Lesson 2A: Hereditary Lab

  1. Introduction
  2. Teach It
  3. Dig Deeper


Just as artists bring their personal experiences to their work to be more creative and solve problems, students will use what they know about animals to create a fictitious creature. In this lesson, students will learn about how traits are passed on from both parents to create the genetic variations we see in the world around us. Through the use of Punnett squares, students will choose certain traits for their fictitious animal. Then, they will show off their offspring through the use of a group Google slides which will display the class’s creations.

Time: 1-2 class periods


  • In this Virtual Lab, students will use a Punnett square to find possible gene combinations and to create a fictitious animal.
  • Students will calculate the percent chance that certain traits will be passed on to offspring through the use of a Punnett square.
  • Students will use the terms recessive and dominant to describe the traits that were passed on to their fictitious animals.

Type of Activity:

  • Write the words “Creativity” and “Problem Solving”. Ask students how those words are related. Discuss how artists and scientists might use these ideas in their work. Then watch the “Creativity” video together as a class.
  • Students will be working individually to design their fictitious creature based on the results of the Punnett square calculations. Then, they will collaborate with the class to create one shared document which will display the class’s creations.

Next Gen Science Standards:

  • Use mathematical representations to support explanations of how natural selection may lead to increases and decreases of specific traits in populations over time. MS-LS4-6
  • Adaptation by natural selection acting over generations is one important process by which species change over time in response to changes in environmental conditions. Traits that support successful survival and reproduction in the new environment become more common; those that do not become less common. Thus, the distribution of traits in a population changes. MS-LS4-6 

STEAM Habit of Mind:

  • Students will use appropriate tools to communicate the genotype and phenotype for various traits.
  • Students will model the chance that traits are passed on with mathematics.

Suggested Do Nows:

Word Wall:

  • Trait
  • Phenotype
  • Genotype
  • Alleles
  • Dominant
  • Recessive
  • Punnett square

Teach It

Materials Needed:


  1. Explain to the students that they will be using a Virtual Lab to figure out the genetic traits that would be passed down to a creature from its parents. Read through the information at the beginning of the Directions for Heredity: Virtual Lab worksheet with the students. There are many new vocabulary words introduced in this lesson; have students record these vocabulary words in their notebooks for future reference.
  2. Pass out a Heredity: Virtual Lab worksheet to each student. Explain that while they are using the program to create their Punnett squares, they will also be keeping a paper copy of their work. The teacher should model the use of the program and the recording of the information on the worksheet before students are allowed to proceed on their own.
  3. As students use the Virtual Lab program, check to make sure that they are filling out the worksheets with their results. For each trait, they should circle the genotype in the square which shows which choice they made for that particular trait.
  4. Practice using the terms recessive and dominant with the students. Ask “Did you choose a dominant or recessive trait for the eyes (for example)? How do you know?”
  5. Note: Occasionally a glitch happens in the program and the selected trait does not appear when a student clicks on the Punnett square of their choice. We call this a “genetic mutation” and have students record it as such on their worksheets and on the class’s Google slides. 
  6. Once students have created their fictitious animal and filled out their worksheet, they should open the class Google slides called Heredity: Virtual Lab Class Template. The directions should be read to the class and the teacher example can be used as a guide. If you need help with the technology side of creating a shared Google slides document with interactive Table of Contents, please check out ShakeupLearning
  7. Students should only input information on their own slide. This is a group document, but they should refrain from altering the backgrounds of other slides or deleting any slides.
  8. Each student should name their animal based on its predominant traits. For example, if their animal has claws on its feet, then using the term clawed in the animal’s name would make sense.
  9. Discuss the results. Ask the students to explain how natural selection may lead to increases and decreases of specific traits in populations over time by using their mathematical calculations to support their explanation.
  10.  Ask students to predict what might happen to their fictitious animals if a catastrophic event (avalanche, hurricane, heat wave) occurs. For example, an animal without clawed feet would have difficulty surviving an avalanche since it would be difficult for them to dig out of the snow. If there are any students who chose to have a clawless animal and those died because of this event, which animals would be left to reproduce? Which traits might be passed on more than others for your classroom animals?
  11. Students should fill out the Heredity: Virtual Lab conclusion questions as a follow-up to this activity.

Dig Deeper (Extension)

  • Pigeonetics is a fantastic online game which teaches the laws of inheritance through the breeding of pigeons. Students are tasked with breeding pigeons with certain characteristics so they must work through challenges which become progressively harder. It can be found online at Pigeonetics game. Accompanying Pigeonetics materials can be found at the links in the Materials section of this lesson.
Go to Lesson 2B: Dragon Composite Collage