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How to Make a DNA Model Without Using Candy

Updated March 16, 2017

When explaining DNA to your students, it may be hard for the young minds to visualise the structure of the double helix or the way that only four bases (guanine, adenine, cytosine and thymine) can be used in different combinations to express different traits. By building models of DNA, the students can better understand how DNA functions and how intricate a DNA pattern can be. You do not need candy to make a DNA model.

Pass out the materials listed above to each student.

Explain to your students about each component of a DNA model and how each component is represented in the materials before them. Explain that the different coloured pipe cleaners represent the phosphate and sugar components of the ladder and that the coloured beads represent the four different bases.

Cut the white pipe cleaners into six 2-inch sections. Thread onto each section a DNA pairing. Remember: Adenine (red) pairs with Thymine (yellow) and Guanine (green) pairs with Cytosine (orange).

Take one DNA pairing made in step 3. Wrap one end of the paring to the top of one of the 12-inch coloured pipe cleaners (use any colour beside white). Wrap the other end around the second 12-inch coloured pipe cleaner. Repeat this process with each DNA pairing to complete the ladder.

Twist the ladder gently to form the double helix.

Things You'll Need

  • Two white pipe cleaners (12 inches long)
  • Two coloured pipe cleaners (12 inches long)
  • 12 red 6mm pony beads
  • 12 green 6mm pony beads
  • 6 yellow 6mm pony beads
  • 6 orange 6mm pony beads
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
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About the Author

Based in Traverse City, Mich., George Lawrence has been writing professionally since 2009. His work primarily appears on various websites. An avid outdoorsman, Lawrence holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in both criminal justice and English from Michigan State University, as well as a Juris Doctor from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, where he graduated with honors.