Karyotype Activities

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

As you teach your students more about cells and chromosomes, they will begin to learn about karyotypes. This lesson offers some activities that help students understand what karyotypes are and why they matter.

Teaching About Karyotypes

A karyotype is the number of chromosomes that exist in the nucleus of a eukaryotic cell, as well as how the chromosomes look. Sometimes, the work 'karyotype' is also used to refer to how many chromosomes exist in a particular species or organism.

As you teach your students more about DNA and cellular biology, you will introduce them to the concept of karyotypes. This is a complicated phenomenon that will help students better understand genetics as well as biodiversity.

However, you will want to carefully scaffold students' learning about karyotypes; one way to do this is by using activities that allow students to access concepts using different learning styles and strengths. The activities in this lesson will give your students a better understanding of what karyotypes are all about.

Visual Activities

Here, you will find activities that help students access karyotypes from a visual standpoint, appealing to learners who work well with images and graphic organizers.

Compare and Contrast

Show your students two or more different images of karyotypes. Then, have them compare and contrast the images using the six criteria usually used for observations:

  • absolute sizes of chromosomes
  • positions of centromeres
  • relative sizes of chromosomes
  • basic numbers of chromosomes
  • numbers and positions of satellites
  • degree and distribution of heterochromatic regions

Less-advanced students may only work on a few of these categories, which is completely fine. The main point is to give students some experience talking about what they notice about similarities and differences between karyotypes.

Human Karyotypes

Ask your students to spend some time looking at and discussing the human karyotype. Then, have them try their hand at sketching it from memory! You can also show your students images of what variations of the human karyotype look like.

For instance, how does it look in a person diagnosed with Down Syndrome? Ask students to practice sketching different versions of the human karyotype and discussing the developmental variations they lead to.

Kinesthetic Activities

These activities will let students use their hands and bodies while learning more about karyotypes.

Learning the History

Break students into small groups and ask each group to learn something about the history of karyotype studies. Then, have them write short skits that help them enact the discovery they researched. Some possibilities include the discovery of chromosomes, the discovery of mitosis, or the investigation of the human karyotype. Encourage students to use their bodies to dramatize what they are learning and give them a chance to perform the skits for the class.

Model Different Karyotypes

Let students work with partners for this activity.

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