5 Creative Ways to Teach Inheritance with Pedigrees

Akanksha Saxena

Pedigrees, the intricate visual representations of family lineage, play a crucial role in genetic studies by providing invaluable insights into the ‘inheritance patterns of both traits and diseases’. These complex diagrams serve as navigational aids for scientists (to be specific geneticists), allowing them to trace the transfer of genetic information across generations. By meticulously analyzing and interpreting pedigrees, researchers can unravel the mysteries of heredity, thus decoding the underlying genetic code that influences our traits and susceptibilities.

The concepts of pedigrees are challenging for educators to deliver due to their inherent complexities and the need for students to grasp both genetic concepts and the visualization of family relationships. For this reason, we have curated 5 creative strategies to simplify teaching and alleviate the associated challenges.

1. Use Interactive Models and Simulations

In today’s educational landscape, models and simulations have emerged as indispensable tools for educators teaching complex genetic concepts like inheritance, pedigrees, and related topics. You can utilize the “advantages” of using these dynamic simulations in classroom teaching as reported by a 2019 study to simplify the idea of pedigrees for your students:

  • Visual representation of abstract concepts like laws of inheritance aids students to grasp them effectively.
  • Easy modeling-based demonstration of how phenotypes result from genotypes.
  • Scenario-based learning to illustrate the interplay between dominant and recessive alleles. 

You can use Labster’s Inheritance with Pedigree Simulation and witness the above-listed advantages for yourself! 

Pedigree tree interactive in a virtual lab setting.

2. Learning with Games and Activities

Gamification proves to be an effective tool for teaching students about Genetic topics due to its inherent motivational and engaging nature. As you transform the learning process into a game, students are immersed in a stimulating environment which enables them to actively construct pedigrees and analyze phenotypes and genotypes of different generations in a family line to predict the probabilities of inheriting the trait or disorder under evaluation.

Labster’s Pedigree Game is an interactive gamified approach that immerses students in the core concepts of inheritance. By drawing a color blindness pedigree tree, students manipulate and analyze data, enhancing their understanding of color blindness inheritance. The gameplay experience provides a healthy environment, allowing students to retry predictions without worry, promoting effective learning and engagement. 

3. Infusing Technology into Study Plans

Educators can harness the power of technology to their advantage for simplifying the topic of inheritance with pedigrees in varied ways.

  • Use of online genetics databases like “GenBank” or “Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM)” to gain access to comprehensive genetic information related to inheritance patterns and genetic disorders. 
  • Use of simulation platforms like Labster to create custom pedigrees, simulate inheritance scenarios, and manipulate genetic factors.  

4. Inspiring Learners by Connecting to Career Prospects

To establish the relevance of learning this topic in the professional sphere, educators can highlight the lucrative career prospects in various scientific fields. You can discuss the following examples in your class:

  1. Careers in genetic counseling offer the opportunity to work closely with individuals and families, providing guidance and support based on genetic information. 
  2. Medical research positions allow for the exploration of cutting-edge advancements, contributing to medical breakthroughs and innovations. 
Kids in a candy store.
Discover Labster's Pedigree Game virtual lab today!

5. Connecting the Topic to Real-World Applications

To inspire your students to imbibe the intricacies of this topic, you can relate it to the numerous real-world applications around us. Explaining the role of pedigrees in the field of medicine could be a good idea. As you enlighten them on how pedigrees enable experts to predict probabilities of genetic disorders and thereby aid in the diagnosis and early management of inherited diseases, they play monumental roles in healthcare.

You can also discuss the role of pedigrees in agriculture and crop science where they are the breeder’s best friends. There is an endless list of applications of pedigrees in diverse fields like forensic science, conservation biology, etc which can illustrate the practical utility of the subject.

Final thoughts

No doubt that the study of inheritance with pedigrees is vital as it unravels the mysteries of genetic traits, diseases, and patterns, enabling advancements in medicine, agriculture, forensic science, and conservation, benefiting society’s well-being. To effectively teach this content-heavy topic, educators must employ smart strategies that cater to the diverse learning styles of students. 


  1. Coleman, S. K., & Smith, C. L. (2019). Evaluating the benefits of virtual training for bioscience students. Higher Education Pedagogies, 4(1), 287-299.
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