We've been learning about genes as part of our "identity" studies. Genes carry information that determines our physical (and other) traits, or characteristics. Many of these characteristics are passed down from parents to their offspring. You can inherit the size of your nose, or the waggle of your earlobes, or maybe even your sense of humor.
Genes are made of a chemical called DNA. DNA, as children can understand it, is like a recipe holding the instructions to make molecules called proteins. Bill Nye does a pretty good job of introducing young scientists to these and other terms, but our own Shan Cook did an even better job of having a hands-on science experiment involving DNA.
In order to study DNA, scientists have to extract it from cells. We made our own extraction kit on Friday, using simple household ingredients - rubbing alcohol, salt, water, and dish soap. Using these ingredients, we extracted DNA from strawberries! Some children found it hard to believe that the stringy, whitish stuff in our solution was DNA, but indeed it was. We also got a chance to look at DNA through a microscope.