In this long term computer based simulation, students play with a fabulous FREE software program called Biologica developed by the Concord Consortium. It offers an in depth, virtual experience exploring Mendelian inheritance patterns in dragons. Activities increase in complexity from initial modules introducing dragons and their chromosomes to later activities that require problem solving skills and the integration of many levels of prior knowledge. In the program, you can manipulate dragon chromosomes, breed dragons, explore pedigrees, and more. There are fantastic puzzles along the way: Which gametes should you select to breed a purple, fire breathing, boy dragon? What happens if you change the DNA sequence? Can you figure out the genotype of invisible dragon parents from the phenotypes of their offspring?
Can explain and use the relationship between genotype and phenotype to explain inheritance patterns.
Can take genotype information from 2 parents, model the creation of gametes by independent assortment, and use those gametes to create offspring.
Can explain the relationship between DNA, genes, and chromosomes.
Can explain how the inheritance of sex chromosomes contribute to an individual’s sex and to X-linked traits.
Can use Punnett squares to predict the possible allele combinations in the offspring given the genotypes of the parents.
Can understand the role of mutations in creating variation in phenotypes.
Students may spend anywhere between 1-8 hours playing with dragon genetics. There are 12 activities total. Each activity takes students between 20-50 minutes to complete depending on how quickly the child works. The full sequence is as follows:
It is not necessary or even recommended to complete every activity. My middle school students completed the abbreviated sequence below in 4 class periods. Students who finished early could continue on to the other activities.
Individual although students working in pairs on the same computer is also fine.
Computer lab with at least one computer for every 2 students
Optional: For later modules, you may want to provide or have students create a paper “Dragon Genetics Rules” handout listing each of the traits and a phenotype to genotype translation (HH = horns, Hh = horns, hh = no horns).
My middle school students absolutely adored working on the program and begged me for more time to spend in the computer lab on it. The logical reasoning skills required in the advanced activities is quite sophisticated so use caution when requiring this program of students in 6th grade or below.
The Concord Consortium has created an excellent, downloadable teacher guide so see their materials for additional teacher background information. For questions about the software itself, see the Frequently Asked Questions area.
None required although the first activity (Introduction) contains a whole lot of vocabulary. Therefore, I preferred introducing Dragon Genetics after students had been introduced to genes, alleles, and simple dominance (see Making Babies Lab).
2. A typical cell of any organism contains genetic instructions that specify its traits. Those traits may be modified by environmental influences. As a basis for understanding this concept:
b. Students know sexual reproduction produces offspri