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Jelly and kiwifruit help kids learn about biochemistry

Monday 9 December 2019 12:59pm

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Dr Annika Bokor explaining how proteins are made to children at Waitati School.

Kids from five Dunedin primary schools were plunged into the world of molecules that keep us alive when scientists from Otago's Department of Biochemistry visited in the past few weeks.

Members of the department introduced children from Purakaunui, Waitati, Ravensbourne, St Leonards and Sawyers Bay Schools to the different molecules in our bodies using animations and hands-on activities.

The kids found out how cells make proteins through role-play, where they pretended to be amino acids and held hands in the right order to make a protein from scorpion toxin.

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Children pretending to be amino acids at Waitati School

They also found out about a protein called actinidin that chops up other proteins by observing what happens when you put kiwifruit on jelly.

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Katie Peppercorn helps children at Purakaunui school set up a jelly on kiwifruit experiment.

Eppendorf tubes and 3D-printed plastic models of DNA and proteins were particularly popular. Happily, most children knew what the DNA model was even at the beginning of each biochemistry session.

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Children at Ravensbourne School learn about proteins and DNA using 3D models.

Thanks to PhD student Katie Peppercorn, teaching fellow Dr Annika Bokor, Associate Professor Richard Macknight and Dr Miriam Sharpe for sharing your enthusiasm for biochemistry across Dunedin.