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  • Colleen Heath

Virginia Western STEM Day at Pathways for Youth

The Friday before Spring Break, Virginia Western students visited Pathways for Youth and set up four different STEM stations for groups of our elementary, middle and high school students to rotate through. These stations included:


1. Extracting DNA from a Strawberry

Each student went through the process of preparing strawberries to extract the DNA.  This included each student mashing 2-3 berries in a clear plastic bag to break down the cells. Then 2 teaspoons of a mixture of salt, detergent and water was gently mixed in with the berries to further break down the cells. After this mixture was strained through a coffee filter, cold rubbing alcohol was added to the remaining liquid. Within a few seconds we could see the strands of DNA come out. Students were able to remove the sticky white strands with a pipette and put them into a small container. Not an easy task but the results were very rewarding!


2. Making Butter

Butter was made using heavy cream, shaking the container and removing the water periodically. Once the butter was made, each student got to taste it on a cracker.


3. How to create a picture of a DNA strand using micropipettes and food coloring.

The children learned how to use the pipettes to measure and dispense small volumes of colored water on filter paper, which took concentration and good coordination. The filter paper had a pattern on it to color in, like “paint by number”.  At the end of the day, after each group had rotated through, the patterns were assembled into one large poster - a picture of the DNA double helix.

4. 3-D printing

This was a highlight of the afternoon! 3-D printers and samples of created items were brought to show the students. The printer was used to make objects so students could see how it was done. In addition, each student got to create their own design to go on a plaque that would be burned into the wood. 


All our students enjoyed these stations and learned a lot from these hands-on activities. A big THANK YOU to Virginia Western Community College, Professor Lindbergh, and the participating college students.


Susan Frank, Resource Coordinator

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