Interactive games on inherited traits introduce children to the fundamentals of genetics in a multisensory environment. Children can learn about genotypes, an organism's complete hereditary information, and phenotypes, the organism's visible properties. They can play with dominant and recessive genes, matching them inside Punnett squares, which are diagrams scientists use to determine the distribution of inherited traits.
Mix and Match Traits
Children can play online games in which they select various combinations of genes from two parents to create a baby with a particular set of physical features. For example, in the Canadian Museum of Nature's "Pass the Genes, Please," children pair one gene from each parent's two genes to create a particular trait, such as hair colour, dimples, or detached or attached ear lobes, for baby Melvin. The child must figure out the correct combination of dominant and recessive genes to match the trait in the baby's picture. In the museum's "Mix Those Genes!" game, children can mix and match genes from three different women and three different men to create offspring with different eye colours.
Solve Cases Involving Genetics
Children can read through cases describing various situations that involve genetics online, answering questions to solve the mystery. The Science2Discover website offers several cases to solve, revolving around disease inheritance, a baby's gender, varying heights of pea plants, DNA evidence left at a crime scene and the true identity of someone claiming to be a Russian princess.
Explore Disease Resistance and Diversity
While some genes control physical appearance, other genes help a species to survive, such as genes that control resistance to disease or rare genes that ensure genetic diversity. Children can play online games in which they breed animals with disease-resistant or valuable genes over successive generations. In the Minnesota Zoo's "Zoo Matchmaker," children study the genes of male and female tigers, pairing them to breed babies with greater resistance to disease. The game presents a Punnett square to the children so they can see how the two genes from each parent match up. The game also explains the case of feline distemper, which can annihilate small populations of tigers. Children can breed the big cats to increase genetic diversity in the Minnesota Zoo game. As an added challenge, they must balance the goal of increased diversity against the risk of inbreeding.
Test for Clones
Cloning games introduce children to inherited traits from a single parent. In the Canadian Museum of Nature's game "Copy Cat," children must select one kitten from among three candidates and analyse the kitten's DNA to see if it matches the parent cat. Children can also take an interactive quiz on cloning on the museum's website, in which they must determine if certain statements are true or false. For example, the game asks if Dolly the Sheep was the first cloned animal. Children discover that scientists cloned frog embryos in the early 20th century. Dolly was the first cloned mammal.
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