Nov 072012
An organism’s genetic composition plays an important role in its chances of survival, but will the same combination of genes always win?  An organism, (or more specifically, a set of genes) that succeeds in one environment or season may not fare so well under different conditions.  In this lesson plan, students will explore how genetics and environmental conditions can affect the survival of different organisms.  This classroom activity simulates how birds with different beak sizes might have a competitive advantage depending on environment.  Students will then graph their data to see how environment influences the success of different genotypes.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Explain how survival of an organism is affected by both its genotype (nature) and its environment (nurture)
  • Understand environmental factors that contribute to the varying success of organisms, including climate, seasonal change, disease, and competition
  • Define and differentiate between a genotype and a phenotype
  • Construct and interpret graphs relating to genotype by environment interactions
  • Relate patterns to theory
  • Use evidence and reason to form a conclusion


Lesson written and created by GK-12 fellows Michael Kuczynski and Kate Steensma, 2011