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Heredity: Teachers

Heredity Basics

The best place to review the fundamentals of genetics is the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah. You'll want to spend some time here, learning more about genes, chromosomes, DNA, inherited traits, mutations, and much more.

DNA From The Beginning gives a great overview of genetic concepts, with animations and clear explanations. Interested students can use this site for independent learning. A teacher's guide is also available.

Take a look at a teacher's explanation of Mendel's Three Laws of Inheritance.

The Koshland Museum's Putting DNA To Work exhibit explores current uses of DNA technology in the areas of criminal justice, inherited diseases, and agriculture. The site includes interactives, teaching resources and a virtual field trip.

KidsHealth provides a review of genetic problems and how errors in the genetic code can happen.

Learn more about genomics and genetics, and find links to educator resources, at the National Human Genome Research Institute. The slideshow Genetics, DNA, Heredity: The Basics is a concise and useful overview. A detailed glossary of genetic terms is also provided.

Lesson Plans and More

ScienceNetLinks offers heredity lesson plans: Changing Cicada for grades K-2, Nature and Nurture for grades 3-5, and Gene Puzzles for grades 5-7. These hands-on lessons are aligned with national science standards.

This lesson for younger students focuses on observable inherited traits, including tongue-rolling and the Vulcan hand sign.

The Utah Education Network has a great series of lesson plans on traits and heredity. These are designed for 5th grade, but can easily be adapted for younger or older students. Check out the activities for extracting DNA, exploring innate and learned behavior, constructing animal family trees, and creating a new person through the passing of traits from parents to children. Also available is an interactive science textbook with information and online activities related to nine heredity topics.

Students will love this hands-on heredity lesson, aligned with 3rd grade standards, that uses plastic colored eggs to illustrate how traits are continued through generations.

Arizona State University has a terrific lesson plan, Monster Manual, for use in your classroom. Beginning with a monster story to teach genetic fundamentals, the activity asks students to build monsters by following coded instruction sets. With thousands of monster genomes to decode, there is little chance of students building the same monster.

Extracting DNA is a fascinating class project that allows students to see DNA, and even to take some home! Find instructions for extracting DNA from a banana, an onion, wheat germ, or strawberries.

Resources for Teachers

Teach.Genetics is a great resource to help you teach the complex subject of genetics in a clear, understandable way. The Introduction to Heredity curriculum contains many activities for elementary students to learn the basics of heritable traits. For middle schoolers, the interactive Pigeonetics game requires students to solve 26 pigeon-breeding puzzles of increasing difficulty as they explore genetics at work. For DNA study, students can build an edible model of DNA while learning its basic structure.

You'll want to share the American Museum of Natural History's site, The Gene Scene, with your elementary students. Games, stories, and hands-on projects will capture their imagination and spur their interest in heredity. Classroom activities include making a DNA model and stringing beads to match their favorite animal's DNA code.

Genome: Unlocking Life's Code is a traveling exhibit sponsored by the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the National Human Genome Research Project. The site includes lots of teacher resources, animations, an interactive timeline, and a virtual tour.

Mendel's Laws of Genetic Inheritance, an interactive activity from PBS Learning Media, uses Punnett Squares to display possible genetic outcomes. DNA Workshop is another resource from PBS that takes the student inside the cell to learn about DNA replication.

BrainPop has lesson ideas, videos, quizzes, and activities for topics including heredity, genetics, mutations, DNA, and more.

Educator resources from the Genetic Education Center at the University of Kansas, and GeneEd from the National Institutes of Health.

Yellow body? Square shape? SpongeBob Genetics is a fun PowerPoint presentation or worksheet activity that can be used with your class. Middle-school science teachers can find lots of other ideas and resources for your genetics unit at the Science Spot. Take a look at Genetics With a Smile or Where'd You Get Those Genes?

Find games, puzzles, slideshows, and quizzes at NeoK12.

Ten Human Traits of Simple Inheritance is a fun look at dominant and recessive traits such as Achoo Syndrome and Hand Clasping. Students will enjoy observing and charting their classmates' traits.

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