the chance to have their designs created in a lab and possibly used in RNA-based medical treatments.
Students were asked to use the DSRP Model to make meaning of the content they were working with. The model focuses on the following:
Some of the class also extracted their own DNA today using a special solution of sports drink, pineapple juice, dish soap and rubbing alcohol. We weren’t able to get any to wrap around our skewers, but we were able to see it floating in the solution. Here is the link for anyone interested in trying at home: