What Gregor Mendel & Growing Peas Can Teach Us about Heredity

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This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support! And many thanks to Stephanie at Harrington Harmonies for the creation of the notebook pages that accompany this post.


As an undergraduate biology student at university, that course was a long journey of counting drosophila (fruit flies) and mapping chromosomes.

And lectures about how traits are passed at the molecular level.

But, how did we get to the point where we could map a chromosome?

It all started with one curious man and some questions.

And lots and lots of pea plants.

About Gregor Mendel The Friar Who Grew Peas

Gregor Mendel The Friar Who Grew Peas by Cheryl Bardoe  is a must for your living books collection for science!

Gregor Mendel was an Augustinian monk born in the Czech Republic in 1822. He was the first to prove exactly how genes are passed down from parents to their children. His discoveries became Mendel’s Laws.

  • Law of Segregation- The two members of a gene pair (alleles) separate from each other in the formation of gametes (sex cells). Half the gametes carry one allele and the other half carry the other allele.
  • Law of Independent Assortment– Genes for different traits assort independently of one another in the formation of gametes.
  • Law of Dominance– Says that one of the factors for a pair of inherited traits will be dominant and the other recessive, unless both factors are recessive. (There are some exceptions to this law with additional discoveries like co-dominance, for example but it is an important concept nonetheless.)

Today, we may take these ideas for granted because they are common knowledge. But, we have Gregor Mendel and his discoveries to thank for it. And even though his work wasn’t recognized during his life time, today he is known as the Father of Genetics.

A whole branch of science came to be because of this one man’s study.  His dream was fulfilled:

Discuss Heredity with a Punnett Square

If you decide to use this book for a lesson on genetics in your homeschool, you must go to Cheryl Bardoe’s site and download her Teacher’s Guide to go with it. It’s extremely helpful and does all the work for you in terms of preparing a lesson to go with the book.

We thoroughly enjoyed this lovely story about the Father of Genetics. It’s a wonderful living book suitable for all levels of biology instruction. You can introduce the following vocabulary:

  • Traits
  • Dominant
  • Recessive
  • Genetics/ Genes
  • Pollination

If you haven’t worked with Punnett Squares before, they are easy to make and understand. You can review them yourself or watch these videos with your students. I’m going to provide two options. Khan Academy has a nice video called, Introduction to Heredity. It’s pretty low key and it’ll take you from start to finish.

Below is a the Heredity video from the Crash Course unit on Evolution & Genetics. If you aren’t a fan of evolution, don’t worry. This video does not mention it. We love Crash Course here. The information is excellent for the high school level (and middle school too). But, he’s a little mouthy. Keep in mind that his target audience is the teenage crowd. And prepare to laugh.


Gregor Mendel Activity Pages

The first year Mendel tested his theories and hand pollinated 287 pea flowers. Can you imagine that? His experiments were based on tracking the outcome of seven specific traits.

If you would like, your student can use these notebooking pages to research and record or simply make notes while having the book read to him.

Subscribe to get these Gregor Mendel notebooking pages.

Grow Peas in Your Homeschool

Over eight years Mendel grew nearly 28,000 pea plants!

There is nothing like a hands on learning experience- your child can be like the Father of Genetics and grow peas himself. You may not be able to cross bread them but you can certainly learn all about growing things and pollination.

  • Growing peas is easy– the nice thing about peas is that although they grow best in cool weather they also do pretty well throughout the summer months. So you can plant them at any time! And in upstate NY, you can plant them before just about anything else.
  • Observe these other plant science ideas– germination, pollination, parts of a flower, and the terms geotropism and phototropism and see if you can get your child to view examples while growing their peas.
  • Study the Pollination and the Parts of a Flower- Do a little Botany and teach your child about pollination and study the parts of a flower. You can use my notebook page below to label the parts of a pea flower.
  • Use Your Peas in a Recipe– The best part of growing peas is eating them! Sugar snap peas are easy because they don’t need to be shelled and you can eat the pod. They’re also delicious! Try to come up with your own recipe.

At the dinner table tonight, my daughter asked each of us who our favorite scientist is.

Gregor Mendel made her list.

Because he was patient as he grew peas and studied their traits.

And it opened up a whole new branch of science.

Other Biology Posts from Blog, She Wrote

How to Determine the Frequency of a Trait– If you are ready to take your genetics study further, you can use the Hardy-Weinberg formula to quantify what Mendel discovered and determine the frequency of traits in a population.

Illustrating the Human Body– An artist’s approach to diagramming high school biology

Amphibians & Reptiles with The Salamander Room– Another living science book with activities on amphibians and reptiles

Gardening as a Science Teaching Tool– Interested in learning more about how to use the garden for teaching science? This post goes into more detail.














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