At a Glance


  • STEM
  • Biology
  • Health science

Instructional Level

  • College & CEGEP


  • Introductory biology or A&P course (101-NYA-05 and 101-805-AB)

Tasks in Workflow

Social Plane(s)

  • Individual
  • Group
  • Whole Class

Type of Tasks

  • Discussing
  • Analyzing
  • Creating & designing
  • Reading

Technical Details

Class size

  • Small (20-49)


  • Single class period (< 90 mins)

Instructional Purpose

  • Application & knowledge building
  • Consolidation & metacognition


This case study gives students the opportunity to apply their understanding of biomolecules, specifically the nucleic acids and their monomers, and the central dogma of biology.

Before class, students prepare using a handout that outlines the learning objectives, topics to review, and an introduction to the case study.
In this case scenario, students must work together to understand and create the molecular structure of DNA in response to news of a scientific discovery, which was based on stolen data.

In groups, for Part A, students identify the parts of a nucleotide and discuss questions about its components and links. For Part B, students create four nucleotides and discuss questions related to bonds and chemical groups. In Part C, referring to the stolen data printout, students work together to create a DNA strand and identify specific components. During the group work, the instructor pauses several times to review progress and answers before the class moves on to the next part.

Finally, students take the remaining 30-40 minutes to work together to complete the assessment, a continuation of Part C, where they apply their learning to answer questions regarding the case. These responses allow them to explain the discovery and analyze the structure of DNA further.

Instructional Objectives

  • Name the major and trace elements of the body and give their biochemical roles.
  • Explain the importance of water to the body by referring to its molecular structure.
  • Distinguish the major types of biomolecules in the body.

Workflow & Materials


Activity Workflow

View on CourseFlow

Contributor's Notes


Students often don’t understand the geometry of DNA, Chargaff’s rule, and the antiparallel nature of DNA. By providing them with a puzzle to evaluate each of these ideas, I find that students better retain this content. Furthermore, it addresses different learning styles, with heavy emphasis on tactile learning.


No major challenges. The puzzles can be easily solved in groups and discussed as a class. The discussion questions for each should be emphasized as students have not noticed them (or simply ignored them).


I’ve found that taking proportionately more time to complete the first part helps with the later parts, so take your time reviewing the parts of the nucleotide before examining DNA strands.

Applied Strategies


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