How to make a DNA model out of styrofoam balls

Updated February 21, 2017

Making a DNA model out of styrofoam balls is a fun, easy way to gain a hands-on perspective of how a DNA molecule is built. You can use the model to decorate or as a teaching tool, and it always serves as a terrific science project. By taking the time to be accurate and use the proper amount of balls, the finished product will turn out to be polished and organised.

Designate 5 toothpicks to be used for the process of painting the balls. Lay out a sheet of newspaper to protect your work space from paint.

Dip a paintbrush into an acrylic paint and glide it along the base of a styrofoam ball, using a toothpick to puncture and hold it for easier coverage. You can choose to make all the balls the same colour or to use various colours. When you have finished painting a ball, gently set it aside on a piece of newspaper to dry. Since the styrofoam is porus, you don't have to worry about a significant amount of paint rubbing off on to the newspaper. Repeat until all balls are painted. Allow them to dry completely, at least 24 hours.

Connect four styrofoam balls using toothpicks, going in a straight line. On the first end, poke a toothpick coming directly up from a 45 degree angle from the top of the ball. It should be pointed upward and slightly away from the left side of the strand. Repeat on the other end, this time pointing the toothpick at the same angle from the right side of the strand. Add a styrofoam ball to the new toothpicks. This is one "rung" of the DNA ladder.

Set up your laboratory stand. Glue the rang to the laboratory stand, with the line of styrofoam balls lying flat diagonally across the base. Repeat Step 3 until you are out of balls, connecting each new rang to the main DNA strand on the laboratory stand. The outside balls of the rungs (the pieces that stick out at an angle) will align and create the DNA strand's famous twisted shape.

Things You'll Need

  • Styrofoam balls (100)
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Newspaper
  • Toothpicks (80)
  • Glue
  • Labratory stand
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Amy Lukavics is an Arizona resident who has been a professional writer since 2009. She contributes to the blog Hello, Moon and her writing interests include cooking, crafts, pregnancy, health and beauty.