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In this two-part activity, learners will extract their own DNA from their cheek cells and learn how DNA is analyzed and used to solve crimes. In the first experiment, learners extract DNA from their cheek cells. In the second experiment, learners use chromatography to separate mixtures of food coloring. Learners will discover that every individual has unique DNA and learn that forensic scientists use DNA to help solve crimes. This activity includes a number of optional extensions where learners can extract DNA from foods, fingerprint themselves, or use a genetic test to find out if they are super tasters.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 11

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Freezer or a bucket of ice
  • Apron or smock
  • (Optional) Cafeteria trays
  • (Optional) goggles
  • Markers
  • Pencils
  • Permanent markers
  • Pop-top squeeze bottle
  • (Optional) Ruler
  • (Optional) scissors
  • Small containers with lids
  • Sponges or towels
  • Teaspoon
  • Small drinking cups
  • Clear cup (or test tubes)
  • Plastic or glass cup or jar
  • Dish soap
  • Water
  • Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl)
  • Salt
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Toothpicks
  • Clear plastic or glass cups or jars
  • Coffee filters, filter paper, or paper towels
  • Food coloring
  • Disposable gloves
  • Tape
  • Paper towels
  • DNA clues booklets
  • Chromatography booklets


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Bioengineering/Biomedical Engineering
  • Life Sciences
    • Ecology
      • Biodiversity
    • Heredity and Genetics
      • Human Genetics
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Reactions
      • Chemistry of Life
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Crime Science
  • Literature


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Links STEM to other topics of interest such as arts and humanities
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Exhibits Development Group; Geoffrey M. Curley + Associates