Variations on a Human Face


Students use coins to simulate how alleles separate during meiosis.  One student plays the father, and one plays the mother, a coin flip then determines the traits of their theoretical offspring.  

Note: This is a representation of how traits may work with simple Mendelian Genetics. Human traits are actually much more complicated. Many are the result of multiple alleles, polygenic traits, and environmental factors.

This activity is mainly for fun and does not represent current understanding of these human traits.

To do this activity, students flip a coin. The result of the flip determines the trait of the offspring. Traits include eye color, widow’s peak, chin cleft, and eye shape.

Multiple coin flips simulate polygenetic traits, such as hair color and eye color.  Students get a sense of how genes separate during the formation of egg and sperm and then recombine during the formation a zygote.

Finally, students construct a drawing of their simulated offspring and answer questions regarding Mendelian genetics.

Grade level:  8-12  |  Time required:  1-1.5 hours

HS-LS3-3 Apply concepts of statistics and probability to explain the variation and distribution of expressed traits in a population