For High School Teachers
  From DNA to Organism: A Study in DNA Function for the High School Biology Classroom

Module 5: Structure and function in proteins

Teacher suggestions for Module 5: Protein folding lab


  • 1 period for paper folding lab

     What you need to set up

  • Sheets of paper (white or colored)
  • Copies of folding directions
     Prelab 5 minutes

           During the setup for the lab, read the letter from Dr. Berkowitz to the kids. I introduce the paper folding portion of the lab without connecting it to the activities that we have been working on in class. Then after the lab we tie the ideas together in a class discussion. It is important to encourage the students to work on their own to create the bird. This will prevent students with the step from helping those that are missing the step. 

     lab 30-40 minutes

           During the lab, students will be working on their folding directions. They struggle with following the directions (specifically steps 3– 5 and 8– 9) and will look for help. Try to give them help a little but not much. Obviously, half of your class will have more problems than the others. You will find that helping sparingly but being encouraging keeps them working. Students really do seem to enjoy the “non lab” aspect of this activity.

     Postlab 10 minutes clean up

            During the post lab, discuss the problems that people have had during the lab.   The topic of folding problems tends to dominate the discussion. Now is a good time to let the students in on the fact that they have been working with two different sets of directions. This opens up a discussion of mutation and its effects on the protein product’s function in the organism.


           The letter back to Dr. Berkowitz is the homework for this activity.