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Kids' Activities

Jane Lind presents ...

The Secret Code of DNA

Written by Mary Razzell
Illustrated by J.O. Pennanen

Theme: Science / Health, Ages 5 to 8<

The Secret Code of DNA

This book focuses on some of the kinds of questions children often have about ordinary things. Why don't carrots grow on trees? Why don't dogs sprout leaves?

In simple language, the author explains that the secret code of DNA holds the answers to these questions. She describes briefly how scientists discovered DNA, and what part it plays in our bodies.

The book also includes a glossary at the end which explains these terms: cell, DNA, gene, helix.


Alfalfa seeds
Jars, one litre size
Paper towels
Bean seeds
Small pots with potting soil in them
Avocado pit or sweet potato


1. Write "deoxyribonucleic acid" on the chalk board and make up a chant or sing-song way of pronouncing it and have the children join in the chant. Most children enjoy the sound of a long word, and experience a sense of pride if they can learn how to say it. Though it may seem a mere game to many adults, this kind of language experience gives children a sense of pleasure that extends into their other literacy experiences.

2. This book is an excellent resource to use as a stimulation for children's questions about things that are a mystery to them, and to speculate on "what if?" and turn it into a game.

Let the children draw "what if?" pictures on large sheets of paper (any impossible thing such as flowers growing on a clothes line; rocks dangling from the moon).

3. Let the children make "what if?" animals of plasticene, as a take off from the page about the elephant growing a trunk. Make a display of the what-if creatures.

4. As a science project, bring into the classroom different kinds of seeds to sprout and plant.

Alfalfa seeds sprout very easily on a moist paper towel inside a lidded jar at room temperature. The towel must be kept moist, but not so wet that the seeds rot. Keep the lid somewhat loose to allow a bit of air into the jar. When the seeds have sprouted, the children can sample the sprouts.

Let the children help plant the beans in soil. They can take responsibility for keeping the soil moist.

Sweet potatoes can be grown in water--they sprout easily. When both he beans and sweet potatoes have started growing, have the children compare the leaves--each grows its own kind of leaves.

As an alternative to sweet potatoes, set an avocado pit half-way into a glass of water. Insert three tooth picks into the seed to suspend it on the edge of a glass or jar so that the bottom part is sitting in the water. The avocado takes longer to sprout than the sweet potato.

from the
Theme Catalogue and Teaching Guide for Children's Books
written for Penumbra Press by Jane Lind
© Jane Lind

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