Extracting Strawberry DNA

Extracting Strawberry DNA

With her arm extended far in front of her, Olivia H. ’29 smiles widely at Dr. Khanichi Charles as she showcases a test tube filled with strawberry purée.“I see something that pretty much looks like a pile of snot.” Olivia asks, “So does that mean it worked?” While a pile of snot is not typically a desired outcome, in this instance, it signified the success of Marlborough 7th graders’ lab work and experimentation in Exploring Science I (ESI). 

ESI is Marlborough’s science course for 7th graders. The class provides an introduction to various disciplines and essential lab skills, preparing students for more advanced Marlborough science courses throughout their academic careers. Within the ESI curriculum are “choose your own adventure” days, where traditional classroom learning takes a back seat to hands-on, experiential learning. In this particular lab, students extracted DNA from strawberries using graduated cylinders, beakers, electronic scales, strawberries, dish soap, and a few other basic household items. The end result was a clump of strawberry DNA, somewhat resembling mucus from a bad cold.

This experiment is easily accessible to anyone with basic kitchen equipment. Mx. Jules Favorito originally introduced the lab idea to the teaching team. “This lab always seems to spark joy in students because there are fun steps in the process,” they said, “and students get a lot out of the activity because they are visibly observing concepts we cover in the curriculum.” Collectively, the ESI teaching team—which includes Crystal Buckley, Dr. Khanichi Charles, Lisa Ellis, Jules Favorito, and Maxime Salzburg—decided to elevate the lab to put the 7th graders’ knowledge to use. “During our first unit in ESI, the Class of 2029 learned about science fundamentals which includes proper usage of beakers, graduated cylinders, and electronic scales,” explains Dr. Charles, “so we asked the students to put each of those lab instruments to use.” In addition to calling upon information the students had previously learned, this lab also perfectly previews their next unit when the class will learn about DNA in depth, including heredity and inheritance. 

ESI student Birdie D. ’29 enjoyed using her new-found lab skills during this activity. She reflects, “We used some skills we had previously learned such as measuring, weighing, and lab precautions to make sure the result of our experiment couldn't be affected. I was really surprised when the solution became goop at the end!” This sense of surprise was echoed by Mx. Favorito as they observed their students. “In the final step, when the DNA of the strawberry began to precipitate out of the solution and become visible, there were exclamations of amazement and many began to ask intriguing questions about the actual science behind the lab,” Mx. Favorito shares. This joyful curiosity and intellectual intrigue aligns perfectly with the ESI team’s goals on “choose your own adventure” days—to ignite a passion for science and support students as they progress through Marlborough’s science curriculum, one fulfilling day in the lab at a time.

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