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Home -> Technology -> DNA Education Corner

Origami DNA Helix


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Equipment and Materials

  • Computer with printer
  • 1 piece of 8.5" x 11" paper
  • 1 pair of scissors



Tiime Requirements

  • 20-30 minutes




The Origami DNA Helix is fun for young scientists of any age. It teaches all students the shape of the DNA molecule while it helps older students recognize matching base pairs and chemical bonds.


The Science Behind the Origami DNA Helix

In 1869, Friedrich Miescher discovered a substance he called the "nuclein molecule" because he found it in the nucleus of the cell. This molecule was actually deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, the building block of life. Over the next 80 years, scientists worked with this substance to identify its characteristics and determine its function. They learned the it had a backbone made of sugars and phosphates and that it contained specific bases, adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C), and guanine (G). In 1953, James Watson, Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin, Maurice Wilkins, and Raymond Gosling identified the structure of DNA as a double helix.

The template for the origami DNA helix contains markings and shadings that help your students identify the components of DNA. As they will see, the bases in DNA pair only as follows: A to T, C to G. No other chemical combination is possible for the structure of DNA (i.e. A cannot bond to C, G cannot bond to T, etc.). Also, the slash marks between base pairs indicate the bonds: A and T use double bonds to pair, while C and G use triple bonds to pair.






Educational Objectives

The National Academic Press published the National Science Education Standards. The following grade level goals reflect the level of understanding students should have in genetics, inheritance, and DNA structure and function.

Depending on the grade level, the following are some concepts that students may appreciate through this activity:

  • Reproduction and heredity.
  • Recognizing patterns.
  • Structure and function of DNA.
  • DNA is the chemical basis of life.
  • Cells are made up of molecules.