We examined third graders' understandings of condensation using an expanded notion of the Emergent Perspective, a reflexive consideration of individual and group meaning-making situated in the culture of the classroom. Data were collected from two small groups of students in an inquiry-based, urban classroom during a unit on the water cycle. Measures included conceptual pre-/posttests, interviews, written work, and discourse analyses of a science lesson. Although we identified the supportive role of the teacher's explicit assessments of children's ideas, within the small groups, the force that most potently shaped meaning-making was students' persuasive power, which was in part influenced by the rhetorical moves employed. Specifically, students' evaluative comments (a type of rhetorical move) about contributions of other group members seemed to be particularly persuasive in these groups. Evaluative comments, apart from students' academic status, were shown to be an important influence in not only social knowledge production but also in individual internalization. Our explanation focuses on the particular discursive practices as intellectual resources of urban students, but we are also mindful of the cognitive complexity of the material and the developmental abilities of the students. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 42: 1032–1061, 2005