Several high-school aged students in a DNALC laboratory classroom

High School Field Trips

In 1988 the DNALC began offering DNA manipulation labs to high school students during the academic year. Lab field trips on DNA restriction and transformation supported the rapid implementation of these experiments in AP Biology classes on Long Island. The DNALC has also helped teachers implement PCR-based experiments to examine human DNA polymorphisms.

Bacterial Transformation

The bacterial transformation experiment illustrates the direct link between an organism's genetic complement (genotype) and its observable characteristics (phenotype). Two genes, for antibiotic resistance and luminescence, are introduced into the bacterium E. coli. Following overnight incubation, transformed bacteria are compared to non-transformed bacteria for their ability to grow in the presence of ampicillin and glow when exposed to ultraviolet light.

The kit for this lab is only available to teachers who are able to pick up the kit at the Dolan DNALC in Cold Spring Harbor, NY 1-2 days prior to instruction.

Information:

  • 1 starter plate of E.coli strain mm294 OR tube of competent mm294 cells in CaCl2
  • 2 plastic loops (if using starter plate)
  • 2 tubes of 250 µL CaCl2 (if using starter plate)
  • 1 tube of 10 µL pGFP plasmid
  • 2 plastic droppers
  • 2 Petri dishes with LB agar
  • 2 Petri dishes with LB/Amp agar
  • 2 tubes of 250 µL LB
  • 4 tubes of sterile glass beads
Not provided:
  • cup of hot water
  • cup of ice
  • tape
  • permanent marker
  • kitchen thermometer (not required)
  • black light (not required)

DNA Restriction Analysis

The DNA restriction analysis experiment demonstrates that DNA can be precisely manipulated with enzymes that recognize and cut specific target sequences. In this lab, restriction enzymes—the scissors of molecular biology—are used to digest DNA from the bacteriophage lambda. After cutting, the DNA fragments are visualized by agarose gel electrophoresis, allowing students to identify a “mystery” enzyme through comparison with controls.

 

DNA Fingerprint

Human DNA is more alike than different, so how do we find the differences? Restriction enzymes are proteins that recognize specific DNA sequences and can be used to determine whether a particular DNA sequence is present. In this lab, DNA from “evidence” and “suspects” will be compared using restriction enzyme digest and agarose gel electrophoresis. DNA analysis will then be combined with crime scene data to draw conclusions about each suspect. This is an introductory lab, appropriate for classes with little or no experience in molecular biology.

 

Detecting a Jumping Gene*

(formerly called Human DNA Fingerprinting)

This lab examines  a region of DNA from chromosome 16 that can contain a short nucleotide sequence called Alu within a noncoding region of the chromosome. Alu insertions are segments of DNA that “jump” around in the genome. Students will prepare a sample of their own DNA from cells obtained by saline mouthwash, use PCR to amplify the targeted locus, and agarose gel electrophoresis to determine the presence or absence of this Alu, which jumped into the chromosome tens of thousands of years ago. Class data can be used as part of an exploration of allele frequencies and population genetics and to identify classmates who are related.

*Participation in this laboratory requires a signed consent form (provided by the DNALC) from the parent/guardian of each student under 18 years of age.

Virtual Live Hands-on Lab

Session I (2 hours): Students prepare a sample of their own DNA from cells obtained by saline mouthwash, and are introduced to transposons—specifically Alu elements—and how they can “jump” within the genome. Teacher will batch student samples and return to the DNALC for processing.

Session II (2 hours): DNALC staff show how the automated technique of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to amplify polymorphic DNA fragments and confirm amplification through agarose gel electrophoresis. Students learn how to interpret electrophoresis results, use class data to calculate allele frequencies, and use online tools to simulate principles of population genetics.

Virtual On-Demand Lab

Part I (1 hour): Students prepare a sample of their own DNA from cells obtained by saline mouthwash. Teacher will batch student samples and return to the DNALC for processing.

Part II (1 hour): DNALC staff show how the automated technique of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to amplify polymorphic DNA fragments and confirm amplification through agarose gel electrophoresis. Students learn how to interpret electrophoresis results.

Part III (1 hour): Students will use real population data to study Alu variation in alleles, calculate allele frequencies, and examine Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium in populations. Computer simulations will be used to model genetic drift.

Teachers will receive class data two weeks after student samples from Part I are received at the DNALC. You may watch Part II during this two-week break or wait until the results are returned to proceed.

Information:

  • disposable nitrile gloves
  • protective eyewear
  • tube of 10% Chelex solution
  • syringe (1 ml)
  • 1000 µL wrapped pipette tip
  • empty tube(s) for sample preparation
  • aluminum foil
Not provided in kit (from home):
  • water bath or mug/other container for hot water
  • boiling/near boiling water
  • 8 oz bottled or filtered water
  • table salt (1/4 teaspoon)
  • unused paper or plastic drinking cup
  • permanent marker

Human Mitochondrial Sequencing*

Comparison of the control region within the human mitochondrial genome reveals that people have distinct patterns of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). These sequence differences, in turn, are the basis for far-ranging investigations on human DNA diversity and the evolution of hominids. In this lab, students prepare a sample of their own DNA from cells obtained by saline mouthwash, use PCR to amplify a section of their own mitochondrial DNA and agarose gel electrophoresis to confirm the result. DNA is then sent for sequencing, and results are uploaded to the DNALC’s BioServers website. Back at school, students can perform bioinformatic analysis of their own DNA sequences to explore the theories behind how modern humans evolved and how related they are to their classmates and people from around the world.

*Participation in this laboratory requires a signed consent form (provided by the DNALC) from the parent/guardian of each student under 18 years of age.

Virtual Live Hands-on Lab

Session I (2 hours): Students prepare a sample of their own DNA from cells obtained by saline mouthwash and learn how it can be used to explore genetic polymorphisms, human origins and migration. Teacher will batch student samples and return to the DNALC for processing.

Session II (2 hours):DNALC staff show how the automated technique of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to amplify a small region of the mitochondrial DNA and confirm amplification through agarose gel electrophoresis. Students learn how to use DNALC-developed online bioinformatics tools to compare DNA sequences and use them to explore human origins.

Virtual On-Demand Lab

Part I (1 hour): Students prepare a sample of their own DNA from cells obtained by saline mouthwash and learn how it can be used to explore genetic polymorphisms, human origins and migration. Teacher will batch student samples and return to the DNALC for processing.

Part II (1 hour): DNALC staff show how the automated technique of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to amplify a small region of the mitochondrial DNA and confirm amplification through agarose gel electrophoresis. Amplified PCR products are sent to the DNA sequencing facility GENEWIZ and the procedure to obtain the DNA sequence data is discussed.

Part III (1 hour): Students learn how to use DNALC developed online bioinformatics tools to compare DNA sequences and use them to explore human origins.

Teachers will receive class data approximately two weeks after student samples from Part I are received at the DNALC. You may watch Parts II and III during this two-week period and proceed with the example dataset, or wait until the data is returned to proceed with Part III.

Information:

  • disposable nitrile gloves
  • protective eyewear
  • tube of 10% Chelex solution
  • syringe (1 ml)
  • 1000 µLwrapped pipette tip
  • empty tube(s) for sample preparation
  • aluminum foil
Not provided:
  • water bath or mug/other container for hot water
  • boiling/near boiling water
  • 8 oz bottled or filtered water
  • table salt (1/4 teaspoon)
  • unused paper or plastic drinking cup
  • permanent marker

Forensic DNA Profiling*

This lab examines a highly variable tandem repeat polymorphism on chromosome 1 called D1S80, similar to what the FBI uses to create a genetic profile. Students will prepare a sample of their own DNA from cells obtained by saline mouthwash. After amplification by PCR, the improved size resolution of a DNA chip allows students to identify their genotype, something impossible with traditional agarose gel electrophoresis. This is an advanced lab, appropriate for classes with some background in molecular biology and genetics.

*Participation in this laboratory requires a signed consent form (provided by the DNALC) from the parent/guardian of each student under 18 years of age.

Virtual Live Hands-on Lab

Session I (2 hours): Students prepare a sample of their own DNA from cells obtained by saline mouthwash. Class will explore the concept of genetic profiling and learn how tandem repeats are used to create a profile. Teacher will batch student samples and return to the DNALC for processing.

Session II (2 hours): DNALC staff show how the automated technique of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to amplify polymorphic DNA fragments and then load the PCR samples into a traditional agarose gel and DNA chip Bioanalyzer. Students compare results from both methods and students learn how to interpret the obtained genotypes.

Virtual On-Demand Lab

Part I (1 hour): Students prepare a sample of their own DNA from cells obtained by saline mouthwash. Class will explore the concept of genetic profiling and learn how tandem repeats are used to create a profile. Teacher will batch student samples and return them to the DNALC for processing.

Part II (1 hour): DNALC staff show how the automated technique of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to amplify polymorphic DNA fragments and then load the PCR samples into an agarose gel for analysis.

Part III (1 hour): DNALC staff will load the PCR samples into a DNA chip Bioanalyzer. Results are compared to traditional agarose gel electrophoresis methods and students learn how to interpret the obtained genotypes.

Teachers will receive class data two weeks after student samples from Part I are received at the DNALC. You may watch Part II during this two-week break, or wait until the results are returned to proceed.

Information:

  • disposable nitrile gloves
  • protective eyewear
  • tube of 10% Chelex solution
  • syringe (1 ml)
  • 1000 µLwrapped pipette tip
  • empty tube(s) for sample preparation
  • aluminum foil
Not provided:
  • water bath or mug/other container for hot water
  • boiling/near boiling water
  • 8 oz bottled or filtered water
  • table salt (1/4 teaspoon)
  • unused paper or plastic drinking cup
  • permanent marker

Bioinformatics Labs

Bioinformatics: Using Alu Insertions to Study Population Genetics

Students will learn about Alu insertions—segments of DNA that “jump” around in the genome—and use real population data to study variation in alleles, calculate allele frequencies, and examine Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium in populations. Computer simulations will be used to model genetic drift.

 

  • Lab time: 2 hours
  • Grades: 10 and above
  • Available: In-Person, Virtual Live (no kit, requires student computers with Internet access)

Bioinformatics: Tracing Human Evolution

Students will analyze mitochondrial sequence data to test models of human evolution. Were Neanderthals direct ancestors of modern humans? Did we all arise from a single founding population in Africa? Students will be guided through BioServers and DNA Subway to help answer these questions and more!

 

  • Lab time: 2 hours
  • Grades: 10 and above
  • Available: In-Person, Virtual Live (no kit, requires student computers with Internet access)

Bioinformatics: Barcoding & Phylogenetics

Phylogenetics is the practice of determining the evolutionary relatedness of groups of organisms. Much of this work is done utilizing DNA data. In this lab activity, students will learn about different methods of building phylogenetic trees and practice building them using both morphological and genetic data. Students will use sample data on the bioinformatics platform DNA Subway to compare species and build phylogenetic trees.

 

  • Lab time: 2 hours
  • Grades: 11 and above
  • Available: In-Person, Virtual Live (no kit, requires student computers with Internet access)

Advanced Inquiry Labs

Advanced Inquiry labs are for AP, advanced elective, or research classes looking for a wet-lab experience that includes extended analysis of data. While performing open-ended experiments to detect DNA variations in themselves and other organisms, students will have time to explore how online bioinformatics tools are used to analyze DNA. Labs may include use of the Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST), DNA sequence alignments, construction of phylogenetic trees, and/or population simulations.

GMO: Detecting Genetically Modified Foods

Genes that encode herbicide resistance, insect resistance, drought tolerance, frost tolerance, and other traits have been added to many commercial plants – including most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States. In this laboratory, students isolate DNA from processed food products. Then, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and gel electrophoresis are used to identify a promoter that drives the expression of most plant transgenes. During the lab, bioinformatics tools allow students to predict the outcome of the experiment and discover genes and functions transferred into GM plants. Students have the option of bringing in a processed snack food to test for the presence of the transgene promoter.

Virtual Live Hands-on Lab

Session I (2 hours): Students isolate DNA from processed food products and learn more about the promoter that drives the expression of most plant transgenes. Teacher will batch student samples and return to the DNALC for processing.

Session II (2 hours): DNALC staff show how the automated technique of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to amplify transgene promoters and confirm amplification through agarose gel electrophoresis. The National Center for Biotechnology Information’s Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST) is used to analyze primer sequence and calculate the expected amplicon size.

Virtual On-Demand Lab

Part I (1 hour): Students isolate DNA from processed food products and learn more about the promoter that drives the expression of most plant transgenes. Teacher will batch student samples and return to the DNALC for processing.

Part II (1 hour): DNALC staff show how the automated technique of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to amplify transgene promoters and confirm amplification through agarose gel electrophoresis. The National Center for Biotechnology Information’s Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST) is used to analyze primer sequence and calculate the expected amplicon size.

Teachers will receive class results approximately two weeks after student samples from Part I are received at the DNALC. You may watch Part II during this two-week period, or wait until the result is returned to proceed with Part II.

Information:

  • disposable nitrile gloves
  • protective eyewear
  • tube of 10% Chelex solution
  • plastic pestle
  • aluminum foil
Not provided in kit (from home):
  • snack sample
  • water bath or mug/other container for hot water
  • boiling/near boiling water
  • permanent marker

PTC: Using a SNP to Predict Bitter Tasting Ability*

The ability to taste the bitter compound PTC (phenylthiocarbamide) is often used to illustrate Mendelian inheritance. Three SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) in the gene encoding the PTC taste receptor strongly affect tasting ability. In this experiment, students extract DNA from cheek cells* and use PCR to amplify a short region of the gene. After a diagnostic restriction digest, student genotypes are scored on an agarose gel, allowing them to predict their phenotypes. Students then test their tasting ability and compare genotypes and phenotypes, allowing them to discover that PTC tasting is genetically more complex than the model. This experiment is a close analog to how “precision or personalized medicine” uses genotypes to predict drug response.

*Participation in this laboratory requires a signed consent form (provided by the DNALC) from the parent/guardian of each student under 18 years of age.

Virtual Live Hands-on Lab

Session I (2 hours):  Students prepare a sample of their own DNA from cells obtained by saline mouthwash. Class will be introduced to the genetics behind taste, and the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST), which is used to analyze primer sequence and calculate the expected amplicon size that will be produced for session II.  Teacher will batch student samples and return to the DNALC for processing.

Session II (2 hours):  DNALC staff show how the automated technique of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to amplify a short region of the gene. After a diagnostic restriction digest, student genotypes are scored through agarose gel electrophoresis, allowing them to predict their phenotypes. Phenotypes are confirmed with a PTC taste test.

Virtual On-Demand Lab

Part I (1 hour):  Students prepare a sample of their own DNA from cells obtained by saline mouthwash. Class will be introduced to the genetics behind taste. Teacher will batch student samples and return to the DNALC for processing.

Part II (1 hour):  DNALC staff demonstrate how the automated technique of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to amplify a short region of the gene. After PCR, a diagnostic restriction digest is set up for student samples.

Part III (1 hour):  Students will be introduced to the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST), which is used to analyze primer sequence and calculate the expected amplicon size that will be observed through gel electrophoresis.  Student genotypes are scored through agarose gel electrophoresis, allowing them to predict their phenotypes. Phenotypes are tested with a PTC taste test, and compared to student genotypes.

Teachers will receive class data two weeks after student samples from Part I are received at the DNALC. You may watch Part II during this two-week break or wait until the results are returned to proceed.

Information:

  • disposable nitrile gloves
  • protective eyewear
  • tube of 10% Chelex solution
  • syringe (1 ml)
  • 1000 µL wrapped pipette tip
  • empty tube(s) for sample preparation
  • aluminum foil
  • PTC paper strip
Not provided in kit (from home):
  • water bath or mug/other container for hot water
  • boiling/near boiling water
  • 8 oz bottled or filtered water
  • table salt (1/4 teaspoon)
  • unused paper or plastic drinking cup

Barcoding: Using DNA Barcodes to Identify and Classify Living Things

Just as unique universal product codes (UPC) identify products, unique "DNA barcodes" use specific DNA sequences to identify living things. In this laboratory, students use DNA barcoding to identify plants, fungi, or animals—or products containing them. DNA is extracted from samples, the barcode region is amplified by PCR, and the PCR product is sequenced. DNA Subway, an online bioinformatics site, is used to search a DNA database for close matches to sample sequences and to construct phylogenetic trees that show evolutionary relatedness. Students have the option of bringing in their own samples to test, providing the opportunity for mini-projects to sample local environments or to test food products.

Virtual Live Hands-on Lab

Session I (2 hours): Students extract DNA from plant or invertebrate samples and learn how DNA barcoding is used to tackle global concerns like environmental monitoring and food safety. Teacher will batch student samples and return to the DNALC for processing.

Session II (2 hours): DNALC staff show how the automated technique of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to amplify the short barcode region and confirm amplification through agarose gel electrophoresis. The online bioinformatics site DNA Subway is used to search a DNA database for close matches to the student sample sequences for species identification, and to construct phylogenetic trees that show evolutionary relationships.

Virtual On-Demand Lab

Part I (1 hour): Students extract DNA from plant or invertebrate samples and learn how DNA barcoding is used to tackle global concerns like environmental monitoring and food safety. Teacher will batch student samples and return to the DNALC.

Part II (1 hour): DNALC staff show how the automated technique of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to amplify the short barcode region and confirm amplification through agarose gel electrophoresis. Amplified PCR products are sent to the DNA sequencing facility GENEWIZ and the procedure to obtain unique DNA barcode sequence data is discussed.

Part III (1 hour): The online bioinformatics site DNA Subway is used to search a DNA database for close matches to the student sample sequences for species identification, and to construct phylogenetic trees that show evolutionary relationships.

Teachers will receive class data approximately two weeks after student samples from Part I are received at the DNALC. You may watch Parts II and III during this two-week period and proceed with the example dataset, or wait until the data is returned to proceed with Part III.

Information:

  • disposable nitrile gloves
  • protective eyewear
  • tube of 10% Chelex solution
  • 100 µL pipette tip(s)
  • tube of Whatman No. 1 chromatography discs
  • tube of ethanol
  • tweezer
  • toothpicks
  • plastic pestle
  • weigh boat
  • 4x4 inch square(s) of aluminum foil
Not provided in kit (from home):
  • water bath or mug/other container for hot water
  • boiling/near boiling water
  • plant or recently expired invertebrate sample
  • permanent marker

Extended Jumping Genes: Using an Alu Insertion Polymorphism to Study Human Populations*

(extension of Detecting a Jumping Gene)

The DNA from any two people varies at many sites. These polymorphic sequences that make each person’s DNA unique are used in the study of human evolution. This experiment examines a polymorphism that is caused by the insertion of an Alu transposon, the most common DNA sequence in the human genome. DNA is extracted from student cheek cells*, and PCR is used to amplify the region containing the Alu insertion site. Students score their genotypes on an agarose gel, and the compiled class results are used as a case study in human population genetics. On the BioServers Internet site, students use tools to test Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, explore the geographic distribution of the insertion in world populations, and simulate the inheritance of a new Alu insertion.

*Participation in this laboratory requires a signed consent form (provided by the DNALC) from the parent/guardian of each student under 18 years of age.

Virtual Live Hands-on Lab

Session I (2 hours): Students prepare a sample of their own DNA from cells obtained by saline mouthwash, and are introduced to transposons—specifically Alu elements—and how they can “jump” within the genome. Teacher will batch student samples and return to the DNALC for processing.

Session II (2 hours): DNALC staff show how the automated technique of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to amplify polymorphic DNA fragments and confirm amplification through agarose gel electrophoresis. Students learn how to interpret electrophoresis results, use class data to calculate allele frequencies, and use online tools to simulate principles of population genetics.

Virtual On-Demand Lab

Part I (1 hour): Students prepare a sample of their own DNA from cells obtained by saline mouthwash. Teacher will batch student samples and return to the DNALC for processing.

Part II (1 hour): DNALC staff show how the automated technique of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to amplify polymorphic DNA fragments and confirm amplification through agarose gel electrophoresis. Students learn how to interpret electrophoresis results.

Part III (1 hour): Students will use real population data to study Alu variation in alleles, calculate allele frequencies, and examine Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium in populations. Computer simulations will be used to model genetic drift.

Teachers will receive class data two weeks after student samples from Part I are received at the DNALC. You may watch Part II during this two-week break or wait until the results are returned to proceed.

Information:

  • disposable nitrile gloves
  • protective eyewear
  • tube of 10% Chelex solution
  • syringe (1 ml)
  • 1000 µL wrapped pipette tip
  • empty tube(s) for sample preparation
  • aluminum foil
Not provided in kit (from home):
  • water bath or mug/other container for hot water
  • boiling/near boiling water
  • 8 oz bottled or filtered water
  • table salt (1/4 teaspoon)
  • unused paper or plastic drinking cup
  • permanent marker

High School Field Trips and Their Importance for High School Education

High school offers an essential opportunity for teenagers who are starting on the path to adulthood. During these late teen years, students can examine the world around them more fully and conceptually. Part of their journey toward becoming critical thinkers involves making discoveries both in and out of the classroom environment. As such, high schoolers are eager to take field trips geared toward 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th-grade subjects.

At the DNALC, we offer a robust variety of precollege hands-on field trips designed to engage and inspire teens. Whether your class of high schoolers is exploring DNA analysis or mitochondrial sequencing, we have the lab-based experiences to bring many STEM subjects to life.

How Will High Schoolers Benefit from a DNALC Field Trip?

All field trips to DNALC include an element of excitement. Fun is only one of many benefits of coming to our state-of-the-art facility. A field trip to our center promises plenty of other advantages, especially for high school students. Some of these include:

  • Activated learning: Most teens spend time studying science in books and online. Their study is augmented by classroom lectures and demonstrations. However, the learning does not have to end there. On field trips to a DNALC, high schoolers can apply the skills they know. This practice broadens their knowledge of theoretical topics.
  • Robust dialogue: Without enough information, high school students may be reluctant to participate in classroom discussions. After engaging in hands-on activities, they are more able to talk about concepts. Many teachers use field trips as springboards to guide future debates and conversations.
  • Access to high-quality equipment: The DNALC has been thoughtfully outfitted with leading-edge equipment. Our commitment to having the most up-to-date technology enables high school students to work with tools they probably don’t have on a daily basis.
  • New and improved engagement styles: Field trips for 9th through 12th graders are not just for students who are already eager to make discoveries. These experiences are also for students who may not feel engaged in a traditional classroom setting or while they are on a remote learning platform. The field trip environment promotes movement, activity, curiosity, and collaboration.
  • Career and college preparedness: High schoolers know college is just around the corner. Yet even students nearing the end of their secondary school years may be unsure of what the future holds. A visit to DNALC helps young people explore professions they might never have considered previously. Plus, the friendly staff members can answer occupation-related questions to spur high schoolers interested in knowing more about relevant STEM career paths.

Set up Your Next High School Field Trip Today

Want to give your high school students the chance to try something new or supplement what they’ve studied for months or years? Bring them to a DNALC. We’ll help arrange a high school field trip that’s exciting and memorable for everyone in your group.

A rewarding academic and scientific adventure for your high schoolers is close on the horizon—all it takes is one field trip to the DNALC. Scheduling takes just a few minutes. Get in touch today!