DNA Extraction

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Learners use a simple process to extract DNA from strawberries. After mashing a strawberry in a plastic bag, they add soap solution (to break open the cell and nuclear membranes), meat tenderizer (which contains enzymes that break down proteins binding the DNA), and salt and alcohol (to precipitate and extract the DNA). Learners learn about DNA, cell structure, solubility, and chemical separations. Detailed background information is provided. Extensions include extracting DNA from animals, and other vegetables and fruits. Part of the "No Hassle Messy Science with a Wow" activity guide by OMSI, where all activities use only household materials.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

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

English, Spanish

Materials List (per group of students)

  • 1 strawberry
  • 1 sealing plastic bag (e.g., Ziploc)
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap
  • 1/4 cup isopropyl alcohol, 99% concentration, well-chilled
  • 1 pinch meat tenderizer
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tall, clear, narrow plastic cups
  • 1 plastic spoon
  • 1 pop-top squeeze bottle (e.g., water or sports drink)
  • freezer or bucket of ice (for entire class)


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
      • Viruses and Bacteria
    • Heredity and Genetics
      • DNA Structure and Function
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemistry of Life
      • Solutions
    • States of Matter
      • Liquids

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Foreign language versions of this resource:

Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Oregon Museum of Science and Industry


  • All rights reserved, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, 2007

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation
  • Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation