This activity outlines a strategy to understand and participate in scientific argumentation. Students evaluate evidence for two different claims related to a fossil tooth. They are asked to answer the question, “From what kind of animal did this fossil tooth come?” Students can choose between the claim that the fossil tooth is from a prehistoric lion or that is it from a prehistoric shark. Students are introduced to argumentation and practice those skills by examining evidence and then deciding whether it supports the claim, does not support the claim or might support the claim. Evidence cards contain information such as that the fossil tooth is 5 centimeters long, that it was found in sandstone in Utah where mountain lions now live, and that sharks have flat, sharp teeth. Students then discuss the evidence as a class as students explain their reasoning for categorizing a piece of evidence as “does support”, “does not support” or “might support”. This language of argumentation is specifically taught to students so that they can participate in the activity similar to the way scientists would. The claims are evaluated based on the evidence and students see whether they can come to a consensus on which is the best claim based on the evidence.
Educator and learner
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