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McREL Standards Activity

It’s All in the Genes

Purpose:As a result of this activity, students will develop a basic understanding of genetics by learning about their own inherited traits.
Related Standard & Benchmarks:
 Standard 4.Understands the principles of heredity and related concepts
   Level II [Grade 3-5]
   Benchmark 1. Knows that many characteristics of plants and animals are inherited from its parents (e.g., eye color in human beings, fruit or flower color in plants), and other characteristics result from an individual’s interactions with the environment (e.g., people’s table manners, ability to ride a bicycle)
Student Product:trait chart
Material & Resources:If students are completing the entire activity, each student will need two or more copies of the trait chart provided in this activity, depending on how many members of their family they wish to profile; if the class is skipping the optional lesson, then only one chart per student is necessary. The following website gives a more extensive list of dominant and recessive traits:
Teacher's Note:There is an optional lesson to this activity. If there are students whose family situation does not allow them to participate in it (e.g., they do not know or live with at least one biological parent), the class can skip this. Also, the students need to understand that when talking about "dominant" and "recessive" traits, one is not better or more desirable than the other.
Part I:

1) Give each student a "dominant/recessive traits" chart, provided at the end of this activity.  As a class, go through each of the traits to make sure the students understand what they are.  It may be helpful to set up guidelines for what constitutes a particular trait ahead of time (e.g., how curly is curly, what is considered dark hair).

2) Have students break up into small groups to complete their own worksheet.  Working in groups will help them decide if they have the dominant or recessive trait and allow them to compare their traits with the other students.

3) Continue to step 4, or skip to Part II.

4) Optional:
Give the students extra worksheets to take home and complete with their family. It may be interesting for them to complete this worksheet not only with their parents, but with their siblings or grandparents as well.

5) The following day, allow the students to share what they learned about themselves in relation to their family members.  Do they exhibit some of the same traits as their parents?  What surprised them about this activity?

Part II:

Bring the students back together and as a class, discuss what dominant and recessive traits the students exhibit.   List the traits on large paper or a chalkboard, and tally up how many students exhibit each trait.  Are the dominant traits more common amongst the students?  Why do they think this is?  

Free ear lobesAttached ear lobes
Arches in feetFlat feet
Ability to roll tongue in a “U” shapeCannot roll tongue in a “U” shape
Dimples in cheeksNo dimples
Brown eyesGrey, green, or blue eyes
Widow’s peakStraight or round hairline
Dark HairLight hair
Non-red hairRed hair
Curly hairStraight hair