Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Woman Crush Wednesday: Nettie Stevens

Inheritance and Variation of Traits

Mariah Warren, Teresa Randall, Teresa Lansford | Published: November 22nd, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th
  • Subject Subject Science
  • Course Course Biology I
  • Time Frame Time Frame 2-3 class period(s)
  • Duration More 120-180 minutes


This lesson is part of a series, titled "Woman Crush Wednesday," where we look at how female scientists have shaped our views of science. In this biology lesson, students explore the contributions of Nettie Stevens and her discovery of sex chromosomes.

Essential Question(s)

What role do sex chromosomes play in human genetics and heredity? How have women in history shaped science today?



Students discuss what makes someone a pioneer and watch a video about the work of geneticist Nettie Stevens.


Students watch an animation about the discovery of sex chromosomes and solve a basic Punnett square to determine the gender of human offspring.


Students listen to an audio clip about sex-linked disorders and research a sex-linked disorder to create an informative Flipgrid.


Students create a social media post to get the word out about Nettie Stevens’ contribution and impact on the study of chromosomes to “Help Nettie Go Viral.”


Students reflect in a Flipgrid or Exit Ticket on how Nettie’s work helped them better understand the disorder they researched.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Student devices with internet access

  • Presentation Checklist (attached; one per group or share digitally)

  • Know the Scientist: Nettie Stevens (article; to be read aloud in class; also optional)

  • Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World book by Rachel Ignotofsky (optional)

  • Women Crush Wednesday: Nettie Stevens (video)


Use Lesson Slides to introduce the lesson.

Show slides 3 and 4. Introduce the essential questions and lesson objectives to students.

Display slide 5. Ask the class the following questions:

  • What is a pioneer?

  • Can you think of any pioneers?

  • What makes these individuals pioneers?

Generate a class list of the characteristics one needs in order to be a pioneer. Write answers/lists on the board to refer back to later, if needed.

If you have a copy of Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky, read the Nettie Stevens excerpt aloud (pages 24-25).  There is a brief biographical article, “Know the Scientist: Nettie Stevens,” attached if you do not have a copy of Women in Science. This article is to be read aloud to students. It is not intended as a handout.

Move to slide 6.

Watch the video of Nettie Stevens and her contributions to science.

Ask students “Now that you’ve identified traits of pioneers, would you consider Nettie Stevens a pioneer?”  Why or why not?


Display slide 7. Click the link on the slide to go through overview of Nettie Stevens’ work: Specialized Chromosomes Determine Gender Animation. Using the information gathered from the slide, students will practice applying Nettie Stevens’ work to Punnett squares to determine the likelihood of different genders.

Show slide 8. Click on the link and walk through the steps necessary to determining the likelihood of different genders in the Specialized Chromosomes Determine Gender Problem. Students are prompted in this interactive to make predictions and check their hypothesis.


Display slide 9. Share with students the definition of sex-linked traits and how sex-linked disorders are passed to children.

Slide 10 includes visuals of an example and an audio clip from the National Human Genome Research Institute website that further explains sex-linked disorders. Using the images on the slide, discuss how the trait of hemophilia is inherited.

Listen to the audio clip on slide 10 as a class.

Display slide 11. For this activity, ask students to follow the steps below:

  • Break into groups of 2-3 in order to learn more about a specific sex-linked disorder to share with the class.

  • Review the information on the Presentation Checklist handout.

  • Use the Choice Board on slide 12 to choose a topic that interests the group.

  • Have students get your approval for their topics before they begin the research/Flipgrid presentation.

  • Use the Checklist to guide research and Flipgrid presentation.

  • Research the disorder that the group has selected.

  • Create the Flipgrid presentation.

  • Show slide 13 to review the Presentation Checklist to ensure that the Flipgrid presentation meets the Checklist requirements.


Display slide 14. Give students time to each watch at least two Flipgrids from other groups to start class for the day.

After students have had time to view some of the other Flipgrids, move to slide 15 and explain that since students have learned about Nettie Stevens’ work and how it applies to health and science today, it is time to “Help Nettie Go Viral!”

  • Place students into groups of two, with a different partner.

  • Ask them to create a viral post about Nettie Stevens using a social media platform of their choice.

  • Ask them to consider what they have learned from their research and how they might use that in creating their post.


Display slide 16. Use the prompt “How did Nettie’s work help you better understand the disorder you researched?”  Students may either answer it as an Exit Ticket or on Flipgrid.