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Science - Harry Potter genetics

What is it?

A PowerPoint presentation and supporting activities designed to show secondary students how Mendelian inheritance works by looking at how magical abilities are inherited in the Harry Potter world.

Background

In 2005, a group of experts in Australia wrote to Nature magazine suggesting that the world of Harry Potter could be used to explain to children the principles of genetic inheritance. Teachers responded by creating resources based on this idea to use with their classes. (I wonder if J.K Rowling researched the topic for her writing?)

How I've used it

I have used this resource many times with lower and upper secondary pupils, who tend to be familiar with the Potter universe. The premise of the activity revolves around the characters' ability to do magic being inherited from parents, and the idea of a "wizarding" gene is introduced. The idea of dominant and recessive alleles is tackled, along with various genetic crosses and the possible outcomes. For example, it explains how a character like Hermione was born a wizard despite having two non-magical (muggle) parents. At the end of the presentation, most students can complete their own genetic crosses using a Punnett square and go on to apply their knowledge using the extension material. Find the resource at www.tes.co.ukTESS-oct28.

What else?

For more genetics ideas check out valdixon's popular resource, Reproduction and Evolution.

Rob Butler is a science and ICT teacher at a Nottinghamshire special school and sits on a regional Association for Science Education board.

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