Dragon Cloning Leads to Battle Royale in Junior Biology

In order to inspire her junior Biology students to apply concepts involving Mendelian and Nonmendelian patterns of inheritance, Punnett Squares, and Probabilities, Upper School Science teacher Mrs. Patricia Roth challenged her budding biologists to genetically engineer baby dragons. This exciting (and entertaining) project played out in three parts over the past two weeks.

Get to Know Your Dragon
To introduce this Genetics project to her students, Mrs. Roth took on the persona of “Dr. Stacy Nose” and enlisted the help of ICS fourth grade lab assistent Cassidy ’28.

In video format, the duo appealed to the biology students to genetically engineer, breed, and raise dragons to meet specific criteria. After viewing the video assignment, students were directed to an app to “spin the wheel of fortune” and be matched at random with specific dragon prototypes. The students then researched their assigned creatures in a “Dragon Database,” built by Ms. Roth, which included features such as the genotype and phenotype for each lizard. The juniors used this database to answer genetics-based questions about their dragons.

Breed your dragon
The next step for each student was to find the optimal mate for their specific dragons. Using Punnett squares, the students were tasked with determining possible genotypes of potential offspring. These results were shared with the class through a “Brady Bunch” style song parody.

Battle Royale
Once the students had mastered breeding for peaceful purposes, the real excitement set in! The students received an emergency bulletin about a herd of martian unicorns invading the Earth. In order to defend their home planet, the geneticists were tasked with determining which traits would be ideal in a “selective breeding” situation to create an army to defend the planet. The students performed probability math to gage the likelihood of actually achieving their stated goals, and then created digital renderings of their baby dragons. Scaled point values were assigned based on the students’ goals, probability, and outcomes.

The project culminated in exciting fashion, as dragons from all three Biology sections battled each other to choose a dragon leader and led the dragon army to victory. Congratulations to “Fiza,” created by Allison Smith ’21, who reigned supreme.