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Keywords:

  • Molecular biology;
  • high school;
  • laboratory exercises;
  • physical sciences

Abstract

Gel electrophoresis is the single most important molecular biology technique and it is central to life sciences research, but it is often too expensive for the secondary science classroom or homeschoolers. A simple safe low-cost procedure is described here that uses household materials to construct and run DNA gel electrophoresis. Plastic containers are fitted with aluminum foil electrodes and 9-V batteries to run food-grade agar-agar gels using aquarium pH buffers and then stained with gentian violet. This activity was tested in a high school biology classroom with significantly positive responses on postactivity reflective surveys. The electrophoresis activity addresses several Life Science Content Standard C criteria, including aspects of cell biology, genetics, and evolution. It also can be used to teach aspects of motion and force in the physical science classroom.