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Dinosaurs and DNA

Postby Play4life » Wed Nov 11, 2020 9:42 pm

One of our Kindergarten students is asking if we can make dinosaur DNA to recreate dinosaurs. He would like an experts advice on how to do this. As his teachers, we understand this clearly isn’t possible but would love some support about how to explain this to him and his classmates as well as some more information on how to explain what DNA is to 5 year olds.

Thanks in advance for you expert support!

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Re: Dinosaurs and DNA

Postby carolynml » Sat Nov 14, 2020 4:37 pm

Hi Amanda,

How fun that kindergarteners are already interested in DNA!

Regarding describing DNA to young children, my suggestion would be to describe it as a sort of code that is unique to each person that provides instructions for how we look and how our bodies function. DNA is divided into genes, with each gene providing instructions for something different (though some genes can together contribute to a given outcome). For instance, several genes in our DNA (as many as 16 as far as we know) determine what color our eyes are. DNA exists in all our cells, but it is very small, so scientists need powerful microscopes to see it. DNA helps us reproduce because it allows us to pass along traits from parents to children. However, DNA doesn't determine everything about who we are. Sometimes it's a combination of DNA and our environment, or exclusively due to environmental influences.

While recreating extinct species using DNA samples is something that scientists have indeed pondered over the years, any surviving dinosaur DNA sample would certainly be too degraded/damaged to use for cloning to make a new dinosaur. And as far as I know, no one has even found a dinosaur DNA sample.

Feel free to reach out with any more questions!


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Re: Dinosaurs and DNA

Postby cnoonan180 » Sun Nov 15, 2020 4:11 pm


The Science Buddies forum is meant for students, teachers, and parents to post their inquiries about science fair project questions only. Perhaps you could perform a science experiment or project in class to demonstrate the concept of DNA and biological processes in living organisms, as well as the concept of fossils to your students?

Here is one science project idea that you may want to use as part of your science lessons in class! This project will help students to understand the different types of fossils that can be found, and the information scientists can obtain from these fossil types. This may help students to better understand how scientists know what they know about dinosaurs, and how students can learn more! For example, the trace fossils, which are part of this experiment, can help scientists determine dinosaur behaviors and activities. These types of fossils include footprints, for example. Note that the environment and environmental effects have been shown to affect an animal's behavior, even when an animal may be genetically identical to another (clone), so even if scientists did re-create dinosaurs today, they would presumably behave differently than dinosaurs that roamed the Earth hundreds of millions of years ago, although no one knows for sure as dinosaurs have not been re-created.

Fossil Project Link: ... background

Another note is that there is no confirmation that scientists have discovered dinosaur DNA according to some quick research, although the field of molecular paleontology and its controversies about the validity and the many variables that would need to be accounted for, should a scientist believe they have found dinosaur DNA and try to confirm their finding, are a discussion area in the scientific community.

Additionally, a resource that may help students to explore their interests in DNA and genetics to do in the classroom would be a DNA extraction experiment, in the case of the link below to another project idea, students would be extracting DNA from an onion. The extracted DNA should be able to be seen with the naked eye and without using a microscope, and seeing the stranded structure of DNA may help students understanding of the structure of DNA and why this structure is so important! ... -onion-dna

In terms of how to explain DNA to kindergarteners, a good way to do this would be using some sort of building blocks and the analogy of a ladder. This would help students to understand the ladder-like, double-helix structure of DNA, and that the blocks that connect in the middle of the ladder, or the "rungs," (to represent 2 base pairs per rung), and that the specific order that the "rungs" in the ladder line up or bond with each other, function as a code. These codes tell the organelles in the cells what proteins to make, and the proteins cause the students to grow taller, for example, or cause their nails (which are made of the protein keratin) grow.

Essentially, the ladder model using building blocks should convey to the students that the way the "rungs" are lined up in the ladder form a "code" to tell the body which proteins to make, and proteins help carry out different biological functions like growing or determine hair color.

Hope this helps and feel free to reach out with more questions!

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