Exploring DNA at Cold Spring Harbor Lab

On Thursday, January 17th, the sixth grade students traveled to the DNA Learning Center of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory which is located in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. During the field trip, the girls worked with educators at this facility on three exciting activities.    

During one of the activities, the girls learned about DNA Fingerprinting.  The instructor provided each group with four samples of DNA (an evidence sample, and three samples of DNA from suspects). Each group had to determine which “suspect” sample matched the “evidence” sample.  In order to solve this problem, the girls were introduced to the analytic technique called “electrophoresis” which involves the movement of electrically charged particles in a fluid under the influence of an electric field. 

Another activity centered on how the mystery of Anastasia Romanov was solved after nearly 90 years using the sequence of bases from a sample of mitochondrial DNA. The instructor engaged the girls by presenting the history of the Romanov family via video and by introducing in an interactive way the investigative techniques that became available from 1920 through the present time. Even though the Romanovs disappeared in 1918, the case of Anastasia was finally solved in 2007 through the use of DNA analysis.

The final activity was a DNA extraction.  The girls removed DNA from a sample of wheat germ.  They were amazed at how they could see DNA without a microscope!   

The DNA learning center also includes a wonderful exhibition of Otzi the Iceman. The exhibition includes an authorized replica of Otzi.

The day concluded with a movie entitled DNA: The Secret of Life which was all about the discovery of the structure of DNA.

This field trip was a perfect conclusion to the “Understanding Cells and DNA” unit that the sixth graders have just completed.  

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One Response to Exploring DNA at Cold Spring Harbor Lab

  1. Amy says:

    This is awesome! What a great experience for the girls.

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