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Divine DNA Necklaces for Activity Days

I've had this idea floating around in my head for Activity Days for a long time and I finally got around to doing it this week! For those who don't know, Activity Days is the name of the young girl's youth group at my church including ages 8-11, my group includes 8-9 year olds. Part 1 will talk about the spiritual thought/introduction to the activity, Part 2 will talk about instructions for extracting DNA from cheek cells and putting them in necklace pendants and Part 3 is what I would do differently next time.

My DNA in a necklace.

Part 1

We started with prayer and then I asked the girls if anyone knew what DNA was. We got a couple answers that were pretty close to what I was going for. I then gave a *very* basic outline of what DNA is; the bullet points I hit on were:
*DNA is at the center of every cell in the body & is like an instruction book or blueprint about how our body develops and forms.
*We get traits from our biological parents/grandparents/etc....-so you might have your dad's hair color and your mom's eye color or your grandpa's ears that stick out (like me). These traits make us physically unique and special.
(you can go more in depth if you would like to and have the knowledge. My goal was to stay developmentally appropriate for all the girls in my group and spark interest that will hopefully lead to independent learning for those with interest in the scientific side of the activity).

We then discussed how just as we inherit physical traits from our parents, we also inherit spiritual traits from our Heavenly Parents. Some of us may be very outgoing and the life of the party. This trait may bring joy to themselves and friends as they might be all about having fun and including those around them. Some of us are more quiet and prefer conversations with a small group over a larger, louder, fun group most of the time. This trait may help them be good listeners and bring joy to themselves and others by being able to slow down and reflect on the beautiful things in life. Some of us make be good at taking charge and making sure things get done. This trait could bring joy to themselves and others by helping others accomplish things that they might not believe they can do otherwise.

These are just some examples of many, many individual traits we each have. None of them are better than others and we need all of these beautiful spiritual traits to make the world a wonderful place that works for everyone! Every difference is important!

I then told them as a reminder of the importance of our differences I would be reading a poem and giving them a copy of it to take home with necklaces we would be making with their DNA in them.

The poem is as follows(a special thanks to Erin Leithead for her editing assistance):

Divine DNA

My heavenly parents made me
And sent me here to earth.
They gave my body a blueprint
To help me grow from birth.

The blueprint is my DNA
And it helps to make me, me;
From my insides to my outsides
I’m unique! – as you can see.

Each bit of information
Tells my body how to grow.
Whether short or: tall or in-between,
I have that one-of-a-kind glow!

One thing is for certain,
Whatever my shape may be:
I’m grateful for my DNA
Because there’s no one else like me!

Part 2

Next we did our DNA extraction activity. I would suggest having one leader or parent volunteer for every 3-4 girls for this activity. We had 2 adults to 11 girls and it was a little too chaotic for my taste and we didn't have time for everyone's glue to dry before they went home.

I found the instructions for the extraction on PBS at this link: . If you click "transcript" below the video you will find the text instructions I've copied below in italics with my notes in brackets:

Extract Your Own DNA

Posted: March 1, 2012
NOVA Presents: D.I.Y. Science
How to Extract Your Own DNA
filtered water, clear dish soap, food coloring, table salt, and 70% isopropyl alcohol [clear disposable cups, pipettes, glass pendants & lids, glass cement, jump rings, and necklace(chain or string) to hang pendant from. I will include links to things I bought online at the end of the post.]
And… you!
Step 1: Mix 500 ml drinking water with 1 tbsp salt [I had this premixed]
Step 2: Stir until salt is dissolved. Then transfer 3 tbsp of salt water into a clear cup.
Step 3: Gargle the salt water for 1 minute. [When they say gargle, they mean swish. You really have to encourage the girls to move the water around in their mouths. I would suggest even lightly "biting" the insides of their cheeks to loosen more of the dead skin cells. Most of the girls got very few DNA strands because they weren't agitating the water in their mouths enough.]
Step 4: Spit the water back into the cup. Now your cheek cells are suspended in the salt water.
Step 5: Gently stir the salt water with one drop of soap. (Avoid bubbles as much as possible). [I had them using their pipettes that will later be used to transfer the DNA necklace as a stirring stick here.]
Note: Soap breaks down the cell membranes, releasing the DNA.
Step 6: In a separate cup, mix 100 ml isopropyl alcohol and 3 drops of food coloring. [For a larger group, I picked a couple colors I thought would be most popular ahead of time(turquoise/sea green was most popular) and girls who wanted a different color I mixed one food coloring drop with a small amount of rubbing alcohol.]
Step 7: Tilt the salt water cup and gently pour the alcohol so that it forms a layer on top (about 2 cm thick).
Step 8: Wait about 2.5 minutes. You should see white clumps and strings forming.
That's your DNA!
Next an adult helps the girls find the dna strands from their cup with some colored alcohol using the pipette. It is important to draw from the top portion of the cup so you don't get the salty dish soap mix. Then squeeze the liquid and DNA into the glass pendant and have them hold it upright until a leader can help them put glue in the lid and wipe the extra when it is placed on the pendant. Have the girls hold the pendant closed and upright for 5 or so minutes or until the glue is set. I then had the girls that had any time for additional drying before their parents arrived place their pendant upright in a dixie cup with salt to dry longer while they picked the string color they wanted for their necklace. I asked them to wait an hour before putting the pendant on the necklace to be sure the glue wouldn't come off & let their DNA spill out. 
Part 3
Things I wish we'd done differently:
*more leaders/parent volunteers - As mentioned before we had 2 adults to 11 girls. It was pretty chaotic. I would suggest having at least 1 adult to each 3-4 girls and ask them to arrive a few minutes early to go over instructions.
*clear cups - In and effort to save money I used the small paper dixie cups. They didn't work well for a couple reasons. First they weren't strong enough not leak for the amount of time we had liquid in them. Second they made it harder to see & capture the DNA since they were solid and not clear. I would strongly suggest using clear plastic cups for this activity.
*glue - I'm not sure if there's any faster drying glue that is compatible with glass, but it was disappointing for the girls to not get to wear their new necklaces home(although I heard from a few parents that they were still excited to wear them to school the next day and tell friends about them). Having more adult helpers may have alleviated this problem as well since we had one of us filling pendants with DNA and the other gluing lids so we were very rushed and unable to make sure liquid was staying away from the glue to make sure they dried faster. 
*jump rings - My pendants shipped out later than expected so I didn't have time to make sure my necklaces fit and they definitely didn't. I used rings I had purchased for another personal project, but those were still a little on the small side. I would get rings that are large enough to fit over all the hardware on your necklace and put them on the lids before the activity. 

Overall it was a really fun activity and even though it was chaotic and I didn't get to gauge the girl's reactions at the time, I was contacted by a few moms letting me know that their daughters had a ton of fun and were still excited and talking about it the next day. 

Links to items I purchased online:
Elmer's E650A Stix-All Cement 5/8-Ounce Elmer's 
KONMAY 100pcs Mixed Colors Waxed Cotton Cord Necklace 1.5...
Chemical Lab Squeeze Type Disposable Graduated Pipettes 1...
MINI HEART Vials by cricketseeker [I got a couple shape options for the girls to choose from].
I purchased everything else at local retailers. 

If you have any questions, ask away-I'm happy to help!


  1. Finally got this up on! Thanks!

  2. What section did you use this under for the girls to sign off?

    1. I think it can be signed off under either Learning and Living the Gospel or Developing Talents.

      We learn about our Divine Nature/individual worth and get a very basic understanding about how dna plays into the development of our physical bodies that are part of the plan of salvation.

      This is also developing the talents of loving learning and learning to make a simple piece of jewelry. So we get to gain some knowledge in both art and science. ;)


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