Biotechnology for Middle School Students

Thanks to a gift from the Helios Education Foundation, the BIOTECH Project now supports middle school science teachers and students!

Launched in October 2009, Jr. Biotech provides teacher training, curricula, classroom kits, and in-classroom support for middle school classrooms in Arizona. Through an exciting state partnership, Jr. Biotech supports bioscience education in three regions of the state- Southern Arizona (Tucson), Western Arizona (Yuma) and Northern Arizona (Flagstaff).



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Biotechnology Activities for Middle School students:


Kiwi DNA Extraction: How do you purify DNA from cells? Students extract DNA from kiwifruit to learn about the chemical and physical properties of DNA. This activity provides a first-hand understanding of how DNA can be isolated for further analysis, such as DNA fingerprinting. Students also reinforce their understanding of cell structure and biological macromolecules. We use a kiwifruit protocol because it uses commonplace materials and requires little equipment. [45 minutes]

[Student Guide] [Teacher Guide] [Materials Guide]


DNA Fingerprinting: How is DNA evidence prepared and analyzed in a crime case? Students perform agarose gel electrophoresis to analyze DNA (dye simulation) samples from a mock crime scene. Based on DNA fingerprinting profiles with dyes simulated to represent the DNA a comparison is made to the crime scene, students determine which suspect likely committed the crime. This activity helps students understand how DNA variation in individuals can be analyzed in practical applications such as genetic testing and forensics. [50 minutes to introduce electrophoresis and practice pipetting, 50 minutes to run gels, partial next day to analyze results]

Some Examples:

Cootie Genetics: In this activity students will simulate the work of Gregor Mendel to investigate how traits are inherited. Students mate "Cootie" organisms with different true breeding traits and explore  trait behaviors (dominant, recessive) and trait probabilities- while having fun!  This lesson should be introduced before genetic terminology, DNA and/or Punnett Squares. [Three to four 50 minute class periods]

Click here to access the Cooties web site.

[Student Guide] [Materials Guide]



DNA Origami: Learn more about DNA structure with this classic paper folding activity. This activity was designed by DNA Interactive (, and has been slightly modified. Students will see that the backbone of DNA comprises of sugars and phosphates whereas the bases are on the inside of the structure, and they will see the antiparallel nature of DNA. They will learn that Adenine is always paired with Thymine, and Guanine always with Cytosine, and that AT base pairing uses two hydrogen bonds, where as GC uses three hydrogen bonds. [Origami ColorB&WInstructions]


Disease Detection: Students will simulate the outbreak of a viral disease in the classroom starting with one individual that is infected. They will analyze the classroom data, to determine the original carrier of the virus and examine how transmitted diseases spread in a population. [50 minutes]

[Student Guide] [Teacher Guide] [Materials Guide]