Give Peas a Chance: Teaching Genetics

Mendel Give Peas a chanceOk biology teachers, c’mon, let’s not fool ourselves… genetics is the most FUN subject to teach! I think students love learning/talking about themselves. And who doesn’t love a good ol’ fashioned Punnett square?
My genetics unit is FINALLY complete, it took me a while to take my files and put some polish on them as we have been battling the winter flu season! But I’m so happy to be able to share them with you.

But first, some tips:
If you studied genetics in college, you probably know that the classic human traits, such as eye color, dimples, earlobes, etc. are in fact NOT Mendelian genetics. That’s right, they are really quite complicated and some may argue should not be construed as being so simple. I actually NEVER use human eye color as an example because I think eye color genetics is fascinating. Human genetics tend to be complicated. If you want a good example of some soul-crushing genetic truths, check out this site:
http://udel.edu/~mcdonald/mythearwax.html

HOWEVER…students anticipate THEIR genetics in your classroom. As soon as you mention genetics, they start talking about their own phenotypes, which tends to excite them and make them excited to learn. What do you do?!

You have three options:
1. Tell them they will not be learning about themselves because human genetics are complicated and we will not have time to learn about the genetics behind human traits.
2. Pretend that the complexity of human genetics do not exist.
3. A little of both.

DISCLAIMER: There is no wrong option. But I prefer #3.

I offer two labs that explore human traits. I simply tell the kids beforehand that in reality, those traits are NOT Mendelian, but we’re going to pretend they are for a day so that we can have a little fun!

The Exploring Human Traits Lab explores dominant and recessive traits complete with analysis questions and graphing exercise.
The Making Babies Lab is an all time favorite and it wouldn’t exist without a little “fun inaccuracy” as I like to call it.

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So have a little fun! Don’t lie, but don’t be a party pooper! Tell them like it is; they will respect your honesty (and your ever-wondrous pool of knowledge), but don’t exclude their traits from the class. It’s a win-win.

For my genetics unit I offer TWO fabulous freebies to help spruce things up if you so choose:
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All I’m saying is… give peas a chance!
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