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Finding Your Roots Camp |What you need to know

What is more interesting than you? That’s the question that led Sanford PROMISE educators to offer a camp called Finding Your Roots. This camp is modeled from a summer camp that is offered at Penn State of the same name and is inspired by the PBS TV program hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. To offer this experience, Sanford PROMISE formed a partnership with Living DNA, a genetic testing company. Living DNA analyzes DNA samples and provides a unique ancestry report for each student. This genetics and ancestry camp has been offered every summer since 2020 and is a one-of-a-kind experience for students.


What is this camp all about?

The preparations for this camp start in the spring when campers are given a DNA collection kit from Living DNA. They submit a cheek swab and send it in. Parents of the campers will be required to create an account with Living DNA. During camp, students learn about DNA, genetic technology, evolution, and genetic counseling. They participate in a series of hands-on experiences that allow them to understand the role of DNA in their body. After campers develop this understanding, they are presented with a personalized genetic report.

What is in the personalized genetic report?

The personalized report contains three sections. The first is a section on recent ancestry. It presents a pie chart representing where the camper's ancestors came from. The report provides a brief history of each region present in the camper’s pie chart. For many campers, this opens conversation with parents and grandparents about the history of their family. The second section reveals the camper’s haplogroup. Haplogroups are mitochondrial DNA sequence variations that have occurred over more than 150,000 years and align with the geographic regions of our earliest ancestors through the maternal line. The third section reveals some unique traits like the preference for cilantro or the tendency to have red hair. We compare their genotype (DNA) with their phenotype (physical trait). No health information is shared through this report.

What is the goal of this camp?

The goal of Finding Your Roots camp is to learn about DNA by making it personal to the campers. The hope is that the campers will come away from camp with an understanding of where they come from, why they are unique, and how they are connected to all of humankind. Throughout the week, campers will work on a poster called “All About Me” where they assemble all the information they have learned. At the end of the week, they will present in a gallery walk to share the information with invited family members and guests.

How do I know my genetic data is safe?

None of this would be possible without the help of our partners at Living DNA. Located in the United Kingdom, Living DNA is one of the top five global DNA testing firms. Unlike other DNA testing firms, Living DNA does not sell data to any third parties. Read more about their privacy policy here. They also offer an online portal to provide more information to the campers and their parents, including control over content features.

How do I sign up?

This camp is offered to middle school aged students one time during the summer and requires a commitment to submit a DNA sample in the spring. Camp is held at the Sanford PROMISE lab at Sanford Research in Sioux Falls, SD.  If you are interested in applying for this camp, please visit for more information.