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Students will look at how many of our traits or characteristics are inherited. The students will identify genetic or inherited traits in the classroom. Then they will go home and see if their family members have the same traits.

Appropriate for Grade Level: K-3 (May be adapted for older students.)


Students will:
  • Distinguish between inherited and acquired characteristics.
  • Recognize that variations exist among humans.
  • Observe that some traits are more common than others.
  • Plan and conduct a simple investigation.


    Personal Characteristics, things about you such as eye-color, skin color and blood-type that are special.

    Traits passed down from your parents. (Traits that you were born with.)

    Traits such as pierced ears, hair length, scars, etc. that you were not born with.

    One of a kind.


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  • Previously collected intergenerational photographs of students family members.




Look around our group. Is anyone else here just like you? Every person you know, or ever will know, is unique. No two people are just alike (even identical twins). However, you may have been told that you "look just like your Mom" or that you "have your grandfather's nose." What do you think people mean when they say things like this?

Many of our traits or characteristics are "inherited" or passed down to us from our parents. You may have some traits like your mother, some like your father and some like both your mother and father.

Other characteristics such as the length of your hair, pierced ears, or scars are not passed down to us from our parents. These traits are "acquired" because you were not born with them.


  1. Prior to this activity students will have collected photographs of different members of their family with the help of their parents. Parents should be instructed to send photographs of the child, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, great-grandparents, etc. Your request for photos should be accompanied by a brief explanation of the planned activity to enable parents to select photos that clearly demonstrate family traits.

  2. Instruct students to line up the photos on their desks and search for similarities. Suggest that students begin by observing one part of their face, such as their eyes, and see if any of the other pictures have eyes like theirs.

  3. Share and discuss findings with the group. Young children may state that they share pierced ears, long hair, or similar characteristics with a family member. Statements such as these should be used as an opportunity to discuss the difference between inherited (born with) and acquired (not born with) traits.


Today, we are going to identify some of our genetic or inherited traits. Then you will go home and see if your family members have the same traits. If you have a trait, then usually at least one of your parents will, too.


  1. Give students the Picture Chart handout. Review traits we are looking for, how to decide if you have the trait and how to document it on the Family Traits Worksheet.

  2. Let students complete the "You" column on the Family Traits Worksheet.

  3. Have students share which inherited traits they may have on the Family Traits Worksheet with the class.

  4. Make a class graph showing how many students have each trait on the Family Traits Worksheet. Lead the students into discussion regarding the data shown by the graph. Are some inherited traits more common than others?

  5. Have the students take the Family Traits Worksheet and accompanying Sample Parent Letter home so they can see and document their family members' traits.

  6. Let each student share which traits they have and which traits their family members have, and state any of the traits they shared. Discuss how these traits are concepts of genetics and inherited traits.

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National Science Education Standards - Standard A - Science as Inquiry, Standard C - Life Science, Standard F - Science in Personal and Social Perspectives