How Are Traits Inherited?

Contributor: Hannah Brooks. Lesson ID: 12788

How did you get your mom's ears and your dad's nose? Why are your eyes a different color than your sibling's? Learn how genes control what you inherit, how you are formed, and why you are unique!


Life Science

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Watch this short video of family portraits worldwide.

  • Do the families look the same?

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  • What do you see when you look in the mirror?
  • Do you see a little bit of your parents?
  • What is your favorite physical trait?

Looking in a mirror, you may see features similar to your parents or siblings because you have some of the same genes!

Your physical features are determined by the traits you inherit from your parents through heredity. Heredity is the process of parents passing traits to offspring. Genetics is the study of heredity processes.


The building block for heredity and genetics is the gene. Genes are sequences of DNA arranged on chromosomes in an organism's nucleus.

Cell, Chromosome, DNA and gene

Each inherited trait is controlled by one gene from mom and one from dad. These sets of genes that code for the same trait are called alleles.

Notice how each chromosome has a band coding for traits like eye color, blood type, hair color, and growth. These are allele pairs for inherited traits.

Genes and Alleles

  • How did we learn about genetics and heredity?

It all started with an Austrian Monk, Gregor Mendel.

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Mendel studied properties in pea plants. He looked at flower type, flower color, seed pod shape and color, and pea seed shape. His studies laid the foundation for modern genetic understanding.

genetic markers

Learn some essential vocabulary words to understand genetics better. Make this table on a sheet of paper, and use it to record important ideas presented in the video below.

Word Meaning Example


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Genetics is fascinating because it determines the traits passed from parents to offspring.

  • What have you learned about the traits you inherited from your parents?

Think of all the knowledge we have developed since Mendel worked with simple characteristics in pea plants!

Move to the Got It? section to analyze your own genetics!

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