Introduction: Secret DNA Codon Bracelet

In this Instructable, we will translate a message into the language that DNA uses, which is the DNA code and use the DNA code to make a secret message BRACELET for your friends or family.

Can we teach a complex topic as complex as Gene Expression to an 8th-grade student in a fun way without them getting bored and in such a way that they remember it for a lifetime?

This is the question that always challenges me when I try to produce/find a hands-on activity for my students.

During each break(summer and winter) kids from my neighbor love to visit my house. I too love their company and together we try activities that I will be going to do with my students once we all are back to school.

Let's find out !!


We will need:

1) Pony Beads (6 different colors)

2) Cotton String

3) Instant Glue

4) Slant Tweezers

5) Needle

Step 1: The Group Discussion

There were 4 kids. 1 of 6th, 2 from 7th and 1 from 8th grade.

I asked them to write the number of languages they can speak and write. English and Hindi being common, there was one different language that they know, their native language.

I gave them a topic and asked them to discuss it in their native language for 5 minutes.

There was noise all around with no-one understanding no one. After 5 minutes I asked them for the conclusion... Unsurprisingly, no conclusion...

We then discussed how people visiting other countries find it difficult to express themselves.

Step 2: Lets YouTube

With questions started coming up, like:

Who invented language and why there are so many of them?

How deaf and dump people communicate?

We decided to explore...

Here are the links:

Sign Language:

Evolution of Language:

How languages evolve:

Step 3: Let's Invent

After some initial try where we all sat down and tried using symbols, hand gestures, etc. I gave each of them a printout of the above photo and assigned them with a task.

Using the chart they have to figure out how to write HI.

With some Hints and Help, they did it The next task was to map HELLO.

Here, they were quick to notice that alphabet O was missing. Soon they realize that some other alphabets(B, J, O, U, X, and Z) were missing too.

They decided to replace them with some symbols.

Step 4: The Secret Revealed

Once they all got the hang of coding using the chart, we watch this video:

As expected, most of the video was bouncing above their head until the 4.00-minute mark on the video. They all started shouting "This is same as our chart".

Once I explained to them, they all got amazed and elated knowing what they just learned.

Step 5: the Friendship Band

Here in India, we celebrate friendship day on 4th August. So now when they have learned How Gene Works,

We all decided to make a Secret DNA Bracelet for our loved ones.

Step 6: ​We Will Need:

1) Pony Beads (6 different colors)

2) Cotton String

3) Instant Glue

4) Slant Tweezers

5) Needle

Step 7: The DNA Bracelet: Coding the Letters

Think of a word or short phrase that you want to encode into your DNA strand.

Now, using the amino acid codon table determine what DNA sequences correspond to the one-letter amino acid abbreviations that make up your word(Check pic).

Step 8: The DNA Bracelet: Using the Beads

Assign the bases and binary numbers with a color bead of your choice. I have used

PINK for base A

WHITE for base T

GREEN for base G

GOLDEN for base C



Step 9: the DNA Bracelet: Glue the Beads

Now arrange the beads in order and use instant glue to fix them together. Make sure that you are gluing the beads from its side keeping the hole on the beads free for threading.

Step 10: The DNA Bracelet: Threading the Beads

After gluing all the beads, use a needle and cotton thread to thread them together. Secure the beads with a knot at each end.

Step 11: The DNA Bracelet: Thread Braiding

Use a hair braiding technique to give it a neat look.

Step 12: The Secret DNA Bracelet

Step 13: Let's Talk About Science Behind It

So What Is DNA:

Every cell in your body contains DNA or the genetic code that carries the instructions for the development, growth, reproduction, and functioning of all life. Differences in the genetic code are the reason why one person has blue eyes rather than brown, why some people are susceptible to certain diseases, why birds only have two wings, and why giraffes have long necks. DNA instructions are passed from parent to child, with roughly half of a child's DNA originating from the father and half from the mother.

How DNA Looks Like:

DNA is a two-stranded molecule that appears twisted, giving it a unique shape referred to as the double helix. Each of the two strands is a long sequence of nucleotides or individual units made of:

1) a phosphate molecule

2) sugar molecule called deoxyribose, containing five carbons

3) a nitrogen-containing region

There are four types of nitrogen-containing regions called bases

adenine (A)

cytosine (C)

guanine (G)

thymine (T)

The order of these four bases forms the genetic code, which is our instructions for life.

The bases of the two strands of DNA are stuck together to create a ladder-like shape. Within the ladder, A always sticks to T, and G always sticks to C to create the "rungs." The length of the ladder is formed by the sugar and phosphate groups.

We learned about DNA but how does the sequence of a DNA molecule actually affect a human or other organism's features? For example, how did the sequence of nucleotides (As, Ts, Cs, and Gs) in the DNA of baby determine the color of their hair or eye?

For this Let us learn about Gene.

What Is A Gene?

Each length of DNA that codes for a specific protein is called a gene. Each gene provides instructions for a functional product, that is, a molecule needed to perform a job in the cell. In many cases, the functional product of a gene is a protein. For example, Mendel's flower color gene provides instructions for a protein that helps make colored molecules (pigments) in flower petals.

How Does DNA Create Proteins?

Gene expression is the process by which information from a gene is used in the synthesis of a functional gene product. For genes to create a protein, there are two main steps:

Transcription: In the first step, the information in DNA is transferred to a messenger RNA (mRNA) molecule. During transcription, the DNA of a gene serves as a template for complementary base-pairing, and an enzyme called RNA polymerase II catalyzes the formation of a pre-mRNA molecule, which is then processed to form mature mRNA). The resulting mRNA is a single-stranded copy of the gene, which next must be translated into a protein molecule. One important difference is that RNA molecules do not include the base thymine (T). Instead, they have similar base uracil (U). Like thymine, uracil pairs with adenine.

Translation: The mRNA is translated into amino acids by transfer RNA (tRNA). mRNA is read in three-letter sections called codons. Each codon codes for a specific amino acid or building block of a protein.

Step 14: So What Is Genetic Code Table and How to Read It?

The full set of relationships between codons and amino acids (or stop signals) is called the genetic code. The genetic code is often summarized in a table(See Pic).

An important point about the genetic code is that the letters B, J, O, U, X, or Z are not abbreviations for any of the amino acids. I've devised a rule to accommodate these letters too which we will learn later.
Let's assume that we have an mRNA strand which looks like:


We have learned that a codon is a 3 letter section of mRNA, so let's take the first 3 letters of the above strand:

Now, starting from the center of the codon chart moving outward along the red arrow, we will end up to Methionine which can be abbreviated to letter M, the first letter of the amino acid.

Similarly, AUC will be coded as I and UCG as S.

Step 15: How to Code B, J, O, U, X, Z

To code these letters meaningfully and systematically, I have used the Binary Number System.

What Is Binary Number System:

In mathematics and digital electronics, a binary number is a number expressed in the base-2numeral system or binary numeral system, which uses only two symbols: typically "0" (zero) and "1" (one).

For example:

0 will be written as 0000

1 as 0001

2 as 0010

3 as 0011

How to convert Binary Numbers to Alphabets:

Arrange letters that do not correspond with any specific amino acid in alphabetic order.

Assign them a number and then convert the number to its Binary form:

B = 1 = 0001

J = 2 = 0010

O = 3 = 0011

U = 4 = 0100

X = 5 = 0101

Z = 6 = 0110

Thank you very much for sparing your precious time.

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