Sub Plan - Fighting for Foxes


In order to help understand the complexity of the issues surrounding protecting endangered species, students read an article about the Channel Island fox published in the Smithsonian magazine in October 2004. They create and use food webs to better understand the reasons for the foxes decline. This is a superb follow up to the Food Webs activity.


Can recognize how habitat change affects the organisms living in that habitat.
Can understand the complexity involved in protecting endangered species.
Can create a food web.

Channel island fox
Channel island fox from the National Park Service website


Endangered species
Food web

Attachment Size
sub_foxes.doc 46 KB
fox_article.pdf 165.84 KB
fox_reading_questions.doc 29.5 KB

Fighting for Foxes - Logistics

30-45 minutes


Copy of the Fighting for Foxes article (downloadable from the summary page or from Smithsonian Magazine).
Copy of the Reading Questions .
Field guide with information about golden eagles.
Field guide with information about Channel island foxes.


Fighting for Foxes - Background

Teacher Background

The causes and complexity of protecting endangered species is a hot topic in the media and environmental policy. For students to become educated consumers of scientific information in the media, it is essential that they gain exposure to these issues and discover that saving an endangered species is never as simple as it seems. The Channel Island fox is a fascinating example because its story involves several other charismatic species, the bald eagle, the golden eagle, and feral pigs. I encourage you to seek out other articles describing the plight of endangered species in your local area. If you find any good ones, add your comments below to let other teachers have access to your resources.

Student Prerequisites

Students should have been exposed to the following concepts: food webs, habitats, and endangered species.

Fighting for Foxes - Getting Ready

Getting Ready

  1. Make copies of the Fighting for Foxes article.
  2. Make copies of the Reading Questions.
  3. Write the following instructions on the board: “As you read, underline any information that seems important to create a. a food chain for the bald eagle b. a food web for the golden eagle”

Fighting for Foxes - Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan

  1. Tell students that they are going to read an article about channel island foxes from the a recent issue of Smithsonian magazine then answer some reading questions. Draw notice to the instructions on the board.
  2. Go around the room having one student read aloud for a paragraph or a few sentences. You may want to point out information relevant to creating the food chain and food web when it appears so students are reminded to unerline those sections.
  3. Stop after the description of the bald eagles and DDT contamination. Have students read the first question on their questions sheet and give them a few minutes to create a food chain for the bald eagle. Encourage them to work together if they need help. You may want to discuss some of the food chains that students created and write an example up on the board.
  4. When everyone has had an opportunity to write down something, continue reading as a group. Stop after the description of the golden eagle diet. Have students read the second question on the reading questions page.
  5. Ask students if there is enough information about golden eagles to create a food web? What other information is needed? Ask for volunteers to use the field guides to find out more information about golden eagles and Channel Island foxes. Write the information on the board.
  6. When students have gathered enough information, give students 10-15 minutes to create a food web for the golden eagle. If they are having trouble, tell them to start with the “channel island fox” in the middle of their page. Write the names of what the fox eats above it and write the names of what eats the fox below it. Draw arrows to represent relationships.
  7. Before reading any more, have students read question 3 and answer it based on their food webs.
  8. Finish reading the article together. Give students 10-15 minutes to answer the remaining questions or assign those questions for homework.

Fighting for Foxes - Assessments

Going Further

  1. Research another endangered species. Create a food web for your species. Describe the circumstances that led to your organism’s decline and the steps that are being taken to allow the population to recover. If you don’t want students to research their own species, consider using other articles from magazines or books. The book Life on the Edge – A guide to California’s Endangered Natural Resources by Biosystem Books is a superb resource for identifying and researching endangered and threatened species.
  2. Create an action project to educate other students, parents and/or the community about an endangered species in your area. Consider creating newsletters, creating a web page, or making a presentation to younger grades.

Fighting for Foxes - Sources and Standards


The original Fighting for Foxes article from Smithsonian Magazine is available free online. Several additional articles about the foxes and other endangered species in California are available through Smithsonian as well.


Grade 6

Ecology (Life Sciences)

5. Organisms in ecosystems exchange energy and nutrients among themselves and with the environment. As a basis for understanding this concept:

a. Students know energy entering ecosystems as sunlight is transferred by producers into chemical energy through photosynthesis and then from organism to organism through food webs.

b. Students know matter is transferred over time from one organism to others in the food web and between organisms and the physical environment.

e. Students know the number and types of organisms an ecosystem can support depends on the resources available and on abiotic factors, such as quantities of light and water, a range of temperatures, and soil composition.