heredity traits

How to Teach Inherited Traits Let’s Make it Easy and Fun!

Science Centers Students Will Love: Inherited Traits

If hereditary and inheritance of traits is part of your elementary science curriculum this year, here is a fun idea for you! Why not make NGSS science standards come personally alive with activities your students will relate to? Read on for a lesson idea involving science centers for elementary students to learn about traits and heredity.

If you’re like many elementary teachers, you regularly use centers in your classroom. This will be a fun way to use three centers for science during your Heredity unit and the good news is, the preparation should not take long or cost more than a bag of candy! Students will get excited as they think more about their own traits and how they got them.

For this lesson you’ll want the centers to be at three different tables or areas, of course. You can use your normal strategies to divide the class into three groups, if they are not already, and guide them to rotate according to your timeline.

Video Clip Center Inherited Traits for Kids

The first center is simple: you just need a screen with a video queued up. I love how engaging it is! Have your students watch their Inherited Traits for Kids mini clip, which is two minutes long. There are puppies! In the brief clip, students will see examples of different individual traits in animals and learn about how we get traits from each parent, but every individual puppy or child is different.

With this center, you can ask students to do some written work. For example, ask them to write down two things they learned from the video in their science notebook. Leave a sign at that center with those instructions as well. It’s such a fun clip! Your students will be interested.

Our Class Inherited Traits Center

The next center is a fun opportunity for your students to think about their own individual traits and build community as a class. Type or hand-write a chart listing traits along these lines:

  • I can roll my tongue.
  • I cannot roll my tongue.
  • I have dimples.
  • I do not have dimples.
  • I am right-handed.
  • I am left-handed.

See the photo for an example. For instance, try to select traits that at least a few students will have. Each student should place one sticker in the row for each trait they have. If your students are like mine, they will enjoy talking about or showing their traits! From this, they will remember what a trait is. Combined with the other centers, this can help make the connection that these traits were passed down in their families. At the end of the lesson or in addition you can have a class discussion about the chart and the traits of the class. This chart can be used in math as well.

Using Your Class Traits Chart

inherited traits
chart for students to graph their inherited triats
Class Chart of Inherited Traits

You can even turn the class traits chart into a separate lesson about diversity another time! I like to point out that no traits are better or worse than any others, whether they are more or less common. With this, I also try to be mindful of students who may have a parent/guardian other than their biological parents, or have a trait that not many others do.

Interactive Family Tree Center

For the third center, you need seven paper or plastic cups and a handful of colorful candies, like M&Ms, Skittles, or jelly beans. Label two cups “grandmother” and two “grandfather.” Pair up the grandparent cups and place six random candies in each. Then label two more cups “mother” and “father,” and place them below each pair of grandparents, like a family tree. Label the last cup, “child.” However you may want to show the whole class how to do this center before everyone starts.

This center creates a paper cup family tree, with the colorful candies representing different traits.  A couple of students should close their eyes and pick three jellybeans from each grandparent cup and then open their eyes and put those candies in the mother and father cups under each pair of grandparents. Students should do the same with each parent cup into the child cup.

Half of Our Inherited Traits Come From Each Parent

The idea is that half of each person’s traits are from each parent, but which half will be passed on is random. In addition to reinforce this idea, you can leave follow-up questions at the center for students to answer. For example, “If the mother and father had another child, would that child have exactly the same traits (candy colors) as this child? Why?” You can check out this similar University of Utah Generations of Traits Lesson (for grades five and above, though) for inspiration. This lesson includes English and Spanish versions.

NGSS Standards for Heredity

In conclusion, with these science activity centers, you are teaching grade three or possibly grade one NGSS standards on heredity and inheritance of traits. You know your class, so plan the centers or modify the activities according to what works. It’s great to do this science centers activity lesson when you have another adult in the room.

Above all what I love about this, is that as your students rotate through the three centers, heredity and inheritance of traits becomes real and personal for them! You might even give your class the leftover candy!

If you are looking for a STEM Activity about Bridge Building. Check out this simple activity with a literacy connection.

Thanks for stopping by. I would love to hear from you! You can let me know a topic that you would like more resources for in the comments.


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Hello and welcome to Science is for Kids! I’m Sarah, the author, and I’m glad you dropped by to visit my site. I love providing teaching ideas for elementary science teachers, and here, you’ll find my favorite lessons and resources to make learning science fun for kids. You can visit my About Me page to learn more.


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