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The Genetics of Greek Gods (lesson plan)


Students learn about basic genetics and Greek Mythology, and use their understandings to create a new Greek god or goddess. Students create a genetic profile, the illustrated mythology, and a life-sized hallway display for their character.

Grade Levels
5th Grade
NC Standards Correlations
Life Science
Visual Arts

Artwork Related to this Lesson

Student Learning Objectives

  1. Students will be able to identify acquired vs. inherited traits, and apply this understanding to the creation of a new character with identifiable inherited and acquired traits of his/her own.
  2. Students will demonstrate how offspring differ from their parents due to genetic variation within the context of their Greek god.
  3. Students will create the mythology for their characters using descriptive details and clear event sequences.
  4. Students will compare gods and goddesses from different myths, specifically how these characters respond to challenges and events.
  5. Students will use these comparisons to discuss the role that both environment and genes have on a person’s personality, and will incorporate this understanding into the creation of their new character.
  6. Students will create genetically accurate illustrations and hallway display figures for their mythology using drawing and mixed media techniques learned in art class.
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This is a project based unit that is planned for 3 weeks.

  • Consider beginning the unit by taking a classroom inventory of traits. Students will identify which traits they have and together we will graph the frequency of traits in our class demographic. Class Discussion: Genetically, how are you like your classmates? Genetically, how are you different? WHY?
  • Students will learn about how genes can be passed down from parents to offspring, and the difference between acquired and inherited traits. Students will work in groups and use their understanding of genetics to identify the traits of book characters from fairy tales and myths, and to determine whether these traits are acquired or inherited.
  • Students will read several age-appropriate Greek myths and will identify how the gods in each myth respond to challenges. They will discuss (in groups) how the actions of these gods can be attributed to acquired traits and whether any of their actions can be attributed to inherited traits. We will also make connections between traits as they are described in mythology and traits as they are explained in grade appropriate fantasy novels.
  • Students will practice writing about a character and describing their traits in a natural way for a fictional story. Students will create a lego-build of gods and goddesses based on mythology read in their library elective. The lego-build will involve depicting character traits.
  • Students will choose their favorite god and goddess from the selected myths and will compile a list of their inherited traits (including specific powers). They will then create a new god or goddess and they will roll the dice to determine which traits the new character will inherit from his or her parents.
  • Students will use descriptive details and clear event sequences to write one myth of no less than 5 paragraphs about their new god, and within their stories, students will be careful to weave in details about their character’s inherited and acquired traits in a natural way.
  • Students will view art from multiple sources, including the NCMA, to observe how gods and goddesses from cultures around the world have been portrayed by other artists in sculptures, paintings, pottery, etc. Students will use this knowledge to create a two-dimensional illustration (in the medium/media of their choice) that accompanies their myth.
  • Students will create a life-sized hallway display of their god or goddess that includes a brief introduction of the character, his or her personality, and most important acquired or inherited traits.
  • See examples of student work here:

Full Image


Written by: Lisa Buch and Morgan Vick-Ferrell


Final Product(s)

Presentations, Performances, Products and/or Services


Learning Outcomes:

Targets knowledge, understanding & success skills needed by students to successfully complete products



Formative Assessments to check for learning and ensure students are on track


Instructional Strategies for All Learners provided by teacher, other staff, experts; includes scaffolds, materials, lessons aligned to learning outcomes and formative assessments


Whole Group Discussion


I can identify and compare acquired vs. inherited traits.


1. The Genetics of Fairy tale characters

2. Quizzes


1. Lessons on genetics and traits.

2. Identifying traits from illustrations and art.

3. Identifying traits from story excerpts.

God Trait Inventory worksheet


I can explain why a character would be different from or similar to their parents, using my understanding of genetics.


1. Exit ticket

2. Small group discussions


1. Whole group lesson(s) on: a. dominant v. recessive genes b. phenotypes and genotypes 2. Identifying dominant v. recessive traits of characters in fantasy novels, and comparing them to movie versions of these characters.


God mythology with illustration


I can write a story with imagined events using descriptive details and clear event sequences.


1. First Draft/Peer edit review

2. Second draft conference 3. Final Draft


1. Lessons on sentence structure, verb tense, and grammar.

2. Book Club discussions on text structure and theme.


I can create an illustration by drawing, painting, collage, mixed media, or current technology.


1. Lego Build character traits class critique

2. Mythology illustration class critique


1. Lesson and practice project on shading with colored pencils

2. Discussion with visuals on art from various cultures involving gods and goddesses

3. Class critique on museum god artwork and how it is true to traits and mythology that we have researched for these gods.


Lesson Resources


gene, dominant gene, recessive gene, trait, acquired trait, inherited trait, narrative, theme (optional) media/medium, mixed-media



Butcher paper (in all colors), construction paper, drawing paper, scissors, glue, colored pencils, markers, crayons, pencils, drawing paper, writing paper, fantasy stories, D’Aulaire’s book of Greek Mythology, etc. Computer and TV access, google drive, museum books and online exhibit information (NCMA, The National Gallery, etc), access to library books on mythology from around the world. Worksheet on identifying traits, “Genetic profile” of gods and goddesses worksheets, Identifying traits Exit Ticket, graph paper for charting class trait inventory.


Lesson Resources: 

d’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths by Ingri d’Aulaire and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire

Favorite Greek Myths by Mary Pope Osborne

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

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