A Recipe for Traits

Genetics Science Learning Center at 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.



Students create and decode DNA for man’s best friend to observe how variations in DNA lead to the inheritance of different traits. Strips of paper that represent DNA are randomly selected and used to assemble the dog's DNA. Students read the DNA and create a drawing of their pet, and compare it with others in the class to check for similarities and differences.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 8
  • 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-LS3-1 Develop and use a model to describe why structural changes to genes (mutations) located on chromosomes may affect proteins and may result in harmful, beneficial, or neutral effects to the structure and function of the organism.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on conceptual understanding that changes in genetic material may result in making different proteins.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include specific changes at the molecular level, mechanisms for protein synthesis, or specific types of mutations.

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Educator needs to front load students to the fact that in sexual reproduction each new offspring of the same parents do not receive the same genetic information and this fact leads to variety in siblings. Educator needs to relate the choosing of dog DNA to meiosis and fertilization. In the "Advanced Discussion Points" and "Extension" sections the teacher delve into the correlation of the protein and mutation connections.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
This uses a model to explain the phenomena but does not develop the model. The educator needs to address both meiosis and fertilization. This lesson uses a model of genes on chromosomes and how variety in genes leads to different traits in an individual. The lesson is important in student understanding of the facts that every organism inherits a unique combination of traits, DNA is a set of instructions that specifies the traits of an organism, information in the DNA molecule is divided into segments (called genes), and variations in the DNA lead to the inheritance of different traits.

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
Background needs to be covered on DNA, genes, and chromosomes.

Crosscutting Concepts

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Variations in the DNA strips of each student has the effect of inheritance of different traits. This pattern is implicit and is further developed in the "Enrichment" piece found in this lesson.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Partial alignment of the fact that sexual reproduction provides variety. Elements of the disciplinary core are significantly addressed. Use of the lesson provides an opportunity for hands-on exploration 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: Educators need to locate and provide background on DNA, genes, chromosomes, meiosis, and fertilization. These are not supported in the lesson.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Educator needs to add a cooperative piece to monitor student understanding during the activity. Students work should be displayed and each student should review the gene strips of others and describe similarities and differences that they find. A series of questions should be supplied by the educator to be discussed in student groups and then a summary prompt that addresses and compares each dog organism.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -