What is the world’s fastest animal?

If you had an elementary school education like I did, you would probably answer cheetah. While there is some truth to that answer, it isn’t technically correct (and let’s be honest, the best kind of correct is technically correct). Fast Company shared a well researched article on the cheetah being the fastest animal:

For some reason, the idea that the cheetah is the planet’s fastest creature has hardened into fact through years of childhood repetition. But not all superlatives in the animal kingdom are so easily settled as weight (the blue whale) and height (the giraffe).

In fact, determining the fastest creature on earth is much more complicated than we’ve all been led to believe.

“When we talk about something being fast, it’s really not clear if you’re talking about the total duration, the total time it takes to perform the movement, the speed at which its performed, and the acceleration at which its performed,” said Sheila Patek, biologist and founder of Duke University’s Patek Lab. “Each one of these things mean very different things.”

The Fastest Animal On Earth Is Not A Cheetah

Cheetah’s are only the fast animal when you only consider land animals running from point A to point B. With that constraint, yes, cheetahs reach amazing speeds up to 29 meters per second (Nature journal article).

Some other animals that hold fastest records:

Sailfish – the sailfish can reach speeds just over 30 meters per second.

Falcon – falcons reach incredible speeds when performing a stoop (a high speed dive used when hunting) – over 82 meters per second

Termite – yes, a termite. It bites at a speed of 67 meters per second (read more about it in Current Biology)

And many more (like this Dracula ant)!

Is this #FakeNews?

Thanks to some lovely political discussions coming out of the US, fake news has become very polarizing dinner table discussion. However, the underlying idea of checking researching and fact-checking what we read online is very valid. Stanford University research suggested that students “may focus more on the content of social media posts than on their sources”.

Is stating the cheetah as the fastest animal #fakenews? Well, somewhat. Unfortunately, in an attempt to make information more accessible for younger students we’ve often over simplified fact statements so that they no longer have become fact anymore. Then combine that with no one questioning what information they received as a child is correct, then passing along that information without proper research and you have many people believing that the cheetah is the fastest animal in the world.

As teachers, it’s our responsibility to break these chains of misinformation and teach our students how to properly detect misinformation online.

How do we teach about misinformation online?

As mentioned above, misinformation is a problem and it is affecting our students. They need some direct instruction on how to combat this. Thankfully, here at YIS, we have a wonderful research continuum created and spearheaded by our librarians that addresses misinformation and #fakenews. I’ve supported their inquiry into misinformation with a couple of resources:

Take it APART

Content by Tim Staal, design by Matt Broughton

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to design a poster created by Tim Staal to support students evaluated information they find. It’s a great tool students can use to take apart the information and evaluate it based on 5 different criteria – authority, purpose/perspective, accuracy, relevance and time.

Download a high-quality, printable version here.

The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus

Another great tool for tackling misinformation is to use a hoax websites to teach students how easy it is to find misinformation online. My favorite is the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. This is a very believable hoax website that details all about a specific species of octopus that lives in trees.

Copyright Lyle Zapato of The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus

Our grade 4 How We Express Ourselves unit of inquiry inquiries into how media can influence thinking and behaviour. Each year I have the opportunity to work with our grade 4 students on misinformation online and use The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus website as a tool to present the idea that misinformation is everywhere online and we need to be vigilant in taking apart what we find online to find out if it is credible. It’s a wonderful provocation into using a tool like Take it APART.

If you’ve seen or used The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus site before, another great resource is The Dog Island. A very similar concept, but a bit better with older students (we use this with our MYP students).