Physiology Understanding (PhUn Week) takes physiology to the classroom through scientist-student outreach. Each year, more than 14,000 students learn about physiological concepts led through interactive lab experiments, such as this one as described by middle school science teacher Anne Joy:
As part of our PhUn Week activities, we talk to the students about genetics and DNA. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from teaching middle school students, it’s that they are very conscious of their looks, and they love to learn why they have the traits they do!
This is one of my favorite experiments because the students really like it. When physiologist Jessica Ibarra, PhD, visits our campus, the students get to actually extract and see the DNA of a strawberry. The students get so excited to see the DNA from something they are all familiar with. Try this at home and with your friends! All you’ll need is a resealable plastic bag, two strawberries, some water, plastic cups, a coffee filter, cold rubbing alcohol and a coffee stirrer.
At the end of the experiment, after seeing the DNA, and once all the “ooh”s and “ah”s have stopped, I like to show my students a three-foot piece of string to demonstrate the amount of genetic material that exists in every one of their cells. The questions that abound after this always get me excited about teaching science: “Does this work with other fruit?” “Can you do this with any living thing?” And, my all-time favorite, “Can I do this at home and show my family?” Absolutely! Extract away.
Anne Joy is a middle school teacher at Driscoll Middle School in San Antonio. She is a past Frontiers Fellow and past Frontiers Mentor Teacher. She has participated in PhUn Week activities with APS member Jessica Ibarra, PhD, for the past five years.