DNA and Protein Sets

EBICS partnered with the MIT Center for Environmental Health Sciences and the Edgerton Center to disseminate and evaluate their innovative models for teaching DNA replication, mRNA transcription, and protein translation.  Through EBICS, students at Uni High School at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign are using the models. We are also planning to make the kits available to specific schools within the Atlanta Public School System.  The I-STEM Education Initiative is evaluating the kits placed in schools throughout the country. Visit the Edgerton Center for model curriculum information and instructional videos.

The DNA and Protein Sets were developed by Dr. Kathleen M. Vandiver, Co-Director of the Community Outreach and Education Core at the MIT Center for Environmental Health Sciences and a former public school teacher. Unlike most teaching tools, the sets are designed to teach processes, in addition to structure. The molecules are made to be manipulated, so students can perform the cellular functions involved in protein synthesis. Diverse populations including biology students, teachers, engineers, judges, and nurses have all found the learning experience interesting and memorable.


The models are ideal for teaching concepts to many different ages because of their universal appeal. Using these models students engage in a range of learning experiences including:

  • Assemble proteins from subunits 
  • Discover the DNA base pairing rule 
  • Decode messages in DNA genes 
  • Copy DNA into mRNA (transcription) 
  • Produce proteins from mRNA (translation) 
  • Build proteins to illustrate protein structure 
  • Compare mutations for genetic outcomes 
  • Use StarBiochem 3D protein viewer software 

The models are designed to teach what the molecules do, not just what molecules look like. Students can perform the cell functions of DNA replication, mRNA transcription and tRNA translation. Chains of amino acids can be produced and folded into working protein shapes.

Movies for the DNA, Protein, and tRNA Curriculum Package can be found in the MIT TechTV Collection.

DNA Nucleotide Base Pairing


Uni High students take a look at DNA and Protein Sets

Science teacher David Stone discusses procedures for using the Lego kits with students during the evaluation session.

Science teacher David Stone discusses procedures for using the kits with students during the evaluation session.