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Lesson summary for:
Nature or nurture? Heritability in the classroom


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From intelligence to laziness, artistic talent to how likely you are to become bald, people want to know, and debate about, whether traits are passed down from parents (“nature”) or affected by environment (“nurture”). In reality, the question is not “nature or nurture”, but to what extent each affects traits. In this exercise, students will learn about the importance of nature and nurture in determining phenotypic differences among individuals by collecting data on themselves and their parents to estimate heritability. In order for natural selection to act on a character, variations in that character must be heritable.

Layla Hiramatsu and Theodore Garland, Jr.

Grade level:

2-3 50 minute class periods

Teaching tips:
Tips for use can be found in this publication about the exercise.

Correspondence to the Next Generation Science Standards is indicated in parentheses after each relevant concept. See our conceptual framework for details.

  • Phenotype is a product of both genotype and the organism’s interactions with the environment.

  • Variation of a character within a population may be discrete or continuous.

  • Continuous characters are generally influenced by many different genes.

Teacher background:

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