Ferret It Out: Teacher Manual

A Problem about Endangered Species and Animal Ecosystems

By Shelagh A. Gallagher, Ph.D., Dana L. Plowden


The Teacher Manual contains detailed instructions on how to implement the unit. It describes how to conduct the project, how to develop problem-solving skills and awareness, and how to lead students into considering all sides of the situation.


National Association for Gifted Children Curriculum Award-Winner!

The black-footed ferret is the most endangered mammal in the United States. Students are placed in the role of members 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.

During the unit, students 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 they must consider the rights of homeowners and ranchers against the survival of the mammal. 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, students 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.


Problem-Based Learning
Ferret It Out Problem-Based Learning Unit
Teachers & Schools
Science, Problem-Based Learning, Problem-Solving
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