Life Cycles and Inherited Traits


SciGuides are a collection of thematically aligned lesson plans, simulations, and web-based resources for teachers to use with their students centered on standards-aligned science concepts.

Young children are fascinated as they watch lizards, frogs, butterflies and other small animals develop through life stages, from being born to adult to death. Some of them experience pets at home, while others visit zoos and learn through online resources. Gardening offers an opportunity to observe stages of growth in plants and presents another view of the diversity of life. Characteristics of living organisms, their stages of life and the diversity around us are major concepts developed within this guide.

Elementary students learn about growth and development and characteristics of organisms by observing plants and animals that are part of their immediate environment. Through these observations and experiences they begin to notice and develop an understanding that offspring resemble their parents; that characteristics (traits that are observed) are diverse even within same species; and that patterns and variations occur at every level of life.

This foundation provides the basic building blocks that are instrumental to the further understanding of genes, traits, heredity and reproductions that they will study in later grades.

All resources within this guide correspond to the National Science Education Standards and have been reviewed and evaluated by a team of experienced science teachers, taking into account the needs and concerns of elementary school teachers and students.

  • Elementary

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Reviews (14)
  • on Tue Nov 27, 2018 7:40 PM

I found this sciguide to be a great resource for our upcoming unit on life cycles. The guide is broken into two different categories. This allows for easier searching for what you need. I personally am going to use the "Living Things Have Life Cycles" theme in my classroom. This theme provides links, lessons plans, hands on explorations, data, and assessments. I especially like how there is an area that provides misconceptions students have. I believe all teachers who teach this standard could find many valuable resources. I am excited to share this with my second grade team during our PLC!

Ashley Flaherty  (Woodstock, GA)
Ashley Flaherty (Woodstock, GA)

  • on Sun Jul 03, 2016 2:30 PM

I found this resource a wonderful addition to my lesson planning. I can see so many creative ways to incorporate these ideas into my future classroom. I really love the links that have the brain pop video and the "Wear a Chimp on your Wrist" as well as the examples of inherited traits. There is so much here to use.

Jennifer Pierre
Jennifer Pierre

  • on Sun Jul 12, 2015 1:13 PM

I am looking forward to using some of the lessons on inherited vs. learned traits. My students always have a difficult time determining the difference between the two in 3rd grade and these ideas look easy enough for them to comprehend. I've had a hard time finding resources on thee topic in the past but this collection will be very helpful!

Jennifer Petko Cuff
Jennifer Petko Cuff

  • on Wed Sep 17, 2014 6:05 AM

SciGuides are really fantastic.When it's time to teach about life science, cells, and genetics, I can be confident knowing I'll have the Life Cycles and Inherited Traits SciGuide to go to for lesson plans, simulations, and web-based resources. I'll be able to create outstanding lessons in a shorter amount of time since many resources are easily accessible in this SciGuide.

Naomi Beverly  (Marietta, GA)
Naomi Beverly (Marietta, GA)

  • on Sun Nov 11, 2012 4:10 PM

The Life Cycles and Inherited Traits SciGuide is an excellent resource for teaching a difficult and sometime sensitive topic. The idea of nature vs. nurture is discussed and the activities address this issue. The students think about behaviors such as singing in the shower or jumping when startled and determine why they react in the manner that they do. The SciGuide requires the students to think about the reason for the behavior. (i.e. “When the phone rings, I answer it”. This is a learned behavior because I learned that the ring is a signal for me to answer.) Students are fascinated by inherited traits and want to know why they look like they do and why they aren’t exactly like their brother/sister. Using the activities here help students to understand the complexities of this subject. The web activities such as nature nurture walk on and help the students to visualize some of these concepts. When I teach this concept in the 3rd quarter, I will use these resources to help the students understand this concept. I have some students who are adopted so I will need to adapt some of the questions and I also have a set of identical twins. There are many ways to create lessons that cross the curriculum through these activities. (language – learned behavior, math – probabilities, habits of mind)

Stephanie Taira  (Honolulu, HI)
Stephanie Taira (Honolulu, HI)

  • on Fri May 04, 2012 1:25 PM

The NSTA SciGuide Life Cycles and Inherited Traits is an excellent resource to use in a genetics unit. It gives clear, concise sources for teachers and provides students with the necessary information to learn more about genetics. Links were provided that addressed topics such as the What is a Gene, Genes and Traits, Genetic Traits, and Genetics. Included in the SciGuide are lesson such as Genetics: Genetic Traits Activity, Create the Kids Activity, and Kid’s Corner; Genetics. The lesson with the greatest impact on me was the Examples of Inherited Traits site. I have been teaching this concept as a lab with my students for several years, but the hand drawn examples we have used in our department often were confusing to the students. The pictures provided by this site were PERFECT. Students always love this lab, but this year they were much less confused and have so much fun seeing if they had traits matching what they saw on the site. I definitely will be accessing these resources as I do my Genetics unit next year. I will also be sharing it with my colleagues. I teach an inclusion class in Biology and I have already shared this resource with my team teacher. We both agree that the resources presented really give new life to this unit. The lessons and links provided in this Guide allow me to use it in both Life Science and Biology and allow us the freedom to expand the complexity and depth of benchmarks we are addressing (i.e. SC. 7.5.3 Explain that small differences between parents and offspring could produce descendants that look very different from their ancestors and SC.BS.5.4 Explain how Mendel's laws of heredity can be used to determine the traits of possible offspring. While at first glance many of the sites are more based on an elementary level, digging a little further brings great results for content that is grade level appropriate. Overall this was an excellent SciGuide. Possible expansion to higher grade levels up front would save some time digging for grade level appropriate material.

Nancy I  (Pahoa, HI)
Nancy I (Pahoa, HI)

  • on Tue Jan 17, 2012 9:31 AM

The sci-guide coud be an extension of the Genetics sci-guide. It communicates the pattern that are observed of living things, which is life cycle. It also gives credit to a very important concept in genetics, which is inheritance, so that one organism has traits very similar to its parent organism.

Ronaldo Relador  (Bowie, MD)
Ronaldo Relador (Bowie, MD)

  • on Sat Oct 15, 2011 6:53 PM

After perusing through this sciguide, I conclude that this is a great resource for early science learners. Children are naturally observant and curious about their environment. Teachers can facilitate opportunities to learn about the life cycle by using these resources. Children learn about the life cycles of animals, butterflies and other insects through this science guide. There are a variety of resources through this guide. I would definitely recommend it to science teachers!

Lauren Clark
Lauren Clark

  • on Fri Dec 11, 2015 12:05 AM

I needed a resource for living things and their life cycles and this is a great resource for this! There is information on butterflies as well as insects and their life cycles. It is interactive and an easy ready!

Laura  (San Diego, CA)
Laura (San Diego, CA)

  • on Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:07 AM

Wonderful interactive/ kid friendly sites for elementary students. Easy to read and navigate to find information. Great suggestions of where to find information. I enjoyed the BBC websites suggested.


  • on Wed May 02, 2012 4:58 PM

When I was looking for a Sci-guide I was looking for something that would relate more to the topic I was covering which was termites. This Sci-gude focuses on butterflies but there was an section on insect and there life cycles. The resources on this Sci-guide were more information for the students which was enough for them to complete their project and assignments. Again this is a great website and I hope it is continued to be offered to the teachers in Hawaiia s wella s the rest of the country.

Michael Leslie
Michael Leslie

  • on Mon Nov 07, 2011 10:10 PM

I found the information provided in this SciGuide very helpful. I really like the lesson plans on the butterfly life cycle. The resources found on Enchanted Learning are excellent. However, I find some of the internet resources are no longer available and this can be frustrating when the description of the resources sound like they would have been very interesting and helpful.

Carroll Allen
Carroll Allen

  • on Sun Nov 06, 2011 10:16 PM

This guide is divided into 2 parts: Living Things Have Life Cycles (3 subparts: Stages of Animal Growth and Development; Statege of Insect Growth and Development; Stages of Plant Growth and Development) and Many Characteristics of an Organism Are Inherited (2 subparts: characteristics; Nature vs. Nuture). The Butterfly life cycle lesson plan and What Makes You You lesson plan are easy to understand and use. I've adapted the What Makes You You lesson plan for my 5th graders. I really liked the recommended websites: "What is a gene," "Examples of Inherited Traits," and the free Brain pop "Heredity" video. Another website that the 5th graders loved was the "Wear A Chimp on Your Wrist" activity from DNA Detective at This activity seemed to help the students see the DNA structure. Overall, I liked how the Sciguide provided sample lessons, student examples, and web resources. It helped me a lot to have these resources in one area.

Judy Okazaki
Judy Okazaki

  • on Sun Apr 22, 2012 6:00 PM

The sciguide is broken up into two themes. The first theme is about living thing and their life cycles and I think it is more for the lower or elementary grades. To help the students understand the life cycle of different animals. The second theme of many characteristics of an organism are inherited is more for the upper grades. Having to explain nature vs nurture and how things are inherited by our parents.


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