On Friday, October 21, 2016, a representative from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory DNA Learning Center visited fifth-grade students at Baylis School to conduct a hands-on lesson about cell structure. The instructor, Mrs. Gottlieb, likened the DNA found inside a cell’s nucleus to a “cookbook” and the genes on the DNA as the “recipes” for the many types of cells in the human body (which contains 40 trillion cells).

Mrs. Gottlieb pointed out that although cells have different shapes, they have the same components inside. She drew an analogy between cell structure and a chocolate factory: the cell membrane serving as the building; the DNA serving as the head of the factory; the nucleus is the office where the head of the factory works from; organelles are the workers and machines; nutrients are the ingredients to the chocolate; and the cytoplasm is the overall environment.  

Following the discussion, the fifth-graders constructed their own cell models by filling plastic baggies with different dried beans and spaghetti to represent organelles, including a plastic sphere and string to represent the nucleus and DNA. Each baggie was filled with gelatin and water to represent cytoplasm. Every baggie was then sealed and students were allowed to take their models home.

Fifth-graders are looking forward to the next visit from the CSH DNA Learning Center, when they will build DNA models!