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Ferret Ecology: Unit Set
A Problem about Endangered Species and Animal Ecosystems
The unit set includes the Parent Manual and the student Problem Log.
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Ferret Ecology is the adaptation of Ferret It Out for a single student. It takes the same problem but alters the PBL experience so that an individual child can participate in the process of learning about the issues involved in trying to save an animal from extinction through discovery, research, and higher-order thinking.
The black-footed ferret is the most endangered mammal in the United States. The child is placed in the role of a member of a recovery team whose job it is to assess whether Fort Collins, Colorado, is an appropriate site to reintroduce ferrets that were bred in captivity.
Children who work through this unit must consider the interdependence of the ferrets with the population of prairie dogs and the antagonism of ranchers toward them. They have to calculate how many prairie dogs are essential for the survival of the black-footed ferret and consider the rights of homeowners and ranchers against the possibility of the ferret’s extinction. They must take into account what may be causing ferret decline, including the problem of a genetic bottleneck. In the end, they must come to a decision about the problem and then try to persuade others to their point of view. Through the course of the unit, children will learn about biomes, habitats, and human-animal interaction, as well as the complex issues that are involved and the conflicts of interests posed by trying to save the black-footed ferret from extinction.