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In this activity, learners perform an experiment that models a chromatography-like process called electrophoresis, a process used to analyze DNA. Learners examine coffee filter strips, each dotted with mock "DNA" (food coloring dyes diluted with water), as they separate into components when placed in water. This process mirrors restriction mapping techniques used to analyze an animal's genetic makeup. This resource also includes two simple ways of demonstrating gene splicing.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per student)

  • Mock DNA solutions-two or more food coloring dyes diluted with water
  • coffee filters or paper towels
  • scissors
  • straw
  • container for water
  • paper clips


  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
    • Diversity of Life
      • Animals
    • Heredity and Genetics
      • Patterns of Heredity
      • DNA Structure and Function
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Animals


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Scientific American Frontiers Online