Drosophila Virtual Lab

Science Courseware
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Interactive Simulation
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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good resource


In this activity, students learn and apply the principles of Mendelian inheritances by virtual experimentation with Drosophilia melanogaster (fruit fly). Students make hypotheses for monohybrid, dihybrid and sex-linked traits and test their hypotheses by selecting fruit flies with different visible mutations, mating them, and analyzing the phenotypic ratios of the offspring. As students work through the assignments, they can capture and save data and figures, and write their own notes into their virtual notebooks. Students also learn to organize results into a scientific report that can be graded on-line by their teacher. The activities include an online assessment quiz that consists of randomized interactive questions. The teacher must create a free teacher account at: http://ScienceCourseware.org/vcise/trwg.html. This link includes directions for adding classes, editing templates, rubrics, and reports, and reviewing students’ performance. The teacher’s account includes learning objectives reports that quickly gauge how well the key concepts were understood.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Grade 12
  • Grade 11
  • Grade 10
  • Grade 9
Access Restrictions

Free access with user action - The right to view and/or download material without financial barriers but users are required to register or experience some other low-barrier to use.

Performance Expectations

HS-LS3-3 Apply concepts of statistics and probability to explain the variation and distribution of expressed traits in a population.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the use of mathematics to describe the probability of traits as it relates to genetic and environmental factors in the expression of traits.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include Hardy-Weinberg calculations.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The Drosophila virtual lab simulation addresses the Performance Expectation by asking students to select flies with specific traits, mate two parental flies, observe and records the characteristics that are passed onto their offspring, and analyze the results and provide a hypothesis based on the outcome of the experiments. The lab requires students to choose one fly with a mutation and cross it with a fly having the wild-type version. Students are not provided with the genotypes of the wild type or mutant parent flies, and must use the results of their crosses to determine the mode of inheritance.

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
In this virtual lab, students develop testable questions based on P1 data, formulate hypotheses, and design experiments. Teachers need to provide instruction for students not familiar with experimental design. In analyzing empirical data generated from experiments, students apply principles of genetic inheritances to draw conclusions of patterns of inheritance based on phenotypic ratios. This module asks students to formulate questions and design investigations to develop a solution.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The activity explicitly addresses the Disciplinary Core Idea by asking students to mate flies with specific traits (wild type and mutated) and analyzing the phenotypic ratios of the offspring. Teachers should review meiosis and mutations. Students need instruction and practice analyzing Punnett squares.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Teacher can extend the lesson by assigning the chi-square analysis activity. In this activity, the actual offspring numbers that result from the mating are compared to expected values based on the student’s hypotheses for the ratios among the different types offspring. To reduce the complexity for students for their first few trials, teachers may decide to reduce the number of choices of types of flies if this is their student’s first time working with different traits.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This activity addresses the Performance Expectation by asking students ask questions and draw conclusions about inheritable genetic variations by collecting evidence from student-designed experiments. Students are required to perform chi-square tests to justify experimental results involving them in three-dimensional learning.

  • Instructional Supports: This activity engages student with authentic experimentation in the virtual world. The activity provides opportunities for students to collect and interpret data. This activity is very teacher/student-friendly. Teacher support includes a demo before starting the activity, teacher manual, estimated times for teacher prep and classroom prep, editable rubric, a tab for adding additional questions, extensive background information, and alignment to state standards. Student supports include: background information tab that provides a brief overview of what the student should expect in the activity and an animated demonstration of the activity. Teachers can edit guided questions for the lab report to include more thought-provoking questions on mutations.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: This activity includes two possible quizzes. The teacher can select the quiz for a particular class in the Teacher Account page. Students cannot access the notebook, report, or activity until the quiz is completed. When a student confirms his or her completion of the quiz, it is automatically scored. The percentage score and each individual response by the student are recorded in the Teacher Account pages.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The simulation is interactive and engaging. Students can purchase their own flies from a virtual warehouse, work in a lab, and manipulate online data effectively.