Project - Dragon Genetics

In this long term computer based simulation, students play with a fabulous FREE software program called Biologica developed by the Concord Consortium. It offers an in depth, virtual experience exploring Mendelian inheritance patterns in dragons. Activities increase in complexity from initial modules introducing dragons and their chromosomes to later activities that require problem solving skills and the integration of many levels of prior knowledge. In the program, you can manipulate dragon chromosomes, breed dragons, explore pedigrees, and more. There are fantastic puzzles along the way: Which gametes should you select to breed a purple, fire breathing, boy dragon? What happens if you change the DNA sequence? Can you figure out the genotype of invisible dragon parents from the phenotypes of their offspring?

Can explain and use the relationship between genotype and phenotype to explain inheritance patterns.
Can take genotype information from 2 parents, model the creation of gametes by independent assortment, and use those gametes to create offspring.
Can explain the relationship between DNA, genes, and chromosomes.
Can explain how the inheritance of sex chromosomes contribute to an individual’s sex and to X-linked traits.
Can use Punnett squares to predict the possible allele combinations in the offspring given the genotypes of the parents.
Can understand the role of mutations in creating variation in phenotypes.

Incomplete dominance
X linkage
Y chromosome
Punnett square
Monohybrid cross

Attachment Size
Proj_Dragon_Genetics.doc 49.5 KB

Dragon Genetics - Logistics

Students may spend anywhere between 1-8 hours playing with dragon genetics. There are 12 activities total. Each activity takes students between 20-50 minutes to complete depending on how quickly the child works. The full sequence is as follows:

  • Introduction – What do dragons look like and why?
  • Rules – What’s the relationship between genotype and phenotype?
  • Meiosis – Why don’t family members look the same?
  • Horns Dilemma – Can 2 horned parents have a hornless baby?
  • Monohybrid – What can you learn from pedigrees?
  • X Linkage – What happens if a gene is part of the X chromosome?
  • Mutations – A unicorn dragon! What happened?
  • Mutations 2 – What happens if you change the DNA?
  • Dihybrid cross – How likely is it for 2 traits to be inherited together?
  • Scales – How do you study the inheritance of a new mutation?
  • Invisible dragons – Dan you determine the genotype of parent dragons just by looking at the phenotypes of the offspring?
  • Plates – How are plates inherited?

It is not necessary or even recommended to complete every activity. My middle school students completed the abbreviated sequence below in 4 class periods. Students who finished early could continue on to the other activities.

  • Introduction – What do dragons look like and why?
  • Rules – What’s the relationship between genotype and phenotype?
  • Meiosis – Why don’t family members look the same?
  • Monohybrid – What can you learn from pedigrees?
  • Mutations – A unicorn dragon! What happened?

Individual although students working in pairs on the same computer is also fine.

Computer lab with at least one computer for every 2 students
Optional: For later modules, you may want to provide or have students create a paper “Dragon Genetics Rules” handout listing each of the traits and a phenotype to genotype translation (HH = horns, Hh = horns, hh = no horns).

Computer lab.

Dragon Genetics - Background

Teacher Background
My middle school students absolutely adored working on the program and begged me for more time to spend in the computer lab on it. The logical reasoning skills required in the advanced activities is quite sophisticated so use caution when requiring this program of students in 6th grade or below.

The Concord Consortium has created an excellent, downloadable teacher guide so see their materials for additional teacher background information. For questions about the software itself, see the Frequently Asked Questions area.

Student Prerequisites
None required although the first activity (Introduction) contains a whole lot of vocabulary. Therefore, I preferred introducing Dragon Genetics after students had been introduced to genes, alleles, and simple dominance (see Making Babies Lab).

Dragon Genetics - Lesson Plan

Getting Ready

  1. Download the Biologica program to each computer. Follow the step by step directions given on the Concord Consortium website.

Lesson Plan

  1. Open the Pedagogica program.
  2. Open the Biologica folder. 
  3. Begin working on activity #1 - Introduction. From here, it is very self explanatory. Students can work at their own pace. Students who finish early can work on some of the optional activities.

Dragon Genetics - Assessment


  1. Invisible Dragons is an excellent alternative assessment tool that requires students use all their previous skills to solve a puzzle. I used the Invisible Dragons as an extra credit challenge for the students who wanted to try.

Dragon Genetics - Standards

Grade 7
2. A typical cell of any organism contains genetic instructions that specify its traits. Those traits may be modified by environmental influences. As a basis for understanding this concept:
b.     Students know sexual reproduction produces offspring that inherit half their genes from each parent.
c.     Students know an inherited trait can be determined by one or more genes.
d.     Students know plant and animal cells contain many thousands of different genes and typically have two copies of every gene. The two copies (or alleles) of the gene may or may not be identical, and one may be dominant in determining the phenotype while the other is recessive.
e.    Students know  DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the genetic material of living organisms and is located in the chromosomes of each cell.

Grades 9-12
2. Mutation and sexual reproduction lead to genetic variation in a population. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a.     Students know meiosis is an early step in sexual reproduction in which the pairs of chromosomes separate and segregate randomly during cell division to produce gametes containing one chromosome of each type.
b.     Students know only certain cells in a multicellular organism undergo meiosis.
c.     Students know how random chromosome segregation explains the probability that a particular allele will be in a gamete.
d.     Students know new combinations of alleles may be generated in a zygote through the fusion of male and female gametes (fertilization).
e.     Students know why approximately half of an individual's DNA sequence comes from each parent.
f.     Students know the role of chromosomes in determining an individual's sex.
g.     Students know how to predict possible combinations of alleles in a zygote from the genetic makeup of the parents.

3.   A multicellular organism develops from a single zygote, and its phenotype depends on its genotype, which is established at fertilization. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a.     Students know how to predict the probable outcome of phenotypes in a genetic cross from the genotypes of the parents and mode of inheritance (autosomal or X-linked, dominant or recessive).
b.     Students know the genetic basis for Mendel's laws of segregation and independent assortment.
c.     * Students know how to predict the probable mode of inheritance from a pedigree diagram showing phenotypes.