Bioinformatics is a discipline that combines computer science and biology. Bioinformatics uses the algorithms and technology of computer science, mathematics, and statistics to solve problems for biology. For example, it has allowed biologists to reconstruct phylogenetic (evolutionary) trees using computer science techniques such as string matching, edit distance, and matrices.
This activity lets students participate in the process of reconstructing a phylogenetic tree and introduces them to several core bioinformatics concepts. It's a good exercise for classes in biology (evolution), bioinformatics (phylogenetics), or mathematics (matrices). It's suitable for ages ten and up, and doesn't require too much prior knowledge: just following instructions, writing, and basic math.
Katrin and Jim Becker, Mount Royal College (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)