The central dogma of molecular biology is key to understanding the relationship between genotype and phenotype, although it remains a challenging concept to teach and learn. We describe an activity sequence that engages high school students directly in modeling the major processes of protein synthesis using the major components of translation. Students use a simple system of codes to generate paper chains, allowing them to learn why codons are three nucleotides in length, the purpose of start and stop codons, the importance of the promoter region, and how to use the genetic code. Furthermore, students actively derive solutions to the problems that cells face during translation, make connections between genotype and phenotype, and begin to recognize the results of mutations. This introductory activity can be used as an interactive means to support students as they learn the details of translation and molecular genetics.