September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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 Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.