Duquesne University

Education: DNA and Evolution

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DNA and EvolutionExplore DNA and evolution through these unique, hands-on activities! Download the activity and supplemental materials.  Some require additional inexpensive materials that can be easily rounded-up.

Originally exhibited for National DNA Day (April 25) at Darwin2009 cultural institutions.


Spiral of Life: DNA and Evolution Poster

Part of the Spiral of Life Mural Series

What is the role of DNA in Evolution? Where does variation come from? This and more questions are answered in this poster. This poster summarizes many of the concepts that Darwin didn't know in his time, but that answered many of his questions.

To get a copy, please e-mail John Pollock at pollock@duq.edu.


DNA Highway Repair

Originally developed for the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, PADNA Highway Repair
Concepts: DNA replication, mutation, repair, environmental agents

What happens when our DNA is mutated by potentially harmful environmental agents, like the sun’s UV rays (or a tanning booth), or chemicals in cigarette smoke? Guide the “Paul E. Merase” (polymerase) and “DNA Highway Repair” trucks along the “DNA Highway” in this hands-on activity that explores DNA mutation at the molecular level. Discuss how we can prevent harmful mutations that lead to cancer and other diseases.

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My DNA is Full of Junk!

Originally developed for the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PAJunk DNA
Concepts: RNA transcription, protein synthesis, relatedness

Did you know that 95% of the human genome is made of junk DNA? Assemble a DNA sequence and then ‘splice’ it into RNA. Through the process, discover the roles that introns, exons, and junk DNA play – and don’t play – in protein production. Learn how introns and exons help scientists determine relatedness between species and their evolution from a common ancestor!

Download Activity for Grades 7-10, 12
Download "My DNA is Full of Junk" Poster

DNA and Evolution - Phylogenetic TreePhylogenetic Tree

Originally developed for the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
Concepts: DNA, relatedness, genetics, phylogenetic tree

How closely related is a zebrafish to a mouse? Students compare and contrast different gene sequences and discover their relatedness on a large, colorful phylogenetic tree poster.

Part of the Spiral of Life Mural Series, the poster was originally exhibited during DNA Day of the Darwin 2009 celebration in Pittsburgh. A new representation of Darwin’s phylogenetic tree, the spiral shape emphasizes the equality of all organisms while tracing Life’s descent from a common ancestor.  A versatile teaching tool, the poster can be used to supplement any study of biological diversity and evolution.

Download Activity
Download Activity Materials
Download "Phylogenetic Tree" Poster

DNA Bracelet ActivityDNA Bracelets

Originally developed for the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
Concepts: DNA, genetics, relatedness

Everyone’s an individual! Students can assemble their own unique “DNA Bracelets” representing certain traits, such as hair color, eye color, handedness and ear lobes. Afterwards, discuss what DNA is and how it creates unique individuals while students compare their bracelets with each other.

Download Activity for Grades 2-5
Download Activity Materials

Inheritance and EvolutionInheritance and Evolution

Originally developed for Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, PA
Concepts: DNA, inheritance, genetics, evolution, plant reproduction

Explore the different ways in which flowering plants reproduce, and learn about how certain traits are inherited and expressed. Using water and food coloring, students will experiment with creating different offspring through self and cross-fertilization.  They’ll learn about dominant and recessive genes, and why cross-fertilization both benefits the species and drives evolution.  Incorporating fake or live plants into the activity can help to further bring the concepts to life!

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Darwin 2009: Exploration is Never Extinct!Presented by Regenerative Medicine Partnership in Education.

Darwin 2009 at Duquesne University

Why is Duquesne University leading Darwin 2009? More Info »

Read about Darwin and Evolution

Darwin 2009: Exploration is Never Extinct!
Discover Darwin, his life and travels.
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Darwin 2009: Exploration is Never Extinct!
What is evolution and how does it work?

Lesson Plans

Take your classroom on a field trip to discover Darwin! All lesson plans include a pre-visit lesson, a self-guided activity at the museum and a post-visit tour.
To download the lesson right click on the link and "Save target as..."

Academic Standards

PA State Standards For
Science and Technoloy
National Science
Education Standards
National Science Education Standards
Texas State Science
Education Standards
National Science Education Standards

Phipps Conservatory

Veggie Variations
Grades K-3
Family Trees
Grades 4-12
Family Trees: Classroom
Experience - Grades 4-12

National Aviary

Unique Beak Physique
Grades K-6
Feathered Families
Grades 4-7

Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

A Class System
Grades 5-7
What Would I Do With You
Grades 5-7

Carnegie Science Center

Darwin SI Web quest
Grades 3-6
Puzzle Race
Grades 3-6