As a teacher, I always welcome new methods and new ways of teaching. The Mycomuncher DNA Puzzle is an original and stimulating teaching tool because it enables students to ‘let go’ of the textbook and investigate the steps of protein synthesis. Not only are the students physically occupied, but also they are forced to think about the formulation of hypotheses and the scientific method of determining gene functions.
Besides educating its players on genes and proteins, the Mycomuncher DNA Puzzle stimulates team effort when played in groups. The four sides of the wooden DNA blocks allow four different DNA assemblies: thus, one game actually represents four puzzles in one, with four different proteins and four opportunities to think about how they fit into the mycomunching lifestyle of Collimonas.
Before playing the puzzle, I discussed the theory of protein synthesis with the class. The knowledge of the students (pre-university education, ages 15-16) was quite high, which is a necessity.
One of the listed proteins will match the one that the players identified for Collimonas. Players are challenged to think about how its function might be involved in mycomunching. An example is the protein chitinase which breaks down chitin, a structural component of the fungal cell wall. One could hypothesise that Collimonas uses this protein to degrade the cell wall to access nutrients which are contained within the fungus. To assist in the formulation of hypotheses, the puzzle includes a scale model of the interaction between Collimonas and a fungus. Hypotheses from different groups of students can be written on the blackboard, compared and discussed.