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Heredity Lesson Plan

Author: Jana Shumway

Year: 2015

Artform: Dance

Subjects: Science

Grade: 5th

Duration: 45 minutes+

Overview: Fifth grade students will dance about heredity, specifically organisms and their traits; parents and their offspring; and how organisms survive their environments. They will conclude by creating nonexistent animals by deciding what traits an newly invented animal would need to survive in a particular environment.

Standards and Objectives

The student will identify and demonstrate movement elements (time, space, energy and motion) in performing dance.

The student will improvise, create, perform, and respond to
Students will understand that traits are passed from the parent organisms to their offspring, and that sometimes the offspring may possess variations of these traits that may help or hinder survival in a given environment.

Using supporting evidence, show that traits are transferred from a parent organism to its offspring.

Describe how some characteristics could give a species a survival advantage in a particular environment.
Fifth grade students will understand heredity (organisms and their traits, parents and their offspring, and organisms surviving their environments due to particular traits) through dance improvisation and choreographic assignments.



Define organism: any living thing that carries out life activities on its own.

Define traits: a characteristic that determines how an organism looks, acts or functions.


Try moving like the following organisms by performing general traits:

  • Humans – All humans walk on 2 legs. Students just walk.
  • Animals – Animals are so varied, however, many animals walk on 4 legs. Students walk on hands and feet.
  • Birds - All birds fly. Students “fly” and soar around the room.
  • Insects - All insects have 6 legs. With a partner create a shape with 6 legs then let it travel.
  • Plants – All plants grow. Students grow from low to high.
  • Bacteria – All bacteria is small. Students go small and move is small ways.

Now divide the class into parents and offspring. Have the “parents” pick one of the “offspring” to be their partner.

Discuss heredity, inherited traits and learned traits:

  • Heredity is the passing of traits from parents to their offspring.
  • Inherited traits are characteristics passed from parents to their young
  • Learned traits are characteristics or behaviors that are learned by following the example of the parent.

Dance inherited or learned traits to the following organisms:

  • Humans – Stay on 2 legs but have the offspring copy all the varied movements that their parent does as they dance on 2 legs.
  • Animals – Stay on 4 legs but again the offspring copies their parent as the parent tries a variety of ways to move on 4 legs.
  • Birds - Fly by copying the way the parent flies (short wings, long wings, swoops, flying fast, flying high, etc).
  • Insects - Create a variety of 6 legged shapes and find creative ways to move while maintaining that shape (small, wide, up-side-down, etc).
  • Plants – Grow but have the offspring copy the way their parent grows.
  • Bacteria – Be small and move in small ways, but again the offspring copies the movement of their parent.

Discuss “species” and “specialized structures”:

  • Species is a certain group of plant or animal that can only reproduce among themselves.
  • Specialized structures are body parts.

Examples of species:

  • Snowshoe Rabbit: lives in a cold environment; has small ears to keep in the heat; has broad feet to travel on the snow.
  • Jackrabbit: lives in hot, dry areas; has long ears to release heat; has powerful hind legs to outrun predators.

Examples of specialized structures:

  • Climbing foot: woodpecker climbs trees.
  • Swimming foot: ducks have webbed feet to swim.
  • Running foot: Emus runs.
  • Grasping foot: Hawks grasp prey.


Discuss “environment”:

  • The environment is the surroundings in which an organism lives. Environments are constantly changing and sometimes organisms cannot survive. However many animals do survive because of certain traits.

Now have the students get into groups of 4 or 5. Assign each group an environment (swamp, forest, ocean, Arctic, desert, savanna, etc.). Have the students CREATE an animal (one that does not really exist!) by giving it traits that it would need in order to survive their environment. Have them create the shape of one animal as a group, therefore each child will basically represent one trait. You can also have them name their newly invented animals.


Once they have created their animal, have them show the rest of the class. Then let the rest of the class become the environment for their classmates animals. For example the “rest of the class” can create ocean waves by standing in one place while swaying their arms above their heads. They can use different levels and timing. While they create the ocean waves, the newly invented animal that lives in the ocean can move about weaving around and through the negative space of the students creating the ocean waves. Continue to create more environments for each of the newly invented animals. Point out the traits it uses to survive the environment.


All living things inherit a set of characteristics or traits from their parents. Members of any given species transfer traits from one generation to the next. The passing of traits from parent to offspring is called heredity and causes the offspring to resemble the parent. Some traits differ among members of a population, and these variations may help a particular species to survive better in a given environment in getting food, finding shelter, protecting itself, and reproducing. These variations give the individual a survival advantage over other individuals of the same species.
Adjust the dance as needed for individual student needs.
  • Organism: any living thing that carries out life activities on its own.
  • Trait: a characteristic that determines how an organism looks, acts or functions.
  • Heredity: the passing of traits from parents to their offspring.
  • Inherited traits: characteristics passed from parents to their young
  • Learned traits: characteristics or behaviors that are learned by following the example of the parent.
While the kids are dancing watch to see if they are understanding the concepts. If not, sidecoach them to help them understand.

You can have a discussion or quiz at the end of the lesson; or have the students share what they learned with a partner and then report to another group of students or to you as to what they learned.
They can also demonstrate their understanding through choreographic assignments (but be sure the objectives are clear for the assignment and then make sure they meet those objectives).


  • Visuals of environments
  • Visuals of parents with their offspring (in humans and animals) - notice the similarities