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The Human Body: Cells and DNA

August 29, 2011

We love studying science with friends. Frankly, everything is more fun with friends, but since our friends can’t live in our basement, we have to import them whenever possible. Currently, we’ve convinced some to come over for a diabolical study of the human body using Dr. Frankenstein’s Human Body Book as our guide. This is a fun book with the right amount of science for our upper elementary students. You can see an in-depth review on The Pioneer Woman’s homeschooling blog here.

The Bean assembling the red blood cell model.

I managed to plan in advance for this session, and the kids rotated around to different stations in the basement: a book station, a microscope station (with some microscopes, a book, and a diagram to label), an animal cell station (with a model to build and a diagram to label), a red blood cell station (where they built a model and made their own sketches), and a white blood cell station (also with a model and sketch pad).

Inspecting some fuzzy strawberries at the microscope station.

One of Dr. Frankenstein's lab assistants being diabolical at the white blood cell station

Reading lab procedures: a must for Dr. Frankenstein's lab assistants!

After completing all the stations, they were ready for a little recess. The Bean changed into her Cleopatra costume and the boys grabbed various styrofoam weapons, and there was some kind of game that involved passwords and danger. 🙂 Then, still partly in character, our adventurous students were ready for the DNA activity. We are using a Science Wiz DNA kit. After some light reading and review about cells and DNA, they gathered their materials to extract DNA from some strawberries. This is a very cool experiment involving some basic household supplies, a few things from the kit, some strawberries, and some ice-cold denatured alcohol.

I love this experiment! It's simple enough that the kids can do it themselves, but it does require attention to detail.

The kids did a great job following the lab procedures and they extracted some gooey strawberry DNA. They are contemplating using it to build a strawberry-headed monster. 🙂

See that gooey stuff at the top of the vial? That's strawberry DNA!


Here’s the set of review questions I put to the students: 

Dear lab assistant trainees,
Way to go! We learned a lot today. Before we move on in our diabolical lab experience, let’s review what we covered today. You can take some time at the beginning of our next training session to look up any answers you don’t remember from today.
Like everything else in the universe, the human body is made of ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ and ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___. Up to 60 % (or 6/10) of a human’s body weight can be attributed to ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ molecules. In living things, the molecules are so awesome that they build ___ ___ ___ ___ ___, the living units from which the body is made.
Cells and DNA:
The outside of a cell is called the _________________________________________________.
The jellylike fluid that fills each cell is called ___________________________________________.
The tiny structures inside the cell are called _________________________________________________.
The ____________________________________ release energy to power the cell’s chemical reactions.
The _____________________________________________________________________________________________ makes and transports proteins.
The _______________________________________________________________________ packages and distributes newly made proteins.
The ______________________________________________ is the cell’s control center. It contains _________________________ (a number) molecules of DNA.The DNA molecules contain about 25,000 instructions needed to make a body. These instructions are called _________________________. They control the production of ______________________.
Proteins are made of smaller molecules called __________________________________________________.
Different proteins do different things. They are in charge of organizing all the body’s other molecules.
DNA molecules carry a code to define what makes up an organism. This code has four letters: ___, ___, ___, and ___.
There are many different kinds of cells. Red blood cells contain _________________________________________, which is red when it is bonded to oxygen and blue when the oxygen is depleted. There are different types of white blood cells. Our white blood cell model is of a phagocyte. It helps mop up and destroy foreign bodies that cause disease, like ________________________ and viruses. We watched a video of a white blood cell chasing and catching ___________________________ (same answer as previous blank).
Madly and scientifically yours,
Mrs. Frankenstein


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