Nano-Activities for Kids


dna structure made from common candies

DNA contains all the information needed to build your body. Did you know that your DNA determines things such as your eye color, hair color, height, and even the size of your nose? Every cell in our body contains DNA.

The following activities will help you build models of DNA and discover some of the properties of DNA. We hope you enjoy these activities and do them together as a family.


thumbnail version of mock city structure made with hypothetical cells

DNA Determines Your Appearance!

It turns out that the DNA in your body came almost directly from your mother and father. If your DNA came from your parents and DNA determines your appearance, why do you not look exactly like your mother or father?

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cell structure made from jello

DNA's Secret Code

DNA is a set of instructions that tells our cells how to build protein. These instructions are in a language that we did not understand until recently. In this activity, you will translate a message from a newspaper or magazine into the language that DNA uses, which is the DNA code. You can also use the DNA code to send secret messages to your friends or family.

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material being stuffed into a ballon

Unlocking the role of enzymes in DNA reproduction

Your skin alone loses thousands of dead skin cells every minute. If this is the case, why do we not eventually have holes in our skin? In this activity, you will see how the action of an enzyme cuts apart a protein filled substance. Although enzymes are not living, they are active, as you will see in this activity.

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cell membrane model made from popsicle sticks

How to see DNA with the naked eye

In this activity, you will extract DNA from green split peas. To do this, you will go through a series of steps that include breaking the cell apart, releasing the DNA from the nucleus, and protecting the DNA from enzymes that will shear or break it down.

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eggs immersed in various materials

Make a model DNA strand

A strand of DNA looks like a ladder that has been twisted into a corkscrew. Just like a ladder, a DNA strand has two rails running parallel to each other and rungs that connect the rails. In this activity, you will build two DNA models. Both models represent the major components of a strand DNA.

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Support for the Center for Nanoscale Science is provided through the NSF Grant DMR-08-20404, part of the NSF MRSEC Program. Additional support is provided by Penn State University, Materials Research Institute, and by Pennsylvania Ben Franklin Technology Development Fund.
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