Strand III
Use Scientific Knowledge from the Life Sciences in Real-World Contexts


Science/Strand III
Content Standard 3
All students will investigate and explain how characteristics of living things are passed on through generations; explain why organisms within a species are different from one another; and explain how new traits can be established by changing or manipulating genes. (Heredity)


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 3
Middle School


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 3/Middle School
Benchmark 1
Describe how the characteristics of living things are passed on through generations.

Benchmark Clarification

All living things transfer similar characteristics to their offspring. Hereditary information from two parents occurs when the sperm and the egg unite during sexual reproduction. Sexually produced offspring are never totally identical to either parent. One or more genes can determine an inherited trait of an individual. A single gene can influence more than one trait. Each organism has the ability to pass on its inherited traits to its offspring.

Students will:

  • Explain how the traits of an individual offspring are determined when the parents’ hereditary information is combined
  • Demonstrate that they understand that all hereditary information is carried through genes that are located in the chromosomes of each cell

Key Concept / Real World Context / Instructional Example / Assessment Example / Resources


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 3/Middle School/Benchmark 1
Key Concept

  • reproductive cells
  • egg
  • sperm
  • chromosome
  • gene
  • hereditary information


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 3/Middle School/Benchmark 1
Real World Context
Common traits controlled by a single gene pair, such as:

  • wrinkled or smooth seeds in a pea plant
  • color of horse hair
  • human traits such as tongue rolling


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 3/Middle School/Benchmark 1
Instructional Example

Benchmark Question: How are characteristics of living things passed on through generations?

Focus Question: Which traits of an individual offspring may be determined by the parents’ hereditary information?

Students will explore the role of heredity in their lives by examining the following traits:

  • Imagine the phone ringing. Pick it up. Put it to your ear. Notice which ear you are using.
  • Interlock your fingers. Notice which thumb is placed on top. Pull your hands apart and repeat the process in reverse order. Notice how difficult/awkward it is to have the opposite thumb on top.
  • Cross and re-cross your arms. Notice which is the dominant way you cross your arms.
  • Examine other physical traits you have inherited from your parents:
  • Handedness (right vs. left)
  • Eye color
  • Rolling your tongue in a “U” shape
  • Free or attached ear lobes
  • Widow’s peak (“V” hairline on forehead)
  • Hair on fingers between first and second knuckle
  • Cleft chin
  • Ability to taste PTC paper

Students will record their unique combination of traits/genetic makeup. Students should begin to understand that their unique individual traits are a direct result of the blending of their parents’ genetic information.

The class will collect their data and record it in a chart.







Free ear lobes


Attached ear lobes




Hair on fingers


No hair on fingers




Widow’s peak


No widow’s peak




Curly hair


Straight hair




Cleft chin


Smooth chin




Can curl tongue


Cannot curl tongue










Note: Students will need to further expand their understanding of how hereditary information is passed on from parents to the offspring through the reproduction process.

Constructing: (SCI.I.1.MS.1).

Reflecting: (SCI.II.1.MS.2).


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 3/Middle School/Benchmark 1
Assessment Example

Using the Internet, encyclopedias, books, and magazines, students will select pictures of two dogs. Assuming one dog is female and the other dog is male, students will predict either through illustration and/or written description what traits might appear in the offspring. Possible traits: hair color, hair length, leg length, tail, ears, distinct markings, eye color, nose length.

(Give students rubric before activity.)

Scoring Rubric






Completeness of explanation

Provides a limited explanation of trait(s).

Provides a minimum of two traits and a reasonable explanation for those traits.

Provides a detailed description of three traits.

Provides a detailed written and visual description of three or more traits.


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 3/Middle School/Benchmark 1


Aronson, Billy. They Came From DNA. W.H.Freeman, 1993.

Balkwill, Fran. Amazing Schemes Within Your Genes. Carolrhoda Books, 1993.

Murphy, Pat. “Cells and Heredity,” SCIENCE EXPLORER: Family Experiments from the World’s Favorite Hands-On Museum. Owlet, 1996.

Unique U. AIMS.