Directions for teachers:

Have students begin the exercise by answering the question in the “Reflect on an argument” section. Then, ask them to read the online Science News article Female big-game hunters may have been surprisingly common in the ancient Americas.” Another version of the story, “Early American women hunted game,” appears in the December 5, 2020 issue of Science News. Ask students to work with a partner to discuss and answer all remaining questions. Have each pair share its answer to the final question with the class.

Want to make it a virtual lesson? Post the online Science News article“Female big-game hunters may have been surprisingly common in the ancient Americas,” to your learning management system. Pair up students and allow them to connect via virtual breakout rooms in a video conference, over the phone, in a shared document or using another chat system. Have each pair share its answer to the final question on a discussion board or during the next class’s video conference.

Directions for students:

Begin this exercise by answering the question in the “Reflect on an argument” section. Then read the online Science News article “Female big-game hunters may have been surprisingly common in the ancient Americas.” Another version of the story, “Early American women hunted game,” appears in the December 5, 2020 issue of Science News. With a partner, discuss and answer the remaining questions. Share your answer to the final question with the class.

Reflect on an argument

1. Think of an argument you had where you took a position on something. What was the viewpoint or position that you took? How did your past experiences influence your viewpoint or position? How did you explain your viewpoint or position? Did you support your viewpoint or position with evidence? What was the outcome of the argument? What, if anything, could you have done differently to impact the outcome?

Student answers will vary.

Evaluate a scientific argument

2. What is the claim, or assertion of something as a fact, made by the scientists as described in the Science News article?

The researchers concluded that nearly as many females as males hunted large animals in the ancient Americas. On average, females accounted for between 30 and 50 percent of big-game hunters.

3. What evidence, or scientific data, do the scientists use to support their claim?

Scientists used new evidence gathered from five burial pits and existing evidence from 429 individuals buried across 107 sites to support their claim. The scientists found that 11 women and 16 men were buried with stone tools, which suggests those people were hunters.

4. How did scientists use the finding as reasoning to support their claim?

The 11 women and 16 men found buried with big-game hunting tools led researchers to estimate that females made up 30 to 50 percent of big-game hunters in ancient American societies.

5. What points of uncertainty, or caveats, to the claim does the Science News article mention?

The article states that the dataset used to make the conclusion is considered limited. The article also notes that the tools found buried with individuals don’t indicate how often those people participated in hunts.

6. What could scientists do to increase confidence in the claim? How could scientists go about that process?

Scientists should search for new burial sites and collect more evidence. Then, they should evaluate the new, more complete dataset.

7. Does the new claim challenge any previously accepted ideas? Were the old ideas rooted in evidence? Explain how the transition in thought occurred.

This new conclusion challenges notions of gender roles in ancient hunter-gatherer societies. Many researchers originally thought that sharpened tools placed in ancient women’s graves must have been used as cutting or scraping tools — not for hunting. This idea was not rooted in evidence, but instead was likely based on modern ideas about gender roles.  Based on new and existing archaeological evidence from the burial sites, scientists concluded that ancient female big-game hunters were not outliers. 

8. Figures and diagrams can be used to present qualitative and quantitative evidence. Click on the link to the primary research article found at the bottom of the online Science News article “Female hunters of the early Americas,” and look through the figures. Describe what each figure depicts and explain how the figure helps communicate the evidence and/or enhance the argument.

Figure 1: Shows a map of the Peruvian burial site and individual graves. The figure helps readers visualize the locations and contents of individual graves at the site.

Figure 2: Shows remains and tools from the grave of a Peruvian female woman. The figure helps readers visualize how the woman was buried with the tools, how many tools there were and what the tools looked like. The quantity of tools buried with the woman could be used to reason that the tools were important and suggest the woman was a hunter.


Figure 3: Shows remains and tools from the grave of a Peruvian man who researchers say was a hunter. The figure helps readers visualize how the man was buried with the tools. Comparing the figure with figure 2 could be used to reason that the Peruvian woman was also a hunter, as she was buried with many more tools than the man was.


Figure 4: Shows a map of ancient burial sites across the Americas. The figure gives readers a sense of how many females and males were buried with hunting tools. That there are roughly as many women buried with hunting tools as there are men buried with hunting tools could be used to support the researchers’ claim.


Figure 5: Shows a graph of the probability of female participation in hunting big game according to various statistical models. This figure is providing a visual model of the statistics to help readers understand how the researchers arrived at their conclusion.

Compare and share

9. Compare your personal experience with scientists’ process for creating an argument. Which steps from the scientists’ process did you follow and which steps did you skip when you built your own argument? Explain.

Student answers will vary.

10. What strategies for crafting a scientific argument do you think are relevant for enhancing a personal argument? What strategies do you think are irrelevant?

Student answers will vary, but students could mention using new evidence to challenge previously accepted ideas, using evidence to support their claim and collecting more evidence as relevant strategies to enhance a personal argument. They could mention using figures to support their claim as an irrelevant strategy.

11. Should personal arguments follow the process for creating a scientific argument? Are there cases where the scientific process doesn’t work well for personal arguments?

Student answers will vary, but students may include in their answers thoughts around supporting their viewpoint with evidence. A potential drawback may be the time required to gather evidence to support a claim. Students might also mention that the scientific process doesn’t work well in cases where there is no objectively right or wrong answer. In some personal arguments, evidence doesn’t provide a clear answer because personal opinions, preferences and moral viewpoints are at play.

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