May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

It’s “(DNA for) Dinner” Time

Posted: Sunday, May 1st, 2011

by Peggy G. Lemaux and Barbara Alonso

Update as of January 27, 2014. There has been a change since this article was published in May 2011. In order to download the free curricular materials you are now asked to complete a request form. Please visit for details.

The creation of this 4-H/afterschool curriculum, “DNA for Dinner”, was sparked by development of the national 4-H Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) initiative. The 4-H program, which currently involves nearly 6 million youth in urban, suburban and rural communities, created the new SET initiative to try to reach another 1 million young people. The SET initiative encouraged curriculum development in wide topic areas, but biotechnology curricula were noticeably absent!

The five lessons in the “DNA for Dinner” curriculum, designed for fifth through eighth graders, include the following.

  • Dare to Be Different, focusing on organisms and genetic diversity
  • Language of Life, covering genomes and the genetic code
  • DNA for Dinner, focusing on genes, DNA, and reproduction
  • Building Blocks to Organisms covering amino acids, proteins and enzymes and
  • From Bread to Biotech, focused on classical breeding, genetic engineering, and restriction enzymes.

Each lesson has an introduction, open-ended discussion questions, math puzzles and three to five hands-on, computer-based or physical activities to demonstrate key points of the lesson. All lessons are available for download as PDFs at Lesson content was designed to meet the National Science Education Standards and can be used in whole or in part in various after-school and during-school venues.

An example of the learning goals, an activity and a math puzzle from Lesson 1, “Dare to Be Different”, is shown below.

What We Learn in Lesson 1. That all living things, organisms, are made up of cells. That the variation in organisms reflects their diversity. That the variety comes from the different genes and the characteristics they encode. And that organisms with many similar traits, and thus with similar genetic information, may be related.

An Activity from Lesson 1. Fruit and Vegi Hunt


Remind participants that fruits and vegetables have different characteristics and also different names. Challenge them to find in the word search a fruit or vegetable that has the characteristics given in the hint.

A Math Activity from the Math Menu of Lesson 1.

If there are 3,500 species of mammals and 350,000 different species of plants, how many times more plant species are there?

For more information, please visit

Peggy G. Lemaux is the cooperative extension specialist at University of California, Berkeley and Barbara Alonso is the communications specialist at University of California, Berkeley.

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

2 Responses

  1. When I click on the printable version of the word search, it is not found….so more searching I guess, unless you have some different directions.

  2. Dear Mary Ann,
    Thank you for your comment! I did some digging and found that since we published the article, they have changed their download procedure. The information is still free, but you now have to fill out a form to obtain access to it. Please visit from there you will see information about how to access the curriculum.

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 2017)

Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.