This is a lesson plan all about the science of pedigrees and the genetics of addiction. In Part A, students begin by reading a free article from Scholastic Science World about genes and addiction with a partner and answering comprehension questions to build their background knowledge. In Part B, students complete a virtual inquiry lab from the Utah Genetics website, where they create pedigrees to track nicotine addiction through a family by viewing real-life data and artifacts such as video interviews, health surveys, and death certificates. Like real investigative scientists, students must piece together all the clues and decide for themselves whether nicotine addiction is truly hereditary, or simply a product of environment and upbringing.
I have my students complete this lab closer to the end of our heredity/ genetics unit, after we've discussed epigenetics and nature vs. nurture. However, this could also be completed as a lead-in to those topics. This would also be perfect for any health class discussing nicotine or drug addiction and the impact on families! You could pair with articles on vaping or other modern tobacco usage to explore the long-term impact on generations of families.
I do start by showing my students some examples of pedigrees and discussing what they show and how scientists use them- there are some awesome examples using the Simpsons, Harry Potter characters, and other pop-culture families available for free via Google search! The point of this isn't to get students to completely understand everything about pedigrees, but rather to help them start noticing that the different symbols mean something, and that pedigrees show family relationships.
I have my students complete the reading and questions in class with a partner, as several of the concepts are new and can be difficult for my lower-level learners and partners can discuss their answers together. However, you could assign the article and questions as homework before the day of the virtual lab if you feel your students can complete that independently. You could also have students research facts about nicotine or other types of addiction as well.
Students complete this in class with a partner. The Utah Genetics activity does a fantastic job of walking students through all the necessary background information needed to understand pedigrees and track data during the lab. My students tend to try and rush through this part to get to the lab itself, so I recommend paying close attention while students are completing this initial part and maybe even asking them to check in and explain what they learned from the lesson before they jump into the lab. This lab took my students in pairs about two 60-minute class periods to finish. If you have them do the article in class as well, I'd set aside three class periods but have something ready for your early finishers (there's a lot to explore on the Utah Genetics website, so you could just set them free on that- health teachers, they have a really great interactive about the effects of hard drugs like cocaine on mice).