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To increase ESE student engagement, understanding, and application of complex high school science standards through the implementation of Scientific Argumentation.

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"Are Viruses a Life Form?" - How the Unknown in Science Leads to Robust Learning Experiences

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Calvin A. Hunsinger 
Janet Cunningham 
Students Impacted:
July 15, 2021


Thank you to the following investor for funding this grant.


Tash Elwyn - $395.00


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To increase ESE student engagement, understanding, and application of complex high school science standards through the implementation of Scientific Argumentation. 


What will be done with my students

ESE center based High School students will engage in a Scientific Argumentation learning experience to determine a claim and justification for the question, "Are viruses alive?"

A scientific argument is defined as people disagreeing about scientific explanations (claims) using empirical data (evidence) to justify their side of the argument. A scientific argument is a process that scientists follow to guide their research activities. Students will create scientific arguments by probing, reasoning and evidence, challenging ideas and conclusions, responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, and determining additional information required to resolve contradictions. The students will work in small groups, using "science talk" and "sense making skills".

Students will use the models of viruses along with data tables to work through a group claim, evidence and justification which will be presented to the class for "peer review". Students will use the feedback to review and revise their claims if necessary.


Benefits to my students

Research supports constructing, critiquing, and refining evidence-based arguments is a central practice demonstrated by scientistsas well as a practice central to learning science effectively (Osborne, 2010). The National Research Council identified engaging in argument from evidence as one of the eight essential scientific practices that students should experience in K-12 science education, (Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Henderson, et al)

ESE center-based students often have extreme difficulty in engaging in productive science discussions due to their challenges in impulse control and reactivity to situations. Instituting "Scientific Argumentation" activities which engage students in activities with a high level of scaffolds of probing questions and specified framework will promote the students' use of productive science talk as they work through "sense making" of a question ("Are viruses alive?") that has contradicting science data points. Students will be challenged to defend claims with evidence they gather from data points provided. The goal is to establish a culture of "productive science talk", "sense making" from data and the ability to effectively critique and respond to critique to determine if their claim is correct.



Describe the Students

All students are ESE. Students are Emotional-Behavioral Disorders, Other Health Impaired, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and/or School Based Mental Health. Students are high needs with 100% of our population receiving free and/or reduced lunch benefits. Many of my students reside in group homes or are in the foster care system.

Center based Exceptional Student Education students are a mixture of School Based Mental Health, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, and students with multiple exceptionalities who are educated in the most restrictive public school environment possible. Federal guidelines under the Individual Disability Education Act require that exceptional students be taught in the least restrictive environment. ESE students in an ESE center based placement exhibit the highest levels of need, require a guardian to approve the placement each year as well as three levels of Multi-Tiered System of Support steps to be implemented prior to center based consideration. Even with very extreme issues, behaviors and volatility, only a small percentage of ESE students are served within an ESE Center. These students are placed into a center based setting due to their volatility, impulsivity, unique learning styles, needs, and behaviors.

Students tend to be low performers in the traditional schools. Low class ratio, behavior management, social skills training infused throughout the day and case management assist the students in showing gains.  


Budget Narrative

Altay Typical Viruses Model Set ($350.00) and White Boards to be used during Scientific Argumentation.

Budget goes toward virus model and KleenSlate white boards (which are durable and reusable for multiple classes/years). Supplies to be ordered through district allowed provided vendor of FISCHER, WARDS or CAROLINA Scientific or




# Item Cost
1 Altay Typical Viruses Model Set $350.00
2 KleenSlate 2-Sided Customizable Whiteboard with Clear Dry Erase Sleeve for Interchangeable Templates and Graphic Organizers (6) $45.00
  Total: $395.00


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