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The GeneEd website is scheduled to be retired on March 31, 2019. Selected GeneEd content will be transferred to Genetics Home Reference, another online resource from the National Library of Medicine.

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Genetic Traits

Genetic Traits

A trait is a specific characteristic of an organism. Traits can be determined by genes or the environment, or more commonly by interactions between them. The genetic contribution to a trait is called the genotype. The outward expression of the genotype is called the phenotype

Learn more from scientific experts about Genetic Conditions /Genetic Traits at NHGRI's Talking Glossary

Materials for Genetic Traits


The Animated Genome

Description: An engaging 5 minute film about DNA and the human genome that is sure to please.

What are traits?

Description: An engaging one and a half minute animation on traits, and how we are shaped by both our genes and environment.


Basic Genetics

Description: A rich source of engaging games, animations, articles, interactive tutorials and more on heredity, traits, chromosomes, DNA, RNA, and proteins.

DNA Roulette

Description: This odds game makes learning about the probabilistic nature of genomics a blast. Unlike traditional roulette where the betting table and odds are always the same, DNA Roulettes odds are different for each disease or trait. Even within a disease, the odds are different depending on which of several possible genotypes is randomly selected by the game engine for that round.

Interactive Tutorials

Basic Genetics

Description: A rich source of engaging games, animations, articles, interactive tutorials and more on heredity, traits, chromosomes, DNA, RNA, and proteins.

Children Resemble Their Parents

Description: Information, videos, interactive tutorials, and animations on genetic traits

Labs & Experiments

Do Some Genes Maintain More Than One Common Allele in a Population?

Description: An advanced virtual laboratory experiment exploring why multiple versions of a gene exist within a population.

Teacher Resources

A Recipe for Traits (PDF 1,129.11 KB , Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Students create and decode DNA for mans best friend to observe how variations in DNA lead to the inheritance of different traits. Strips of paper that represent DNA are randomly selected and used to assemble the dogs DNA. Students read the DNA and create a drawing of their pet, and compare it with others in the class to check for similarities and differences.

Do You See What I See? (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: A series of lesson plans and laboratory exercises exploring vision, color perception, color-blindness, diversity of vision across species, and how this diversity affects survival and reproduction. You may need to register to view the lesson plans, but the plans and registration is free.

Genomics and Human Identity (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Bring genomics to life for your high school students with this lesson plan. The lessons encourage hands-on, inquiry-based learning and include genomic concepts and research projects.

Genomics and Inheritance (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This University of North Carolina teaching module teaches students about the human genome and what makes us each unique, how traits are inherited, and how Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS) are helping to identify genes responsible for complex human diseases. Hands on activities include the Genetic Wheel (which shows how inherited traits make each of us incredibly unique) and a GWAS activity where students get to identify a genetic marker contributing to a human disease.

Introduction to Heredity and Traits (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Five easy-to-implement clasroom activities teach the basics of heritable traits. Three take-home activities help students share what they're learning with their families.

Juniors Family Tree (PDF 122.19 KB, Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: The learner will trace the family history of a horse named Junior as they explore why he has the characteristic traits that he does. The lesson includes an interview with a horse breeder and demonstrates how traits are passed from generation to generation. The lesson makes it clear that each parent contributes to the traits of the offspring, demonstrating cause and effect.

Race and Genes (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Visible traits of the human phenotype associated with specific races are influenced by a common set of genes all humans share, the genome, and environmental interactions. Culture determines how they are perceived.

Traits Activities (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Activities on genetic traits and disease risk, including traits bingo, inventorying common traits among your students, and tracking traits through three generations of ginger-bread people.

Variation in Human Skin Color (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: In this lesson, students explore the factors that control variation in human skin color and the implications of this information for human society.


What Really Causes Baldness (Hint: It is not your Grandpa)

Description: Watch this engaging 2 minute video to learn more about X-linked inheritance, multigenic traits, and complex traits.