Genetics for Kids

Genetics for Kids (GK) is a curriculum supplement designed to increase seventh and eighth grade students’ positive attitudes toward genetics and build science literacy. Positive attitudes and science literacy are important for many reasons.

Positive attitudes toward science relates to higher levels of science literacy and achievement

Science literacy is critical for students to make informed decisions about their health and livelihood

Genetics research is advancing rapidly - and it is complicated. Understanding basic genetics is a fundamental part of science literacy

Science literacy helps keep people safe and protects our communities


The GK curriculum supplement includes 10 modules. All GK modules contain specific learning objectives aligned with state and national science standards. The modules can be taught in any sequence, and plugged into the standard science curriculum to expand learning beyond the content in most standard textbooks.

Module 1: The Great DNA Extraction

Students learn about the history of the discovery of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), and hypothesize about whether DNA can ever be visible without a microscope. Students perform an experiment in which they extract DNA from wheat germ cells. Students then evaluate whether or not their hypothesis was correct.

  • Recognize that all living things are made of cells
  • Recognize that DNA is found in cells of living organisms
  • Understand that DNA can be extracted from other cellular components
  • Explain that detergent disrupts cell membranes so that DNA can be extracted

Module 2: Chromosomes, Coils, and Creatures

Students learn the distinction between chromosomes and chromatin. Students examine the relationship between diploid number and an organism’s traits. Students compete in a “chromosome contest” to model the way in which chromatin wraps around protein to form chromosomes. Students create a creature, and determine the creature’s habitat, diploid number, and traits.

  • Recognize that DNA is found in the nucleus of the cell
  • Understand that DNA in the form of chromatin is present in the nucleus of the cell
  • Identify chromosomes as structures formed from chromatin that are visible when the cell is dividing during mitosis
  • Recognize that chromosomes consist of a single DNA molecule and its associated protein
  • Understand that different types of organisms have differing numbers of chromosomes

Module 3: Lights. Camera. Karyotypes.

Students examine karyotypes to determine whether a person is male or female. Students learn how to diagnose medical conditions based on atypical human karyotyopes. Students learn how to identify homologous pairs of chromosomes, and play “Karyotype Concentration” to practice matching homologous pairs of chromosomes.

  • Recognize a karyotype
  • Count the number of chromosomes shown in a karyotype
  • Identify sex (male or female) from a human karyotype
  • Identify uses of a karyotype in the scientific and medical communities

Module 4: Genes — What are they good for?

Students learn about alleles and dominant and recessive genes. Students learn the way in which combinations of alleles create different genotypes and phenotypes. Students work in groups to determine their phenotypes, identify genotypes that could create their phenotype, and determine whether anyone else in their class has the same phenotype and genotype for four different traits.

  • Recognize that genes (genotype) can contain instructions for making proteins that create traits (phenotype)
  • Understand that humans have many of the same genes
  • Explain that variation in genes account for different traits found in humans

Module 5 — Fruit Fly Mutation!

Students learn about genetic mutations that fruit flies may have, and the way in which mutations can either be beneficial, harmful, or neutral depending on the fruit fly’s environment. Students learn that, because fruit flies and humans have many of the same genes, scientists sometimes study mutations in fruit flies to learn about mutations in humans. Students reinforce their knowledge about fruit flies by playing the “Mutation Game”.

  • Recognize that a mutation is a change in an organism’s DNA
  • Understand that a change (mutation) in DNA may cause problems in an organism’s functioning, increase an organism’s chance of survival, or have no noticeable effects

Module 6: Sickle Cell: The good, the bad, and the deadly

Students learn about mutations to alleles that may cause sickle cell anemia. Students learn the effects of having one sickle cell allele (SCT), the effects of having two sickle cell alleles (SCA), and the way in which sickle cell trait can protect against malaria. Students examine inheritance possibilities of hemoglobin alleles using Punnett squares to illustrate the likelihood of an offspring having SCT or SCA.

  • Recognize that SCA is a genetic disease
  • Identify differences between SCA and SC trait
  • Understand that the sickle cell mutation is an advantage for survival in certain environmental conditions
  • Recognize the importance of educating and testing for SCA and SC trait

Module 7: Solving and sharing the mysteries of genes

Students read and discuss three different scenarios about DNA testing for genetic markers. Students learn about DNA testing to reveal genetic markers related to breast cancer, DNA testing of in vitro embryos before implantation in the uterus of the prospective mother, and DNA testing for genetic diseases that may be in a family.

  • Know what genetic markers are and how they are used in medical and scientific fields
  • Recognize that genetic markers cannot perfectly predict who will get a disease
  • Understand the potential personal and societal implications of DNA testing

Module 8: X, Y, and Athletes

Students explore the ethical complications and implications of using genetic knowledge in determining fairness of an athletic competition. Students learn about genetic testing to determine the sex of an athlete. Students explore ways in which athletes may gain an unfair advantage in competition by increasing red blood cell production through blood doping and gene doping.

  • Understand that genes influence body structure
  • Explain that genes and products they code for interact in complex ways
  • Recognize that there are complicated ethical issues related to the use of genetic knowledge, particularly in the field of sports

Module 9: Inheritance – It’s the law!

Students learn about the Mendel’s Laws of Segregation and Independent Assortment. Students learn the distinction between genes and alleles, and model the process of inheriting alleles through a coin flipping activity.

  • Know the role of chromosomes and genes in the cellular environment
  • Understand that sperm and egg cells each contribute chromosomes to the offspring
  • Recognize that children resemble their parents due to the genetic inheritance of their parents’ DNA

Module 10: Blood type – What is your type?

Students explore genetic variation by studying the alleles that create human blood types. Students calculate the probability that a person will inherit a particular blood type by completing Punnett squares. Students create graphs to illustrate the frequency in which different blood types are found in the U.S., and apply their knowledge about blood types and trait inheritance to solve a mystery.

  • Define allele, phenotype, and genotype
  • Understand the concepts of dominant and recessive traits
  • Predict the phenotype of an individual given two alleles for a particular genotype
  • Recognize that many traits are controlled by multiple genes
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email