Think Tank

PCR Workshop

In this PCR experiment, students make billions of copies of a small amount of DNA. Students mix template DNA & Primers with PCR beads that contain all of the other components required to carry out a PCR reaction. The results of the experiment will help you to solve a crime and catch a thief.

Learning Objectives:

  • Learn how the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) can be used to make multiple copies of DNA fragments
  • Learn about the processes involved in DNA fingerprinting and how gene sequencing allows for genome-wide comparisons between individuals
  • Appreciate the forensic implications of this area of research
  • Discover how DNA fragments can be separated by size by electrophoresis
  • Reinforce prior knowledge of DNA structure and function
  • Consider the ethical implications of genetic research

Skills Covered:

  • Practical skills including using a micropipette
  • Develop existing laboratory skills
  • Understand how to use an electrophoresis tanks, in particular how to pipette into wells once filled with buffer solution
  • Comment on the reliability of their results; assess where mistakes were made and how they could be reduced.
  • Observation skills
  • Work effectively in a team
  • Debate ethics of this area of research

Pre and post visit ideas:

Make a DNA helix out of pipe cleaners and beads.
Collect headlines from newspapers on genetic testing and debate about how truthful they are.
Write the following on separate paper: genetic, not genetic and a variety of traits e.g. eye colour, hair colour, sickle cell anaemia, alcoholism etc. Give each student a word and they have to place it in genetic or not genetic, or you can have a spectrum to make it more flexible.

For stories showing how genetic conditions affect people's lives, see
Please note that Thinktank does not take responsibility for the content of third party sites.
Lab 5
PCR workshop

16 pupils




PCR, DNA, Genes, DNA fingerprinting, Genetics, Polymerase Chain Reaction, Laboratory


Gallery Links

Medicine Matters Gallery: The Gene Mixer, Cracking the DNA Code, Gene Switch and Genetics: What would you do?


Download workshop information

Download KS3 & 4

Click on image to download PDF document


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