Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom Logo
Lesson Overview
  • 50 Minutes
  • 4, 5, 9
  • 3rd - 5th Grade
  • State Standards:
    NGSS: 3-LS3-1 CCSS: 3.SL.1, 4.SL.1, 5.SL.1

Download PDF

Materials List

• Poster paper
• 2 barley parent plants, 18 offspring plants or the cards included
• Traits of a Beast worksheet
• Sorting Barley worksheet

Barley and Beasts: An Introduction to Inherited Traits

Categories: Easy Do-at-Home Activity , Agriculture , Plants , Science

Students will discover traits in offspring come from parents and offspring from the same parents have different combinations of traits. This will be done through the analysis of images of two parent plants with completely different traits and 18 offspring plants resulting from the crossing of the two parents. Lesson provided in collaboration with Barleyworld, OSU, barleyworld.org/main/education.

Find virtual learning versions of the lesson here.

Activity 1: Lineage of a Beast
1. Provide each student with a copy of the Traits of a Beast worksheet.
2. Explain to students that they are predicting the appearance of the offspring of Beast Parent A and Beast Parent B. To determine the appearance, you will analyze the inherited traits of the parents and use these traits to create possible offspring based on these traits.
3. Students will roll a die to determine with trait the offspring will show. If they roll an odd number the offspring will show the trait of parent a, if they roll an even number the trait of parent b will show.
4. After, students will draw their beast based on the traits they determined through rolling the die.
5. Allow time for students to show their beast drawings with the rest of the class explaining even though all of these beasts had the same parents they all took on different appearances but have similar traits passed on from their parents. This passing of traits from parents to offspring occurs in all living organisms.

Activity 2: Introduction to Barley
Today, we are going to look at the traits of barley. Barley is a grain, similar to wheat that is used for food for both humans and animals.
1. Show students the short video, Growing Barley by Iowa Ingredient ( https://youtu.be/okfNv2Jgv0c ) to introduce barley.
2. Explain to students the many different uses of barley relate to the inherited characteristics of the plant from it’s parent plants. In our next activity, we will look at different barley seed head sets (the top portion of the plant) to identify and distinguish differences in appearance.
3. Divide students into 6 groups.
4. Provide each group with a set of barley heads or the picture of barley heads and the Sorting Barley worksheet. (You may also choose to have students do this on a larger poster sized sheet of paper.)
5. Instruct the groups to observe only the parents and write down 3 differences that they see between the 2 parents. After, allow time for discussion in small groups or as a class.
6. Introduce the word trait (something about a plant, animal, or other living thing that makes it different from others) and identify the differences students noticed as traits.
7. Instruct groups to pick 1 trait (difference) that they came up with and circle it on their worksheet or poster.
8. When groups have selected traits, tell them that you will be passing out the offspring of the 2 parents. They will then sort each seed head based on which parent it matches in terms of their selected trait (for example, if they picked color, they would sort all the seed heads into either dark (like Parent 1) or light (like Parent 2).
9. If time permits, allow students to do a gallery walk to see how other groups did their sorting.
10. Review the following concepts with students:
a. What is a trait?
b. What is a trait that you have from one of your parents?
c. Is it possible to have a trait that is different from both of your parents? Why or why not?
d. Do students with siblings have all the same traits as their siblings? Why or why not?
11. Introduce the concept of a plant breeder to students. For example, some careers like a Plant Breeder identifies traits in plants that make a better more efficient plant for farmers.
a. What kinds of traits might a plant breeder look to improve on a plant? (Disease resistance, higher yields, water efficiency, etc.)
b. How could plant breeders work to make a plant that help preserve natural resources?