Pick the Risk: The Polygenic Pedigree Challenge

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In this activity, learners are challenged to track and record the passage of colored pom poms (representing genes) through generations of a family using a pedigree. Learners discover that common chronic diseases (such as heart disease) run in families and are caused by the combined action of multiple genes.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Copies of student pages
  • Colored pencils or crayons
  • 2 - 3 disposable cups
  • Colored pom poms (5 different colors: at least 10 red, 2 yellow, 1 each of orange, green, blue)


  • Life Sciences
    • Heredity and Genetics
      • Patterns of Heredity
      • Human Genetics
      • DNA Structure and Function
    • Human Body
      • Health and Nutrition
      • Medicine
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
      • Probability
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Bouwhuis, Andee ; Call, Ron ; Mitchell, April ; Nicholson, Brendon

Source Collection

  • Teach.Genetics


  • All rights reserved, University of Utah, 2006

Funding Source:

  • Utah Department of Health Chronic Disease Genomics Program from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U58/CCU822802