DNA extraction of a kiwi plant in The Homework Club kitchen

Lesson devised by Graham Huges who has taught maths, science, computers and biology at The Homework Club for the last two years.

Graham Hughes is studying a PhD in Bioinformatics at UCD. He is interested in Science, particularly biology and believes with the correct approach, science can be made accessible and enjoyable to all students. Graham also works on computer techniques to make students more motivated to do well in mathematics.

DNA, DNA come out and play...

If you were to zoom in closely on a piece of your skin, you would see it is made up of millions of cells. If you were to zoom in on a cell you would see it is made up of smaller organelles. If you were to zoom in on certain organelles you would see that they contain DNA. DNA stands for DeoxyriboNucleic Acid and is made up of long strands of the letters A,T,G and C. The arrangement of all these letters in your DNA is the ‘recipe’ for you.

All animals and plants have DNA in their cells. By using household materials we managed to extract and view some of the DNA in a kiwi! Even though you cannot even see kiwi cells with the naked eye, with the tricks of the trade, we can gather enough DNA to make it easily visible. All it takes is a little chemistry...

Firstly we need to make an ‘extraction buffer’. This involved putting water in a plastic cup, adding 2 small sachets of salt and putting 2 squirts of hand soap, giving it a good mix. The soap breaks up the fatty kiwi cell membranes and the salt makes the DNA clump together.


Mocks and the sky falling in – Chicken Licken Syndrome

I have written about the mocks before, the top tips of why we do them and how we get through but this year I'd like to write on something slightly different. The "Chicken-Licken-syndrome" where students seem to genuinely feel like the sky is falling in on top of them! The mocks are a test run - you are meant to make mistakes.. that's the whole point of doing them!

For some of The Students at The Homework Club this happens in a more spectacular fashion. I myself did very badly in my mocks as do many students with learning difficulties. As the department of education has not granted who will and will not receive accommodations in their exams, very few if any schools allow these students to sit their exams in a similar environment to how they will in June. We are overwhelmed by the exam hall experience - I'm conducting some research at the moment in why some students are hyper-sensitive and how this can helped. We don't have a reader and hence we read the questions wrong, we take the wrong meaning and we answer a completly different question. Some studnets haven't got to grasp with the whole course in one "bulk" form - they are struglign to put all the secitons together and maybe they haven't covered their best seciton yet! No one tells you how to sit an exam and for some studets who really do need to do a visual map of the answer and the question, this is highly discouraged and implied to be a waste of time when it's not as all - it's a vital way of thinking for them! If you are going to use a laptop maybe you didn't get to do this in the mocks.. there are so many factors as to why students find exams hard.

I call this time of the year "crushing season" because I watch the students who we have built up since September lose complete confidence in their abilities. We have to build them up again from the floor. I really question at this stage if the mocks are a good exercise at all? Surely there must be a better way to have a test run?

The sky really isn't falling in and there is loads of time left to fix the mistakes - but it is very hard to show people your mistakes when you are made to feel so bad for making them.


Dr. Naoisé O'Reilly



Point of Blog

Our motto is that "we don't do normal". Everyone who comes to The Homework Club is different and is here for a different reason. It's not important if they are dyslexic, have reduced hearing or simply don't "get-it". This Blog is about creative teaching that suits everyone, all of the time! No one needs to be "special". The work is done in groups, so students avoid stigma and don't feel only they need help!






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