Deoxyribonucleic acid—DNA for short—is the code behind all of life on Earth. DNA is a bundle of molecules located inside of the cells of every living thing—from tall trees to blades of grass, from blue whales to the smallest insects, and in you, too. It’s the genetic code that decides the features of each species (like whether you'll have wings or legs), as well as unique features just for individuals (things like hair color and height, which can differ from one person to the next). We can see some of the features that DNA determines, like eye color. Other features we can’t see, like blood type.
Each of the features that DNA codes for is an adaptation—a trait that helps an animal or plant survive and thrive in its environment. Birds have wings, an adaptation that helps them fly. Bears have sharp teeth and claws, adaptations that helps them hunt and fight. Fish have gills, an adaptation that helps them breath underwater.  Explore the activities below to learn more!
DNA—Cracking the Code! is also available in Spanish




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Mix-and-match Animal Cube

Sphinxes, centaurs, and hippogriffs are just a few of the imaginary animal combinations out there. Use this template and follow these instructions to make your own combinations!

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Adaptations are the traits that help animals survive in their environment. Which adaptations would you choose to make the ultimate animal? Create your own creature using this guide!


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Animal Poetry

Learn three different forms of poetry and write your own poem about one of your favorite animals. 


Baby Animal Match-up

Some animals look like miniature versions of the adults they'll grow up to be. Others look completely different from the adults. Take a look at this match-up sheet and see if you can tell which baby matches which adult.

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Genetic Code Bracelets

Choose a favorite animal (or make up your own) and sport their DNA code on your wrist or backpack! Use this easy-to-follow guide to put one together. 

No beads? No problem! You can make your own beads from paper. Here’s how.


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DNA Extraction

Put on your lab coat and safety goggles and explore the genetic makeup of an onion in this fun science experiment!

The museum thanks the University of Oregon’s Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics for its generous support of this program.

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