Potatohead Genetics is a fun paper and scissors lab that gives students an introduction to basic genetics by manipulating the facial features of potatoheads. The worksheets are designed to be used by a classroom of students, however they can be used by a few or even one student in a tutorial.
Students are given karyotypes of a male and female potatohead. Working in pairs they construct the potatohead faces from the gene pairs on the chromosomes using scissors and glue. They then randomly assort their chromosomes during meiosis and mate a male potatohead with a female. The combined karyotypes are then used to make new potatohead offspring. While working on their potatoheads, students use Punnet squares to predict the frequencies of phenotypes from different combinations of gene pairs. When the class’s potatohead progeny are ready, they are displayed on the wall for all to see. Students can then count the frequencies of different phenotypes and compare them to their predicted frequencies.
The lab is 14 pages long but can be shortened by leaving out some of the exercises to suit time constraints or to adjust for the level of the class. Usually the lab can be completed in about two hours. Some of the work can be sent home for homework. Many of the questions in the lab are meant to provoke thought and this level of work will require interactions with the teacher and each other.