Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Do You Know the Master Programmer?

Author Unknown


Students demonstrate DNA replication, RNA transcription, and tRNA translation into protein synthesis by building models of each process using candy as building materials.


The student knows that every cell contains a `blueprint` coded in DNA molecules that specify how proteins are assembled to regulate cells.


Per class of 32:
-Toothpicks - four boxes
-Soft Candy e.g., Gumdrops - four 1 lb.bags
-Miniature marshmallows - four 16 oz. bags
-Construction paper - 4 packages of 8 x 10 sheets
-Colored markers - 8 sets
-Scissors - 8


1. Collect all materials. You can provide candy, toothpicks, paper and straws or you can assign the students bring in supplies. Students will be allowed to eat any candy not used.
2. Divide the class into groups of 4 students each.
3. Display examples of the models, previously made or drawn, for the class to see how their products should appear when finished.


Note: Students should have knowledge of the following before attempting this lesson:
a.) the base-pairing rules of adenine to thymine and guanine to cystosine with the nitrogen bases attaching to the sugar Dexoyribose in Dna and ribose sugar in RNA with weak hydrogen bonds.
b.) that DNA is a double strand and the RNA molecules built are only one strand.
c.) the protein molecule built should illustrate the peptide bonds between the specific amino acids combined.

Day One
1. Divide the class into groups of 4 students each.

2. Display an example of the models, previously made or drawn, for students to see how their products should appear upon completion.

3. Pass out the master program worksheets you have copied from the attached file.

4. Review the checklist with the students. The checklist is located in the attached file.

5. Instruct the students to construct a DNA model using different candies for each different component of the molecule connecting the candies with pieces of toothpicks.

6. Instruct the students to create a legend, i.e., a key for the various components of the models.

Day Two
1. Instruct the students to finish construction of their models. Allow 15 minutes for this step as most groups should have their models completed by the end of Day One.

2. Instruct the students to present their projects to the class for peer and teacher evaulations using the checklist.


Students demonstrate their understanding of the DNA molecule, and the formation of the proper protein by illustrating their models to their peers who will assess their models and presentations using the Nucleic Acid Checklist Questions located in the attached file.


Students can illustrate how some genetic mutations can be created by reversing or deleting part(s) of the DNA code.
In working with ESE students, provide extended time and give the exact DNA sequence to be copied.
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