Guppies Galore

Activities Integrating Math and Science Education Foundation
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Experiment/Lab Activity , Lesson/Lesson Plan
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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Groups of students set up a small freshwater aquarium (made from gallon jars) that feature a male guppy, a female guppy, and a green plant. After the female guppy goes through her pregnancy and gives birth, the students will then observe, over time, the development of the fry into male and female guppies with characteristics similar to the parents.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 3
Access Restrictions

Available for purchase - The right to view, keep, and/or download material upon payment of a one-time fee.

Performance Expectations

3-LS3-1 Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence that plants and animals have traits inherited from parents and that variation of these traits exists in a group of similar organisms.

Clarification Statement: Patterns are the similarities and differences in traits shared between offspring and their parents, or among siblings. Emphasis is on organisms other than humans.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include genetic mechanisms of inheritance and prediction of traits. Assessment is limited to non-human examples.

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The instructional materials include student journal pages to record observations, but the performance expectation could be further strengthened if the students took pictures of the mother, father and offspring and made a visual family tree. To help the students analyze and interpret the data that they have collected, the teacher could provide the students with labeled Venn diagrams to record the similarities and differences between (1) the male and female guppies (before the fry are born), (2) the parents and their offspring, and (3) two of the offspring.

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
Student observing and recording their observations about the guppy family traits in their journal is a type of data recording that is appropriate for this age level. To further evaluate and analyze the data, students could also make data tables together as a class. How many offspring looked just like one of their parents? How many offspring looked different from both of their parents? Due to the fact that guppies need a temperature of 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit to survive, the teacher may wish to plan this activity around the proper weather conditions if the classroom is not heated/cooled during non-school hours.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students are observing the baby guppies to see the traits that they have inherited from their parents. Coloration is the most obvious, but students may observe many other traits such as size, tail shape, body shape. To reinforce the idea of fry inheriting traits from their parents, the teacher could project pictures of all of the male guppies on the LCD for the students to carefully observe. Then, the teacher could add a picture of one of the male fry to the screen. Ask the students to try to identify the father of the baby guppy. Discuss clues that might lead to solving the puzzle of who might be the father. Guide the students to observe markings, colors, and tail and body shape during this exercise. Note: Because female guppies are quite plain, using the brightly colored and patterned males will make this activity easier.

Crosscutting Concepts

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students should use the patterns of the parents and offspring as evidence that animals have traits that they have inherited from parents and that there are variations of these traits that exist in a group of similar organisms. In third grade, the grade band boundary for this concept suggests that students do not try to make any predictions about the offspring, only observe.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This activity provides students with one example of one type of organism inheriting traits from its parents, but ultimately, students would need to use multiple types of plants and animals. In investigating the phenomenon, students have opportunities to engage in practices and develop their understanding of the crosscutting concept patterns.

  • Instructional Supports: This lesson plan includes teacher background information, materials list, management tips, guiding questions, and student journaling pages, but does not offer much differentiation for accelerated or remedial students. One note: Although gallon glass jars are a free resource, the teacher might wish to consider purchasing small, inexpensive plastic aquariums for the activity to increase student safety.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The lesson plans to include journal pages for observations, but it is suggested that the students use their observational data and make charts and graphs to show how many guppies looked like their parents and how many did not look like their parents.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource is a pdf downloadand does not have any interactive component.