Mendelian Genetics in Minecraft – 7th grade Science

Many years ago, and by many I mean almost 4, I wrote a piece about using Minecraft to explore sheep wool genetics. This was based on a meeting outside of school with several elementary age students. Last spring I was able to do a more extensive lesson in a 7th grade Science class. It was an ungraded enrichment activity for students to reinforce what they had learned about Mendelian genetics.

  • The world was built by a student on her own Minecraft account, saved and imported into MinecraftEdu.
  • In the spirit of pair programming, two students played on one computer.
  • Below is my rough lesson outline.
  • Here is a link to an article, (including a video) written for our school newsletter and website.

Planning and Lesson

Genetics Terms: 

  • Parental P1, F1, F2, F3, offspring
  • Cross, crossing
  • Phenotype, genotype, (genes, alleles)
  • Dominant, recessive
  • Pure (true) breeding,
  • Mendelian inheritance
  • Incomplete dominance
  • Codominance
  • Mutation? Randomly appearing new phenotype
  • 3:1 ratio- probability

Minecraft skills/knowledge:

  • 10 min. for sheep to grow to adulthood and become “fertile” so to speak.
  • Mate sheep
  • Build fences- to pen in progeny and separate from adults.
  • Create signs or write info/books
  • ?
  • Students were required to clearly identify by signage within the game;
    • P1, F1, F2 etc…
    • Documentation of crosses being performed
    • Anything else they can think of

Procedures and Questions to Guide Experimentation:

Each pair of students assigned one phenotype color sheep:

1. Is the trait pure (true) breeding? They figure out what to test? How many times?

  • Yes→ What is the genotype? BB or bb, for brown wool.
  • No→ Is there an inheritance pattern? What is the probability of each F1 phenotype? Could it be true breeding and just a mutation? Depends…
    • If 100 crosses and get 1 new phenotype→ indicative of what?
    • Is that phenotype dominant over the P phenotype

2. Cross two true breeding strains (colors of wool). Is there dominance?

  • If so, all F1 should be the same color as one parent (the dominant parent).
  • If all F1 are one color- what is the genotypye of F1?
    • All F1 are heterozygous if mendelian
  • Don’t give Q3. Instead, Ask “What is a logical next question and how would you test this?”

3. What happens when cross two potentially heterozygous F1?

  • Does the recessive phenotype reappear?
    • What is the ratio of dominant to recessive phenotypes in F2?
    • If 3:1 then follows mendelian inheritance patterns.

4. Incomplete dominance/blended or codominant/both phenotypes, blotchy.

5. Test crosses:

    • Cross  F2 (recessive- homozygous recessive) x F1 (heterozygous)
      • If Mendelian genetics what should be probability? 1:1 (50 Bb: 50 bb)
    • Cross F2 (recessive- homozygous recessive) x F2 (homozygous)
      • Should be 100% recessive phenotype.



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