The news cycle this year may have felt relentless, but Newsela’s top-viewed animal-related articles from 2019 show that there are still plenty of interesting, thought-provoking, and uplifting stories to be found. From an animal dentist who gave a root canal to a tiger to a group of snorkeling grandmothers who uncovered a population of sea snakes, this year’s most popular articles introduced students to stories of science and culture that were quick to intrigue (and often delight). Read on for the list, and a few of the top themes:
Sharks. From Shark Week to Baby Shark, our fishy friends are having a cultural moment. That may help explain the popularity of shark stories in Newsela this year, with an article titled “Are Great White Sharks Endangered?” topping the list as the most-viewed article of 2019. Another shark story—this time about scientists who built a camera to study sharks that glow in the dark—came in as the third most-viewed.
Cats of every size. The story “Everyday Mysteries: The purr of a cat” appears on many of Newsela’s top-viewed lists, and its broad appeal speaks to an interest in science stories that overlap with everyday life. That story wasn’t the only one on the 2019 list to include cats, though: other stories featuring felines (big and small) included an article about a research project to record tigers at American zoos and a “Big Questions” piece about how to tell if your cat is happy.
Bears. On a more playful note, an article about “Fat Bear Week” garnered lots of attention in 2019, one of several appearances bears made on the list. A piece about researchers using body cameras on polar bears clocked as the sixth most-viewed piece of the year, another example of a science and animal story that gave students plenty of big themes to think about.
Tapirs. Not often billed as the top meme-worthy animal, the tapir nonetheless made the list as students read about Nicaragua’s efforts to preserve its native tapir population.
Pandas. It’s hard not to be drawn to the story of Bao Bao, the giant panda who was born at Washington DC’s national zoo in 2013 and then traveled to China in 2015 to join one of their breeding programs. Two separate stories about Bao Bao and her journey East appeared on this year’s top 20 list, a testament to panda fans and an example of how animal stories stories can introduce complex subjects like the political relationships between countries.
Whales. Stories about whales—and orcas in particular—were also popular, as students followed the debate about whether killer whales should be kept in captivity. Articles about sea pens for whales and SeaWorld’s decision to end their shows featuring orcas were further examples of animal-related stories that introduced students to complex issues.