DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a long, spiraling molecule that carries the genetic codes that enable cells to reproduce. Although DNA was first isolated by Friedrich Miescher in 1869, it's double helix structure wasn't discovered until 1953 by James Watson and Francis Crick. For their groundbreaking work, Watson and Crick shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine with Maurice Wilkins.
DNA Interactive is my pick-of-the-day, a great site to explore the exciting history of DNA science. Visit to examine the Timeline of DNA discovery, jump into the Code for a more in-depth lesson, or click on Manipulation to learn about the tools developed to work with DNA strands. With free registration, teachers can pick up lesson plans and worksheets. My favorite clicks are the PDF templates for making an origami DNA model in either color or black and white.
Learn.Genetics is an genetics education outreach program from the University of Utah. In addition to their jargon-free resources for students, they have printable classroom guides for teachers. Don't miss the interactive Build a DNA Molecule activity, the DNA Extraction Virtual Lab, and my personal favorite: How to Extract DNA From Anything Living. Using a blender, detergent, meat tenderizer, alcohol and a source of DNA such as peas or chicken livers, you can isolate long, stringy DNA molecules in a test tube. How cool is that?
Crack the Code (from the website of the Nobel Prize in Medicine) presents an overview of DNA, RNA, and amino acids, and includes two online games. In the Double Helix game, your challenge is to "make exact copies of a DNA molecule from three random organisms and find out which organisms they are." The Genetic Code game is a five-in-a-row game with a twist: you must identify a codon to place your marker. To help you find the correct amino acid, you will need the Book of Life, which you can either buy with points, or by completing an online experiment.
"The discovery of the double helix structure of DNA is to science what the Mona Lisa is to painting. It's been called the single biggest discovery of all time. But it wasn't just stumbled upon - it was a race." With illustrated articles, videos, animations and "Hot Science" sidebars, PBS looks at the history and future of genetics. Best click is the interactive 3D DNA Explorer which allows you rotate, spin and zoom your way around a DNA molecule.
My favorite sections at The Tech genetics exhibit are Zooming into DNA (where you can peruse photos of cells, chromosomes and DNA, enlarged up to 900,000X) and What Color Eyes Will Your Children Have? Another interesting read is an article in Genetics in the News about Genetically Modified Organisms. Should we be frightened of them? "Well, what if they could cure a disease? A disease that ravages the third world? Would GMO's be worth it then?"