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Me First!
Sequencing DNA
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Ananda Chakrabarty

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Me First!
(middle/high school science)
by Viki Babcock


Scientific endeavors can often be very competitive as different scientists race to be the first to be recognized in a major breakthrough. The five-part series, DNA, clearly illustrates this competitive nature of science. This activity has students creating and playing their own board games, using real scientific facts and milestones, to show just how competitive scientists can be.

Estimated class time:

4 to 5 class periods. (One period to show video; 2 to 3 periods to create games; and one to play the games.)

Lesson Objectives:

Students will:
  • List roadblocks and accomplishments of various scientists' endeavors to understand DNA and its applications.
  • Create (and play) a board game illustrating the path to scientific achievements in DNA knowledge and applications.

Correlation to National Science Standards from

CONTENT STANDARD E: As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop understandings about science and technology:
  • Science and technology are pursued for different purposes. Scientific inquiry is driven by the desire to understand the natural world, and technological design is driven by the need to meet human needs and solve human problems.

  • Creativity, imagination, and a good knowledge base are all required in the work of science and engineering.
CONTENT STANDARD F: As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop understanding of science and technology in local, national, and global challenges:
  • Progress in science and technology can be affected by social issues and challenges. Funding priorities for specific health problems serve as examples of ways that social issues influence science and technology.

  • Individuals and society must decide on proposals involving new research and the introduction of new technologies into society.

Materials needed:

  • TV/VCR
  • Copy of one of the episodes of DNA, preferably episode 1, 3, or 4
  • Poster board, markers, dice, index cards, construction paper, glue, tape, other craft items for game creation
  • Internet access (if more research is desired)

Teaching Strategy:

  1. Ask students why anyone would want to be a scientist? Allow the class to brainstorm their ideas. Suggest fame and winning a Nobel Prize, if the students don't think of those reasons on their own.

  2. Introduce and show one of the DNA videos. "Episode 1: The Secret of Life" depicts the competition to find the structure of the DNA molecule. "Episode 3: Curing Cancer" highlights the work of some competitive cancer researchers. And "Episode 4: The Human Race" chronicles the race to complete the human genome. Instruct students to take notes on their own about the events that helped or blocked each scientist's journey to discovery, or provide students with the note-taking handout.

  3. As a class, discuss some of the events depicted in the video and relate how those events either helped or set back the work of a particular scientist.

  4. Divide the class into groups of four to five students and instruct each group to create a board game using the facts they learned from the video as ways to advance or retreat through the game. Encourage students to use the Internet or textbooks to find more facts about the different researchers involved in their chosen scientific quest (DNA structure, cancer cure, or Human Genome Project). Remind the students that they must have a clear way to win the game, i.e. get to the finish line first, accumulate a certain amount of points, eliminate the other players, etc. They must also have a minimum number of facts (vary this number depending on the level of students) incorporated into the game play. Possible suggestions include making event cards that must be drawn at various intervals, different events depicted directly on the playing board, or use of a spinner which points to events. Encourage the students to be creative in the design of their board and to be sure the board correlates well with their topic, i.e. the path follows the shape of a double helix, or the board is illustrated with appropriate laboratory equipment.

  5. After the games have been designed and created, allow the groups a day to exchange their games and play.



  • Research the history of the Nobel Prize and write a report.

  • Research the work of a particular scientist and write a play depicting the highlights of his/her career.

  • Teach younger students (elementary or middle school) how to play the game you created.

  • Research and write a report on the discovery of the double helix.

Student Handout:

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