Teaching Gratitude (and DNA)

Southern Asia-Pacific

Students and teachers often get caught up in the stress of academic life and need to shift focus back to the positives so that school life can be more productive. Being able to create that shift in a way that also increases subject learning is a bonus.

My coworkers and I have found a creative way to increase thankfulness and also help students learn about DNA. We wanted to have a thankfulness challenge for the 30 days leading up to Thanksgiving, so we made a tradition of creating a chain of thankfulness each November. We took strips of construction paper, had students write down one thing they were thankful for at the beginning of class, and started linking the strips into a chain. We hung the chain in the halls as we were building it, then used the chain as a garland on our school Christmas tree at the end of the year.

Many of our teachers use the thankfulness challenge to increase involvement during prayer at the beginning of each class. It helps to balance out the students’ worries about themselves with things that they are thankful for. It has been especially helpful to use prompts, such as, “What is an item that you use on a daily basis but don’t usually think about?” or “Describe a time when you were thankful for something you lost.”

Rather than just making a chain this year, we decided to make light bulbs out of the paper strips. This added to the effect when we used the garland at Christmas, but it also allowed us to recycle the project by using it to make a DNA model for the Biology classes. The bulbs weren’t very difficult, although they required an extra piece of paper for the neck, and an added hole-punch step to construct.

After Christmas, the Biology students sorted the colors into groups of equal number, then made small black loops to correspond with each light bulb. The color of the bulb represented one of the four nucleotide bases. The white square stem of the bulb represented the sugar group of the nucleotide, and the attached black circle represented the phosphate group. Students randomly strung half of the available “nucleotides” on one string, then using Chargaff’s rules, created a complementary strand on a separate string. Then they stapled the complementary nucleotides together using either two or three staples to represent the hydrogen bonds that create the ladder rungs of DNA. Finally, students hung the model along the classroom wall, twisting it to create the double-helix structure of DNA.

The model has been a great reference for the Biology classes to visualize and review the structure of DNA. It has been rewarding to have a spiritually focused activity integrated into learning about the fascinating molecules of God’s creation. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:15, “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”

Note: Article written and posted in English

Additional Reading:
The Importance of Thanks
Holiday Materials – Thanksgiving

Holiday Materials – Christmas


Laura Maas, MAT, has been teaching for five years, and is currently teaching science at Korean Advanced Preparatory Academy, South Korea. She received her BS in Health Science in 2010 and Master of Arts in Teaching in 2012 from Walla Walla University. 


  • | July 17, 2017 at 9:25 am

    What a beautiful way to use science concepts to integrate faith and learning for your students.

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