What is DNA and Why Do We Need It?

In this BioBox you will get to discover the genetic code and begin to see how DNA is the code for the making of all living things.  Did you know that DNA code has just 4 letters- yet there is so much variation that has come from that simple alphabet! Amazing. 

This BioBox contains 4 entertaining experiments: DNA extraction (from your own cheek cells), Building a DNA model, Discovering fingerprint patterns, and Becoming a fingerprint detective.  Each experiment is marked with the approximate time to complete.  Remember, no need to do all of them in one sitting! These experiments can be completed in any order. Let the epic experiments begin! 

Included in this box:

Sport drink

Small cup

Test tube

3 pipetts

Test tube rack

Cell Lysis Solution

70% Ethyl Alcohol


Pipe Cleaners

Colored beads

Ink pad

Clear lifting tape

Fingerprint cards

Blank slides

Detective powder

Details of this box:

Experiment 1: DNA Extraction 

In this experiment you will get to collect your own DNA! Each step is important so be sure to watch the attached video before completing experiment - it gives so many helpful tips. Also read through all the steps before beginning.


  • Practice using the pipette with water – it takes a few times to get the hang of it.  Precise measurements really make a difference!

  • Make sure not to eat anything right before swishing the sports drink to collect your cheek cells. You don’t want to collect food particles into the mixture! Maybe rinse your mouth with water first.

  • It is important to use clean pipettes for each step.


Experiment 2: Building a DNA model


Building a DNA model will help to visualize how the genetic code is read. 

 Tip: When the model is complete, it might help to uncoil the strand to read and write the letter code and then recoil it after.  



Experiment 3: DNA Makes Us Unique

 In this experiment you will get to see that our genetic code determines every feature of our bodies and distinguishes us from other organisms as well as from each other – even family members.  Fingerprints are one of those features that are unique to each of us. Family members will be similar, yet still unique. 


  • Getting good prints is a bit tricky at first.  Try practicing on a blank sheet of paper before putting your prints on a fingerprint card.  Be sure to get the flat pad at the top of each finger.   

  • Many adult fingerprints smooth out over the years and are thus more difficult to collect. 

  • The magnifying glass really helps you see the patterns.


Experiment 4: Be a Detective


  • Fresh fingerprints may be needed.  Try a bit of lotion if your fingers are particularly dry.  

  • Make some prints on a clear drinking glass. Each person can use one glass, then try to detect to whom each glass belongs. 

Let the Epic Experiments begin! 

What an adventure – we are so glad you have joined us! Please let us know about your experiments: send pictures, give tips for other BioBoxers, share favorite results. #bioboxlabs

Lisa SommersComment