Homemade DNA Models for Science Projects

Updated June 01, 2017

Construct DNA models at home as part of a school project, an addition to a DNA science project, or to help understand how the DNA molecule works. A student can make several types of at-home DNA models, depending on the student's age and requirements for the class. For instance, a student can choose to make a candy molecule or a molecule using pipe cleaners. Whichever the student chooses, each model should contain the base pairs to form a double helix.

Styrofoam Ball DNA Model

Construct a DNA model at home using styrofoam balls. Gather about 100 styrofoam balls and toothpicks. Choose four colours for the molecules of the DNA model: Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine and Guanine, and one colour for the phosphate backbone. Paint the balls and let them dry for a day. Connect the molecules in pairs, using toothpicks. Remember that Adenine is paired with Thymine and Cytosine is paired with Guanine. Alternate each row with each pair with a phosphate ball in between. Use a wooden stand to hold up your DNA molecule. Wrap the DNA molecule around the stand to form the double helix.

Candy DNA Model

One way to construct a DNA molecule is to use candy. This is simple and doesn't take a lot of time. All you need are 1-inch red and black liquorice pieces to represent the sugar phosphate backbone of the DNA, four different coloured gum drops to represent the bases (Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine and Guanine), small marshmallows to represent the hydrogen bonds that hold the bases together and toothpicks to hold the enitre molecule together.

DNA Model Using Recycled Materials

Construct a DNA Model using recycled cans, bottles and bottle caps. Gather two different brands of soda cans, clear plastic soda bottles and two different-coloured types of bottle caps. Two different soda cans can represent the deoxyribose and phosphate. Label each plastic soda bottle with the base it represents (Adenine, Thymine, Guanine, Cytosine). The bottle caps can represent the carbon and hydrogen bonds. You then can construct all of the components to form the DNA double helix.

Pipe wires and Pasta DNA Model

Make a DNA model with wagon wheel and ziti pasta and four different-coloured pipe cleaners. Make two DNA strands by alternating wagon wheel pasta and ziti through two pieces of string. After you have nine pieces of wagon wheels on each string, tie the strings through the middle of the pasta. Cut the four different-coloured pipe cleaners into pieces 4 inches long. Choose colours to represent the base pairs: Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine and Guanine. Twist the ends of two different-coloured pipe cleaners together. (Always use the same colours together each time as Adenine goes with Thymine and Cytosine goes with Guanine. Take paired pipe cleaners and attach one end to a piece of ziti and the other end to the same piece of ziti on the other strand of pasta. Repeat this step for the remaining pipe cleaners so that you build a DNA ladder. Twist the ladder to form a double helix.

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About the Author

Based in Huntington Beach, Calif., Dana Schafer has been writing environmental articles and grant proposals since 2006. Schafer has written for Grace Unlimited Corporation and Youth Have Vision. Schafer is in the process of receiving a Master of Science in biology from California State University, Long Beach.