Students often struggle with the concept of protein synthesis, which incorporates two main processes: transcription and translation. This article describes an activity in which students use craft supplies to physically model the process of translation. The teacher creates the modeling kits, and then students use a worksheet to prepare the kit for a specific amino acid sequence. They practice the process of translation, including the start, tRNAs movement through the ribosome, the amino acid chain building, and the stop. This article describes how to create the model kits and implement the activity in the classroom. We have performed this hands-on activity in college classrooms as large as 170 students. Students appreciate the hands-on approach and find the activity extremely useful in understanding translation. While students model translation, the teaching team identifies and helps students overcome any misconceptions and gaps in their knowledge.
One of the key aspects of natural selection is competition, yet the concept of competition is not necessarily emphasized in explanations of natural selection. Because of this, we developed an activity for our class that focuses on competition and provides an example of the effects of competition on natural selection. This hands-on activity models the field study completed by David Lack on Darwin’s finches. By using this historical study, we also give students an example of the nature-of-science concept of multiple methods. Although this activity was created for a college introductory biology course, it is appropriate for high school. We also provide an additional objective for upper-level ecology and evolution courses.