Genetics Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Fedora Sutton Butler
In this lesson you'll learn about basic genetics concepts and vocabulary words, such as phenotype and genotype. We'll also explore genetics by looking at plants as an example. Read on to learn more now.

Basic Genetics: The Question

In the summer, a few children went to visit their cousins who lived in the countryside. During this fun-filled period, they were asked to pick pea pods from the garden, open the pods and collect the peas.

'Oh my!' exclaimed Jamie. 'Look at these yellow peas.'

'Some of mine are green,' exclaimed Daryl. 'How can that be? The pods came from the same vine.'

What explains these findings?

Explanation with Genetic Terms

This story illustrates genetics and genes and how they determine what peas and people look like.

Genes code for the appearance of an animal or a plant. This is like when you're playing a game and you have to figure out the meaning of something. The code allows you to figure out the meaning. In this case with the peas, the code makes the peas yellow or green.

Phenotype means appearance. In our example, the color of the peas is the phenotype. Each pea has its own phenotype just like each individual child has his or her own phenotype.

Genotype refers to two genes that determine the phenotype. Each gene is represented by a letter.

The children found most of the peas to be yellow, so we say that yellow is the dominant, or more common, color of peas. To show dominance, we use an uppercase letter. In this case, we will use uppercase Y to represent the yellow pea gene, and we will use lowercase y to represent the green pea gene.

If we take a male plant with yellow peas and a female plant with green peas, what could be the genotype of the male plant?

Answer: YY. This is a pea plant with pods containing only yellow peas.

What would be the genotype of the female plant with green peas?

Answer: yy.

The color of the baby peas depends on what gene is given to the baby by each parent. The baby must have two genes, one from the male plant and the other from the female plant.

Since the male's genotype is YY, what gene can the male plant give to the baby plant for pea color? Answer: Y and only Y.

Since the mother's genotype is yy, what gene can the female plant give to the baby plant for pea color? Answer: y and only y.

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