Instructor Lauren Houk knows a thing or two about working with middle schoolers. Camp Discover students walking into her class pass a table full of licorice, marshmallows, gum drops, and cookies. She has their attention before she even says a word.
While the candy may interest the campers, Ms. Houk’s words keep them engaged as they learn about deoxyribonucleic acid and more in her class, Diving into DNA. Up first is a cookie comparison. The students work together to come up with a list of ingredients that are universal in most chocolate chip cookies: flour, sugar, eggs, butter, salt, chocolate chips. They then each get to choose a cookie and compare their treats with a partner. As they examine the cookies’ size, appearance, number of chips, and other traits, they conclude that the same basic ingredients can result in a batch of unique cookies. That same idea carries over in DNA and humans, Ms. Houk says.
That kick-starts a closer of examination of DNA, reviewing the parts and the patterns. Then it’s time for candy: The students select a variety of items to make models of DNA (and perhaps sneak an afternoon snack). The rest of the week promises to be just as interesting!