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From Genotype to Stereotype

Humans traits are determined by how the genes we inherit interact with the environment around us.  This interplay of nature and nurture results in a fascinating array of diversity within our species.  For better or worse, the spectrum of traits we possess has also been used to classify humans into categories (with assumptions connected to them) based on the way we look and the abilities we have.  This project will ask students to investigate the implications of using inherited traits to place cultural value on segments of our population and thrust them into action by creating a social media campaign that will help redefine a cultural perception of a biological trait of their choice. 
Master & timeline

Master Plan & Timeline

Driving Questions

Why do we have cultural biases about biological traits (skin color, sex, ability, beauty) and how does creating awareness about those biases impact cultural and biological evolution?​

Learning Objectives


  • Collaboration

  • Creativity

  • Presentation skills

  • Marketing

  • Social Justice

  • Social Media


  • Bio.2.1.2: Analyze the survival and reproductive success of organisms in terms of behavioral, structural, and reproductive adaptations.

  • Bio.3.1.3 Explain how mutations in DNA that result from interactions with the environment (i.e. radiation and chemicals) or new combinations in existing genes lead to changes in function and phenotype.

  • Bio.3.2.1 Explain the role of meiosis in sexual reproduction and genetic variation.

  • Bio.3.2.2 Predict offspring ratios based on a variety of inheritance patterns (including dominance, co-dominance, incomplete dominance, multiple alleles, and sex-linked traits).

  • Bio.3.2.3 Explain how the environment can influence the expression of genetic traits.

  • Bio.3.5.1: Explain the historical development and changing nature of classification systems.

Essential Questions
  1. How does culture affect genotypes and how do genotypes affect culture?

  2. How have historical movements tried to redefine cultural interpretations of biological traits?

  3. Does culture evolve in the same way that biological organisms do?


***Please note that if your group misses two Milestones, you will be given an alternative assignment.***

Entry Event

Entry Event

  • The Dot Game
  • A Tour of Ad / Social Media Campaigns
  • Reflection Questions:
    • How did you feel after playing the Dot Game and how does it relate to this project?
    • Which campaign was most impactful to you?
    • How was each one trying to redefine a cultural perception of a biological trait?
  • Choose your trait:
    • Skin Color & Race

    • Sex & Sexism

    • Sex & Gender

    • Symmetry, Height, Eye / Hair Color, Proportions & Beauty

    • Genetic Disease & Disability

Nitty Gritty

The Nitty Gritty

Each Group should make one presentation or interactive lesson that covers the following material for your chosen trait:


The genetic underpinnings of your trait
  1. How do crossing over, random assortment of chromosomes, gene mutation, nondisjunction, and fertilization in Meiosis affect this trait?

  2. In which phase of Meiosis does your trait get determined?

  3. How much does environment affect the expression of this gene?  Does it show variable expressivity in phenotypes?

  4. What is the probability of inheriting your trait if both parents are homozygotic or heterozygotic?

  5. What is the estimated frequency of the trait on each continent?  Why might there be a difference?

  6. Is it an autosomal or a gonosomal (sex-linked trait)?  How do you know?

  7. How does it map out on a pedigree chart? Provide an illustration.

  8. Can it be epigenetically affected in some cases?

  9. Why did this trait evolve and why does it persist?  

  10. How does it affect reproductive success or survival in a human that inherits it?

  11. How do sexual and natural selection affect it?

  12. Is it a dominant, co-dominant, over-dominant, under-dominant or recessive trait?  How do you know?

  13. Do abnormal karyotypes affect this trait?

  14. Is it polygenic, monogenic, oligogenic?


Historical movements related to your trait
  1. What are 1-3 movements that have shifted cultural perceptions of your trait?

  2. What strategy did the movement’s organizers use?

  3. What societal changes occurred based on the movement(s)?

  4. What historical forces led to the movement?


Societies where this trait is interpreted differently
  1. Are there any societies that put different cultural values on your trait or define it differently than our culture?

  2. Why would their perception of it differ from ours?

  3. What sort of environmental / social pressures may have led to their differing perception? (i.e. matriarchal societies that place higher value on females often dominate hunter / gatherer cultures where women provide the majority of the calories through gathering)

Blood Type Lab

Students will learn about co-dominant traits through conducting a blood type lab.  Instructions will be provided on the day of the lab.

A Letter to Make Change

Students will write AND SEND a letter to an elected official or a letter to the editor that will meet the following criteria:
  • Explains the genetic basis of your trait in your own words and uses biology to question the cultural biases associated with it
  • Addresses a piece of legislation or a commonly held cultural belief about your trait
  • Advocates for a change of perception by the audience based on your research about the effects of discrimination 
  • Uses factual evidence to back up claims
  • Uses appropriate, inoffensive language
  • Considers both sides of the argument
  • Length: 500-1000 words
  • See rubric
Helpful Resources:

FINAL PRODUCT: Social Media Campaigns

Final Product
See Rubric
Develop a social media campaign employing three modes of persuasion to explain how your chosen trait is inherited from generation to generation. Include a brief history of the social significance of your trait, and make a distinction between the biology and the cultural significance.
Modes of persuasion:
  • Video,

  • Music

  • Visual art,

  • Spoken word,

  • Writing

Criteria for the campaign:
  • At least 3 postings that each contain different biological information about your trait and integrate information from scaffolding activities, but still deliver the main message

  • Contrasts the biological nature of the trait with the cultural values surrounding it

  • Uses a social media platform (facebook, instagram, tumblr, twitter, etc.)

  • Has a cohesive, persuasive message that could help educate the public about your trait

  • Is highly creative in nature

  • Shows excellent craftsmanship and visual appeal

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