How to Make a DNA Model Using Styrofoam Balls

A neon pink double helix
••• DNA image by Allyson Ricketts from

Models of Deoxyribonucleic acid are constructed by students from various materials including Styrofoam balls. Teachers assign projects to make DNA models to help pupils learn the structural characteristics of DNA. The nucleotides on a double helix are represented by different colored construction materials. Use colored Styrofoam balls for a DNA model project that covers the lesson and gets a good grade.

    Paint 12 Styrofoam balls green. Use four other paint colors to paint 6 balls each, thus making 6 blue, 6 red, 6 yellow, and 6 orange. Leave 12 balls plain white. Allow ample time for the paint to dry before beginning the DNA model project.

    Push one red and one yellow ball onto the same toothpick. Place white balls on both ends of that toothpick to create the first ladder rung.

    Stick toothpicks into the white balls perpendicular to the ladder rung toothpick so they lean in opposite directions and place green balls on their ends. Force toothpicks into the green balls that follow the same direction as the toothpicks between the white and green balls. The green balls will act as ladder rung divisions along the outside rails.

    Start another strand of DNA with an orange and blue ball on a toothpick to create the second ladder rung. Place white balls at both ends of this ladder rung. Stick the white balls onto the toothpicks sticking up from the green balls above the first ladder rung.

    Create each ladder rung with the same pairs of colors used to make the first two, without intermingling the colors. Thus if blue and orange are used to make a ladder rung, then blue should not be used with any color other than orange throughout the entire DNA model.

    Build the double helix upward in a spiral by continuously slanting the toothpicks in the white ladder rung ends and the green rung dividers.

    Stand the twisted ladder upright by forcing toothpicks through the bottom rung of Styrofoam balls and into a firm Styrofoam block.

    Things You'll Need

    • 3/4 inch Styrofoam balls
    • Toothpicks
    • Temper paints
    • Styrofoam block

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