Genetics in the STEM Lab!
Genetics in the elementary classroom! Really! This is a brand new topic for me. It all started with a blog post by my friend Amber at SSSTeaching. Her post caught my eye and as I was looking over the colorful monsters her students created I started thinking about doing this with my students. Hmmmm, could I pull this off with third graders? Now why on earth would I choose that age? Well, keep reading and I will explain it!
Amber’s Monster Genetics activity had everything I needed to get this activity started. We watched a Brain Pop video about Genetics before our discussion about inheriting traits from parents and then had a great talk. The kids, mind you these were third graders, actually got it! We went over the contributions both parents would give in several different scenarios and they were able to explain some complicated combinations! I did spend a good bit of time working through the process of inheriting traits and modeled how to create the monsters several times.
Time to play a little game to assign traits to their monsters. Amber’s activity suggests using “Rock-Paper-Scissors”, but I decided to use spinners. The kids would spin for dominant or recessive traits. I made a quick spinner by drawing a circle and sectioning it into 8 parts. I placed either a D or an R in each spot and then we used paper clips as the spinning part. I did this instead of Rock-Paper-Scissors to lessen the arguing that might happen! Take a look:
They would spin and either highlight the dominant or recessive trait on the monster chart and then repeat for the other parent. Their favorite trait was “Stalk Eyes”. Most of the kids wanted to have that trait and groaned when they ended up with the recessive eyes on the head! Several were also unhappy about not getting wings. They kept this going until all traits were assigned. Now to draw the monster. The kids either had the dominant shape of a round body or the recessive trait of a triangular body. They added features like eyes, legs, wings, and colors based on the traits they had gained in the spinner game. It was fun to watch the monsters develop. I heard this comment as they worked, “Man, my monster is going to have only one leg and one horn!” And this one, “Hey, Mrs. Davis, if I didn’t get wings then my monster has no arms!” And the response to this, “Well, it could be worse, I have one leg and one horn, no arms, and polka dots with fur!”
My little third graders loved this activity and did a great job. Best of all, this can be applied to an NGSS Standard for third grade! That is why I was excited to find it. If you are using the Next Generation Science Standards in your state this activity just might be a way to get your kids engaged with learning more about genetics and in a fun way! Keep in mind that this packet from Teachers Pay Teachers is labeled for upper elementary and middle school ages. I did modify its use and added my own flair to it, practiced the inherited traits, showed a video, and talked about it a lot before letting the kids spin for recessive or dominant traits.