Junior's Family Tree

Agriculture in the Classroom, University of Utah
Type Category
Instructional Materials
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.


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The learner will trace the family history of a horse named Junior as they explore why he has the characteristic traits that he does. The lesson includes an interview with a horse breeder and demonstrates how traits are passed from generation to generation. The lesson makes it clear that each parent contributes to the traits of the offspring, demonstrating the Cross Cutting Concepts of "cause and effect".

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 5
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 6
  • Middle School
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

MS-LS3-2 Develop and use a model to describe why asexual reproduction results in offspring with identical genetic information and sexual reproduction results in offspring with genetic variation.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on using models such as Punnett squares, diagrams, and simulations to describe the cause and effect relationship of gene transmission from parent(s) to offspring and resulting genetic variation.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This is part of a larger unit called: "Where'd You Get Those Genes?" from the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. http://www.cfaitc.org/lessonplans/pdf/408.pdf It does an excellent job of showing how the offspring in sexual reproduction are the results of obtaining genes from both parents and how this leads to genetic variation.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The model used in this lesson is a Pedigree Chart/Family Tree and provides the students with an excellent visual display of data.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The main objective of the activity is that the learner will explore how genetic make-up is received from both parents and is expressed by traits that can be predicted. The background information makes the connection that an offspring is the result of half of the genes acquired from both parents. The educator has to make the connection that with each offspring the random acquisition of genes produces siblings that will not be exactly alike, even though they are from the same parents. Additional teacher background information on horse coat and eye color can be found at http://colorgenetics.info/equine/eye-color-horses.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
This lesson should serve as the beginning of a study in the mechanism of gene transfer and variety in the offspring. To firmly grasp the idea of "cause and effect" the educator needs to discuss how Junior’s parents have two different forms of a trait and so the effect is that Junior receives one of them.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Elements of the disciplinary core are addressed.This lesson is would be useful as an introduction to teach the concept of sexual reproduction and modeling the transfer of traits from parents to offspring. There is a partial alignment of the fact that sexual reproduction provides variety and elements of the disciplinary core are significantly addressed. Use of this lesson provides an opportunity for hands-on exploration of the performance expectation and the crosscutting concept of patterns can be used to describe cause and affect relationship. Grade‐appropriate elements of the science and engineering practice(s), disciplinary core idea(s), and crosscutting concept(s), work together to support students in three‐dimensional learning.

  • Instructional Supports: This resource provides limited background information. Educators need to provide additional background on DNA, genes, chromosomes, meiosis, fertilization, and sexual reproduction. Scaffolding could be accomplished with "What I Know" summative assessments, "graphic organizers", sentence starters and sentence frames, and strategies that can be used to guide a summative writing assessments at the end of the lesson.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Formative assessments of three‐ dimensional learning are embedded throughout the instruction. The lesson provides a method for monitoring student progress. Student monitoring is both oral, through discussion to check student progress and written through individually and group presentations. The teacher can check for understanding and student progress at many places during the lesson. The educator should add a cooperative piece to monitor student understanding during the activity. The follow up discussion will further develop the cause and effect relationships. There are many extensions available that can become a summative assessment. Students work should be displayed and each student should review the work of others and describe similarities and differences that they find.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: To increase the technological interactivity, the educator would need to provide extension activities that may include research on selective breeding and/or interactive applications, such as tablet apps, that go into more depth of the content.