DNA Whispers

30 Nov

That boy LOVES DNA whispers.

DNA is exciting. It’s the bees knees. But if you have an attention span like mine its hard to stay on the ball when someone is talking about DNA for longer than, say…5 minutes.  DNA whispers is the perfect way to keep an audience of people like me (i.e. easily distractable) engaged.

It’s a really simple activity that highlights the amazing ability of our cells to copy DNA. You write a DNA sequence down in A, T, C and G’s then give it to the first member of the audience. Get that person to whisper it to the next member of the audience. The second person then whispers it to the next person and this continues until the last audience member. At this point the last person says the sequence aloud. You can either hold up the written down code or incorporate the code into your powerpoint and then the group can then see if they got the DNA sequence right or (more likely) wrong.

The length of the sequence depends on your audience size and age but this works well for an audience of around 10 teenagers;


If you have a larger group maybe make the sequence shorter – its surprisingly difficult to remember.

Here’s some fun facts you might want to include about DNA replication;

  • Cells in your body are constantly dividing – especially if you’re still growing.
  • Your gut cells divide every 3 days and your skin cells divide every 6 weeks. That means the skin you can see right now is completely different to the one you were looking at *insert date 6 weeks ago or in the future*.
  • Even Boston Terriers like DNA whispers.

    The genes that are coded in DNA are the instructions that tell your cells how to exist. Every time your cells divide all the DNA needs to be copied so that the two new cells both have copy of these genetic instructions.

  • If there is a mistake when the DNA is copied then the cell that gets those faulty instructions will either die or worse – can lead to diseases like cancer.
  • We just tried to pass the DNA  message or ‘copy’ the DNA *insert number of people in the audience* times. In the last *multiply number of audience members by 3* days your gut cells have copied their DNA that many times. EXCEPT we actually have about 3billion bases (the A, T, C and G’s) in every one of our cells so the gut cells have copied about 40million times more DNA.

Depending on the group you speak to you could mention that because of the importance in replicating the DNA properly our cells have proof reading mechanisms that spot mistakes when copying DNA.

And there you have it – DNA whispers!


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