5 Things Kids Get Wrong (And Adults Too)

You make think you know. But your probably don't.

Do you get these things wrong?

During my career as an educator, I have found that there certain facts and historical events people both young and old consistently get wrong. Why do they get it wrong? Awesome question. They get it wrong for a variety of reasons: inaccurate facts in movies movies and books, wrong stuff on television shows, believing legends, not digesting all the facts accurately, believing every dumb Facebook post, or someone taught them that wrong information.

My student usually know that Columbus sailed to find a shorter route to Asia rather than he was trying to prove the earth was round. They also understand why Pluto lost its classification as a planet and can easily explain why dolphins and whales are mammals and not fish. However, they often have some “areas of refinement” as far as history and science are concerned


#5 Henry Ford invented the car.

Many times misconceptions are started with some sort of misinterpretation in science or history. Take this false fact. This statement is just plain wrong. I’m not sure how or why it started, but Ford flat out did not invent the automobile. Some will even argue that Ford did not invent the assembly line either.

So, Ford didn’t invent automobile. What he did do was still pretty revolutionary; Ford manufactured the gas-powered automobile in a way that made it affordable to the Average Joe, and that’s nothing to scoff at! I’m going to call it car from now on because automobile is too old timey for me.

Who deserves credit for the invention of the car? Well, that is a matter of historical record and your opinion if the steam, electrical, or gas powered car deserves the credit.

First Gas-Powered Car = Death Trap

Image by Philip Lange

Three wheels, no steering wheel, and no doors?  Death Trap!

Let’s get the hard stuff out of the way first. Karl Benz, of Mercedes-Benz, gets credit in the history books for inventing the car. The gasoline-powered car to be precise. The car was actually invented before that, but it was just terrible.

Photo by Daimler.com

Image by Daimler.com

Benz, inventor of the gasoline powered car and owner of an epic mustache. 

Leonardo Da Vinci had sketches of a horseless cart, but he lacked the technological know how to engineer his vision. In the late 1700s, early cars had steam engines, and good grief were those things crazy slow and cumbersome and broke down a lot. That’s not how inventions are supposed to roll! Inventions are supposed to improve life. Make things like transportation faster and easier. The steam car was not practical because riding a horse and walking were faster. Q: Who’s got time for that? A: Nobody.

Then came the electric car. That invention wasn’t awesome either at first, but they later became pretty popular in the early 1900s. There were many inventors and engineers who designed and engineered cars, but Benz’s gasoline-powered car was the first time the car was practical. He gets credit for inventing the gasoline-powered car as we know it in 1885 which just happens to be the year Gottlieb Daimler patented the first motorcycle. It was called a Reitwagen  or riding car, and it was a beautifully amazing two-wheeled machine.

This thing was a speed demon topping of at about 7 mph (12 kph).

 #4 Lightning never strikes the same place twice.


Lightning is a natural phenomena of a giant spark of static electricity with high voltage. Lightning can happen between clouds, within a cloud, or between a cloud and the ground. Lightning strikes the same place all the time. The Empire State Building can get struck over 100 times in a year. It is not possible to have thunder without lightning. The sound of thunder is produced as a direct result of lightning.

On the other hand, you can see lightning without hearing the thunder. That’s because the lightning was too far away for the sound to travel to your ears. Other facts you need to know about lightning:

  • Ben Franklin did not discover electricity. Most of the story about Franklin’s kite experiment is an embellishment too. However, what Franklin actually did was a little more awesome than a dangerous kite experiment. He did experiment with electricity, that part is true. Franklin invented lightning rods to control the flow of electrical energy when lightning struck in the 13 colonies. He made a safe path for the electricity to flow. This invention helped many buildings from burning and people from dying.
  • Fleetwood Mac was wrong. Thunder does not only happen when it’s raining.

Behold! The Snow Lightning!


#3 Earth moves farther away from the sun during winter, and that’s why it is cold in winter.

This statement is wrong for a couple of reasons. Reason #1, seasons are not directly related to Earth’s distance from the sun; it’s all about the earth’s tilt on its axis.  Reason #2, depending upon which hemisphere you live, you may actually be having winter when the earth is closest to the sun. For example, the earth is closest to the sun in January. Many of us in North America, Europe, and most of Asia are slapdab in the middle of winter.


We have day and night because the earth spins on its axis. Earth’s axis is not completely straight up and down; it has a tilt to it. As the earth turns on its tilted axis, it orbits the sun. Note: the earth’s tilt is fixed as it revolves around the sun; it doesn’t go all wibbly wobbly timey wimey. Because of the tilt of Earth’s axis and the earth orbiting the sun, not all parts of the earth get the same amount of the sun’s direct energy at the same time. That’s why we have seasons.

For most areas above the equator- winter beings in December when the sun is tilted away from the sun. Summer beings in June when the northern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun. The opposite is true for my Dear Readers in the southern part of the world. For most areas below the equator- winter begins in June and summer begins in December. Areas closest to the equator, tropical areas, are usually warm all year round so the four seasons mean a totally different thing.

Why We Have Seasons

Seasons are caused because of the earth’s tilt on its axis; not because of the distance from the sun. When the northern hemisphere is  tilted completely toward the sun, it will get more of the sun’s direct rays. Therefore, the northern hemisphere will have summer while the southern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun and have winter. That’s why Australia and other countries in the southern hemisphere have Christmas during the summer. The tropics always get most of the sun’s direct rays so they are usually warm all year long.

#2 The Dust Bowl was a natural disaster.

This is mostly untrue. The Dust Bowl was a man-made disaster exacerbated by natural disasters. Sometimes in history, there are moments where everything goes wrong all at once. That, Dear Reader, is what happened to much of the Great Plains and Southwest regions of the United States in the 1930s.

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Dust Bowl Primary Sources from Library of Congress

The Homestead Acts of the late 1800s and early 1900s encouraged many settlers to come to the Southwest and the Great Plains regions to farm. During that time the Great Plains, unbeknownst to most, was having an unusually long, wet period that only encouraged farming. A lot of it. And those crops, mostly wheat, drank up the nutrients from the soil just like Daniel Day Louis drank all of that kid’s milkshake in that movie from a while back. He got a big straw and drank up all that kid’s milkshake.

The land in both regions was over-grazed and over-cultivated. This poor agricultural practice robbed the topsoil of precious nutrients, and the soil became loose, dry, and bare. Everything that held the soil together was either dried up or plowed away. This made the topsoil vulnerable to wind erosion and set the stage for the upcoming ecological disaster.

Dust Bowl

Fast forward to October 29, 1929, The Great Depression.  Yeah, losing all your money and demand for the few crops you could grow in the ever drying soil was a tough blow to many of the farmers in the Great Plains and Southwest, but at least they had their farmland right? Wrong. The beginning of the 1930s introduced a series of droughts that would kick many farmers right in their gluteus maximuses. These regions had a long history of droughts, but this time the topsoil was all loose and dried up which changed the whole game. The droughts hit the regions hard, but the farmers kept farming even though pretty much nothing would grow.

It fell across our city like a curtain of black rolled down,
We thought it was our judgement, we thought it was our doom…

It covered up our fences, it covered up our barns,
It covered up our tractors in this wild and dusty storm.

The Great Dust Storm by Woodie Guthrie

After that the dust storms started, thanks to the loose, dry topsoil. The wind easily picked up the topsoil to create massive clouds of dust that would stretch for miles. Then, the grasshoppers and jackrabbits, fearing few predators due to the dust storms, came in droves and ate what little crops were left. So, the grasshoppers and jackrabbits didn’t really help.

Then there were the tornadoes, temperatures of extremes, blizzards, and even some earthquakes! After visiting the affected areas, Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “I shall never forget the fields of wheat so blasted by heat that they cannot be harvested. I shall never forget field after field of corn stunted, earless and stripped of leaves, for what the sun left the grasshoppers took“.

But the story was not about the crazy weather, swarming grasshoppers, or rabid jackrabbits. It was about the dust. The blankets and blankets of dust. Dust that caused the brown plague and darkened the sky. Dust that was present because the soil was much too weak after decades of misuse to withstand drought and wind erosion.

Red Cross volunteers wearing dust masks, Liberal, Kansas.

Image from Kansas State Historical Society

Red Cross volunteers wearing dust masks, Liberal, Kansas. Sometimes the dust would get so bad the air was unsafe to breathe; dust pneumonia was no fun.

#1 There is a dark side of the moon.

Image from NASA

Image from NASA

There is no dark side of the moon. Earth only sees one side of the moon all the time. The moon rotates and the sun shines on all parts; we just don’t see the opposite side. Just because we don’t see it does not mean it is completely dark. Also, there is no such thing as moonlight.



Live Science, NOAA, Library of Congress, Dust Bowl PBS

Teacher Resources:

Dust Bowl Primary Source Set, Science Court: SeasonsActivities, Videos, and Other Stuff on Seasons, and  Gilder Lehrman

Books image from Banner:

Hermann from Pixabay

K. Renae P. Approved Trade Books for the Classroom:

Moonshot, How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning, Out of the DustElectrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World, and Grapes of Wrath– I will not lie and say I enjoyed reading Grapes of Wrath, but I will acknowledge its literary importance. You can also pull a lot of good passages for history discussions as well as English language arts.

34 thoughts on “5 Things Kids Get Wrong (And Adults Too)

  1. Thanks for brushing my faint knowledge. I am feeling a bit ashamed that I knew none of them :/ And I always thought Ford invented automobile. Well thank you so much for these amazing facts.

    • You are so welcome. Don’t be ashamed either. These facts are common misunderstood concepts. I love learning about new things and things I got wrong. Misconceptions are natural.

      I remember being taught Ford invented the car, but reading a story where Ford was inspired by cars. Even to 2nd grade me, I knew something wasn’t right.

    • It sure does become legend. We all have those misconceptions. Sometimes truth IS stranger than fiction. I remember when a student told me bats had thumbs; we looked up for accuracy (We always do that). I had no clue bats had thumbs! I thought those little hanging hump thingies were like shoulders. My mind was blown. I love that kind of stuff.

      It also presents a challenge to me to show my students what is accurate based on evidence and data. They don’t like to know what they thought was incorrect. (Adults are like that too.) But you know, teachers gonna teach. 😀

      • I love stuff like this. I think we’ve talked about the merits of Lies My Teacher Told Me. I just finished 1491 and learned tons about North America before Columbus landed here.

      • I do like looking at misconceptions. Almost every time the real facts make more sense than the false facts. Thanks for the book suggestions. I’ve been referred that book, 1491, before a few times. I like learning more about that time period.

        “They thought the was earth wasn’t round” myth for the 1400s is in my next post like this.

  2. Love this post! I was intrigued by every one of your choices! As a visual learner, I also appreciate the multimedia insertions! My mind is now reeling to find more “things we get wrong” 🙂

  3. You seriously are so candidly funny in your writing. I look forward to your every post!
    Case in point:
    ” they often have some “areas of refinement” as far as history and science are concerned…”
    “Q: Who’s got time for that? A: Nobody.”
    “This thing was a speed demon topping of at about 7 mph (12 kph).”
    “Fleetwood Mac was wrong. Thunder does not only happen when it’s raining.”

    Really I hope you share this with your students. You could write a great funny factoid book if you wanted to and I’d use it in a second!

    • Thanks- I’ve actually thought about that.

      My students love the “true stories and random facts”. There is a series of books from National Geographic called ‘Weird but True’. They LOVE it. And it is easy to connect it to what they need to know. One of my students accused me of “tricking them into learning”. Hahahaha! It’s a little true.

      • LOVE Weird But True! Seriously, I’m not kidding. You have a gift for writing in a way that is so reader friendly that if you did ever want to publish I think that is your strength. Just sayin’.

      • Thanks again. That means a lot. I really would like to see more interesting nonfiction for kids. Maybe I’ll be the one to do that soon.

  4. Wow, what an amazing, well written post. It was funny, interesting, and very factual. I definitely learned a lot. I didn’t know much about the Dust Bowl, but assumed it was a natural disaster. And everyone knows that Henry Ford invented the automobile…oops!! Love the part about Fleetwood Mac too…LOL! 🙂 I can tell you are a great teacher just from reading this.

    • Wow. Thanks. I’m big on misconceptions. You’ll see because I have a ton of teacher posts planned on that.

      I’m a facts nerd, and I love Fleetwood Mac. Just read that yesterday was her birthday. <—— Example of my love for random facts.

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