Teaching genetics with dragons

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Teaching genetics with dragons includes three free online microworld / simulation environments to learn genetics. It is made by the Concord consortium. It is a followup project of BioLogica. There are three variants for different educational levels.


Geniverse includes all features. According to the home page (May 2019), “Geniverse is free, web-based software for high school biology that engages students in exploring heredity and genetics by breeding and studying virtual dragons. Interactive models, powered by real genes, enable students to do simulated experiments, generate realistic and meaningful genetic data and win star ratings for efficient experimentation.”

See also:

According to Wilson et al. (2018) [1], “Geniverse is designed to be a 3- to 6-week genetics unit used in a high school biology classroom setting as a replacement curriculum incorporating and integrating the topics of meiosis and protein synthesis with genetics. The immersive, game-like environment infuses virtual experimentation in genetics with a narrative of an ongoing quest to heal a dragon with a genetic disease. The genetics of dragons and their model species, the drake, reflect accurate, real-world genetics. Each trait is based on one or more genes from model organisms such as mouse, lizard, and fruit fly and integrated into a small but realistic genome. As students progress, they unlock story elements that contain clues to the dragon’s disease and its connection to an actual disease in humans: oxytranscarbamylase (OTC) deficiency. These story elements emphasize the genomic-level similarity between species that underlies the use of model organisms in genetics.”

Use and architecture

According to McElroy-Brown & Reichsman (2019) [2], “Geniventure is designed to be used in classrooms, with guidance and reflection facilitated by a teacher.”.

The system also includes an intelligent tutoring system that “tracks students’ actions as they play, with each action tied to one or more specific genetics concepts. The ITS provides students with real-time visual feed-back and text-based hints targeting the specific concepts the student may be having trouble with. At the same time, the ITS relays the relevant information to a teacher dashboard.”[2]. A teacher dashboard provides teachers with real-time student progress and performance data and allows a teacher to adjust his/her strategy and to coach individual students.

When a learner first connects he will land in an optional kind of role playing game setting where he/she has to rescue a dragon hurt by an arrow. In order to help the dragon, the learner has to find a guild and the guild will only help if he learns how to laboratory work etc.

Geniverse introductory story

The Geniverse (i.e. the lab announced by the story) includes an office which includes a case log that includes various learning activities grouped by level.

Geniverse Office
Geniverse log book (activities)
Geniverse Lab interface with instruction and chromosome popups openend
Geniverse Lab interface - Breeding dragons for color


“Consistent with the findings of research syntheses on the efficacy of digital games and simulations (Clark et al. 2014; Sitzmann 2011; Wouters et al. 2013), this study found that the Geniverse materials had significant impacts on both student science content knowledge and students’ abilities to engage in argument from evidence. That is, Geniverse offers an effective approach to teaching high school genetics in an NGSS context. However, consistent with research on the role of the teacher in the effective enactment of reform-based curriculum materials, we found that the impact of Geniverse on student outcomes was greatly influenced by how the materials were implemented in the classroom.” (Wilson et al 2018 [1])


See Articles and papers at concord.org


  1. 1.0 1.1 Wilson, C. D., Reichsman, F., Mutch-Jones, K., Gardner, A., Marchi, L., Kowalski, S., … Dorsey, C. (2018). Teacher Implementation and the Impact of Game-Based Science Curriculum Materials. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 27(4), 285–305. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-017-9724-y
  2. 2.0 2.1 McElroy-Brown, K., & Reichsman, F. (2019). Genetics with dragons. Science Scope, 42(8), 62-69. https://concord.org/wp-content/uploads/publications/genetics-with-dragons.pdf



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