The activities in Genetics help students to understand basic principles of genetics, including relationships of genotype to phenotype, concepts of recessive and dominant alleles, and how understanding meiosis and fertilization provides the basis for understanding inheritance, as summarized in Punnett squares. The Student Handout includes an analysis of the inheritance of albinism that teaches all of these concepts, a Coin Toss Genetics activity that helps students understand the probabilistic nature of Punnett square predictions, and an analysis of the inheritance of sickle cell anemia that reinforces the basic concepts and introduces some of the complexities of genetics. The Genetics Supplement includes two additional activities, an analysis of student data on the sex makeup of sibships and pedigree analyses of recessive and dominant alleles with challenge questions that introduce the role of mutations and an evaluation of Punnett squares and pedigrees as models of inheritance.

Download Student Handout: PDF format or Word format

Download Genetics Supplement: PDF format or Word format

Download Teacher Preparation Notes: PDF format or Word format

The Teacher Preparation Notes provide instructional suggestions and background information and explain how this activity is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.

We invite comments on this Hands-On Activity and the accompanying Teacher Preparation Notes, including suggestions for other teachers who are planning to use the activity, useful preparatory or follow-up activities, additional resources or any questions you have related to the activity, or a brief description of any problem you might have encountered. If you have a relevant Word document you would like to have posted on this comments page, such as a version of the protocol you have used in your classroom, or if you would prefer to send your comments or questions in a private message, please write Ingrid Waldron at

See also a complete list of activities:
Hands-on Activities for Teaching Biology to High School and Middle School Students

Multiple additional genetics activities are available at


iwaldron's picture

2013 revision

The 2013 revision of this genetics activity provides a streamlined Student Handout that engages students in learning all of the basic concepts, together with a Genetics Supplement that includes two extension activities that reinforce the basic concepts and introduce additional genetics concepts and skills. In addition, the introductory explanations in the Student Handout have been clarified, and the questions in the Student Handout and Genetics Supplement have been revised to more closely align with the learning goals and with Next Generation Science Standards.

iwaldron's picture

January, 2011 revision

The Student Handout now includes a more explicit use of model chromosomes or diagrams to ensure that students understand how meiosis and fertilization result in inheritance and provide the basis for understanding Punnett squares. Numerous additional revisions in the Student Handout and Teacher Preparation Notes are designed to improve understanding of the biology of genetics.


iwaldron's picture

July, 2010 revision

In this revision of the Genetics activity we have modified the coin toss activity so students compare the distribution of genotypes in their families of four "children" with the results for the entire class. The larger sample size provided by using the distribution of genotypes for all of the "children" produced by the students in your class will result in less random variation and a closer approximation to the predictions of the Punnett square. We have made additional, more minor improvements in both the Student Handout and the Teacher Preparation Notes.


iwaldron's picture

January, 2010 revision


We have made modest improvements in the Student Handout and included statistical information in the Teacher Preparation Notes to assist in the interpretation of variation in results of the Coin Genetics and Genetics of Sex Determination activities.


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