10 Exciting STEM Careers for 2020… and Beyond


It doesn’t have to be hard to get students excited about STEM careers! There are so many different STEM careers out there, many of them in new fields that didn’t exist a few years ago, and you can really help to inspire your students to think about things they would truly love doing with their lives.

We’ve put together some of the most exciting career opportunities for 2020, but these are just the tip of the iceberg…


1. Gameplay Engineer/Programmer

These are great career choices for students who love video and computer games—and kids don’t need to wait till they’re older to get started. Both roles involve quite a bit of coding, but in slightly different ways. A gameplay engineer generally works more on the broader game “engine,” while a gameplay programmer is more involved at a later stage—with the nitty-gritty details. Either way, these careers involve designing whole worlds and seeing them come to life! 


2. Certified Ethical Hacker

As we become more and more reliant on integrated networks, hackers who attack computer systems to steal valuable information have become a bigger threat. To combat these attacks, ethical hackers use exactly the same techniques in order to find weaknesses in computer systems so that companies can then figure out how to improve their security. Pretty cool, huh?


3. Underwater Archeologist

Water covers about 71% of Earth’s surface, so there’s a lot to discover at the bottom of seas and lakes! Underwater archeology is a bit trickier than normal archeology, involving techniques such as surveying sites with sonar, depth gauges, and tape measurements, and sending down divers or ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles). It’s an exciting and challenging field, with a great deal of depth!


4. Nanosystems Engineer

This is a very new career, but one that is expected to grow significantly over the next decade. It’s something of a mind-boggling one, as it involves working with material that is about 1/100,000th the width of a strand of human hair! Materials interact very differently when they’re this small, and a nanosystems engineer investigates these microscopic interactions to come up with new ways to use different materials—for example carbon nanotubes, which are the strongest and stiffest materials ever discovered!


5. Atmospheric Scientist/Storm Tracker

People in these roles study the atmosphere of the Earth by measuring properties such as temperature and air pressure to predict and track weather phenomena. Storm trackers are atmospheric scientists who specialize in studying serious weather issues such as thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes. This is a really important job as it involves making sure people have enough time to move somewhere safe before a severe storm hits. 


6. LEGO Designer

There doesn’t have to be a reason to stop playing with LEGO! This job combines an eye for design and art with a talent for engineering. LEGO designers need to come up with new and exciting ideas for LEGO sets, while also making sure that they work as actual structures! It’s a competitive career with few openings, but with the right combination of creativity and eye for detail, there is no reason not to aim for it.


7. Mobile Application Developer

Think about how many apps you use every day. Behind every single one of them are people who work as app developers and designers. Depending on which route a developer goes down, they can either focus on the “User Experience” (UX) and the outward design or be part of writing the underlying code. There are so many different types of apps to work on—games, social media, photo-editing, to name just a few—which makes this a really varied career. 


8. Aerospace Engineer

You’ve probably heard of this one, but we thought it would be worth including, as it’s a field where exciting things keep happening! Aerospace engineers work on researching, designing, developing, and testing aircraft, missiles, satellites, and space vehicles. Engineers in this field have the chance to be part of developing groundbreaking new technology—even sending people to new planets!


9. Photonics Engineer

Light is a powerful and diverse energy source, and photonics engineers work on systems such as optical telecommunications (transmitting information via optical fibers) and laser manufacturing for everything from eye surgeries to navigation. This is a growing field with many different branches of photonics emerging, so who knows what will next be discovered!


10. 3D Printing Engineer

3D printing is used in many different fields, such as medicine and architecture. Most of the time, 3D printing experts are needed to carry out these jobs. This role requires a combination of creativity with engineering skills and, depending on the field, medical or architectural knowledge. While there are at-home 3D printers that anyone can use, more complex things really require someone with expertise! 


There you go—10 exciting STEM careers for 2020! If you’ve missed our earlier blog posts about exciting and unusual STEM careers, take a look here and here as well. Of course, Twig Science gives students experience in dozens of STEM careers, as well as introducing them to real-life scientists and engineers.

Announcing Twig Education/SCALE partnership

Twig Education is announcing an exclusive partnership with Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity (SCALE), part of the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University, to provide professional learning for Next Generation Science Standards teachers. 

Together, they’ve created a series of Professional Learning Masterclasses that will help elementary teachers become accomplished science instructors fluent in the instructional shifts demanded by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Catherine Cahn, CEO of Twig Education, says: “I was terrible at science at school, so I completely understand how many non-science-specific elementary school teachers are daunted by implementing the NGSS. We’ve worked with Stanford to address this with an engaging and supportive program that makes teaching science fun.” 

The Masterclasses series was developed by Cathy Zozakiewicz and Lauren Stoll from SCALE. It covers topics including: 

  • Introduction to NGSS—Three-hour workshop using grade-specific materials, run by experts in three-dimensional learning and assessment, including comprehensive guidance on making the instructional shifts required by the NGSS, putting 3-D learning into action through hands-on lessons, and maximizing the implementation of Twig Science Next Gen lessons and resources in your context.
  • 3-D Performance Assessment—Exploring how to work the NGSS’s instructional shifts into new forms of assessment, including taking a closer look at what Twig Science Next Gen performance assessments provide as evidence, how they should be used, and how they integrate with instruction.
  • Science Language and Literacy in the NGSS Classroom—Examining and practicing strategies for supporting language development in the NGSS classroom, focusing on Twig Language Routines. This includes capturing student use of language to reflect upon and improve NGSS classroom instructional and assessment practices.
  • Equitable Instruction in the NGSS—Introducing innovative approaches toward equitable pathways into STEM learning and careers, providing access to youth from historically under-represented backgrounds.

Cathy Zozakiewicz says: “This set of professional development workshops was created to help science teachers and leaders maximize the use of the Twig Science Next Gen curriculum, assessment, and resources.” 

Teachers who complete the Masterclass program with final reflection questions will be awarded a certificate of completion from SCALE.

Twig Education is a market leader in NGSS science programs with Twig Science Next Gen for elementary and middle schools—developed with SCALE and Imperial College London. The collaboration with SCALE, the leader in PreK–8 NGSS professional learning, will help elementary teachers fulfil the potential of this revolutionary new curriculum, reflecting the inspiring, inclusive nature of the Twig Science Next Gen program. 

Masterclasses can be delivered district wide or as part of a special NGSS weekend during the summer on the Stanford campus in Palo Alto.

Find out more about Twig Science Next Gen.

Science, Math, and Geography for ages 4–16

Want to discover our award-winning STEM resources for ages 4–16? Head over to each product’s website to request a free trial, and have a look below for a taster of our amazing video content—available in a range of different languages, such as Standard and Simplified English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and French.

Twig is our resource for ages 11–16, containing 1,000+ award-winning, 3-minute videos, supported by hundreds of lesson plans, visuals, and other classroom resources.

“Twig is fantastic – I use it most days in my lessons.”

Linda, Biology and Science Teacher

“Twig is hands-down by #1 favourite and most valued teaching resource.”

Kristen, MS Science Teacher

Tigtag contains engaging videos, visual resources, lesson plans, and quizzes that simplify science content for ages 7–11.  

Tigtag CLIL has all the features and benefits of Tigtag, plus a wide range of language support materials to help with English language instruction.

“Superb quality of videos and resources”

Neil, Head of Science

“It is interactive, accessible, fun, informative, easy to use and all children enjoy it a great deal.”

Corina, Science Lead

Tigtag Junior is aimed at ages 4–7 and is a complete online resource for younger children, introducing foundational science through videos, games, and activities.

“The videos are extremely good. The lesson ideas and visuals are also helpful.”

Claire, Science Teacher

“I find Tigtag to be the best resource in the market.”

Rosavelia, Math and Science Teacher

Scaffolding and Differentiation in Twig Science Oklahoma

Twig Science Oklahoma provides EL, SEL, and SES supports, as well as Below-level and Honors/Above-level supports, via scaffolding sidebars within lessons (print and digital).

These supports provide instruction to teachers on how to scaffold and amend the activities to support students of varying backgrounds and abilities. This could range from sentence or writing frames to additional handouts and differentiated texts, or more challenging or accessible configurations of the task (e.g., reading one/two short articles in pairs could be turned into a synthesis of multiple sources task for Honors students).

English Learners

EL sidebars provide strategies for teachers to support ELs of all proficiency levels, with specific guidance on how to tailor the lesson to accommodate ELs. Strategies include:

  • Cloze Frames
    • Differentiated cloze sentence and paragraph frames.
  • Language Comprehension Strategies 
    • Setting viewing, listening, and reading purposes
    • Displaying word charts, discussion questions, and so on in advance.
    • Vocabulary strategies using text, video, visuals, Spanish–English cognates, and the academic word wall
    • Listening to an audio recording of the text in addition to reading it
  • Language Production Strategies
    • Prompt questions aimed at the teacher to engage students
    • Suggested discussion questions for ELs to use in group work
    • Scaffolds for class presentations and written work
  • Close Reading Strategies
    • Previewing the text in a small group before the activity
    • Picture walks
    • Reading the text with a group, partner, or individually, depending on students’ proficiency level 

Some EL sidebars offer guidance for all EL students, while others offer differentiated guidance for varying language proficiencies, as indicated by bolded subheads. We use three differentiated levels (proficiency levels in parentheses are determined by the CA ELD standards):

Substantial Support (Emerging Proficiency) 

  • For beginners and early intermediate learners, this level addresses students who are learning to use English for immediate needs and who are beginning to understand and use academic vocabulary.

Moderate Support (Expanding Proficiency) 

  • For intermediate learners, this level addresses students who are developing a richer vocabulary and more sophisticated linguistic structures.

Light Support (Bridging Proficiency)

  • For advanced learners, this level addresses students who are applying a range of high-level English language comprehension and production skills.

Monitoring English Language Proficiency

Monitoring English Language Proficiency (MELP) sidebars complement EL sidebars, and provide the teacher with point-of-use instruction to assess ELs’ progress in their English language proficiency. They appear alongside close reading activities, and always refer to an article.

MELP sidebars are divided into four bolded standard subheads and are introduced by standard text (see Misc Text Bank).

Writing Domain

  • This section includes writing tasks specific to the TB text, e.g., having ELs write a description of how an illustration relates to the text.

Reading Domain

  • This section includes reading tasks specific to the TB text, e.g., having ELs reread a section and then share what they learned.

Speaking Domain

  • This section prompts the teacher to collect academic vocabulary as students discuss the TB text.

Listening Domain

  • This section includes listening tasks specific to the TB text, e.g., reading aloud a section and then asking ELs comprehension questions.

Standard English Learners

SEL sidebars provide point-of-use strategies for helping students develop their command of oral and written Standard English, a component of the CA ELD standards. Standard English is a term for conventional, grammatically-accepted English, in contrast with home dialects or Community English. In California, SELs include students of African American, Chicano, Pacific Islander, and Native American heritage.

These sidebars do not address the specific home dialects of students, but instead encourage all students to use appropriate academic language in a formal register. 

Strategies include:

  • Contrastive analysis, e.g., asking students to deliver the same presentation to two distinct groups, such as a group of peers and a group of teachers)
  • Recasting, e.g., recasting what students say using Standard English and/or academic vocabulary
  • Support with pronunciation, e.g., chorus repeats
  • Grammatical scaffolding

SES Support

These sidebars offer point-of-use strategies for tailoring activities and learning points to accommodate special needs students of all backgrounds and abilities.

  • Conceptual Processing
    • These sidebars address students who struggle to understand and distinguish between concepts (e.g., how a subclimate differs from a climate, or what a cell is). 
    • Supports include: asking focused questions before replaying a video; providing focused annotation strategies to facilitate reading comprehension; and using diagrams, visual cues, or graphic organizers to help students process abstract information.
  • Executive Functioning
    • These sidebars address students who struggle with executive tasks (e.g., planning, organization, focus, and patience). 
    • Supports include: offering focused annotation or text-chunking strategies; using lists, checklists, or graphic organizers to facilitate focus and comprehension; and displaying discussion questions to facilitate focus and engagement.
  • Expressive and Receptive Language
    • These sidebars address students who struggle with communication (verbal or textual).
    • Supports include: close reading strategies like whisper reading, echo reading, and reading aloud with a partner; displaying key terms, read-alouds, or other text to provide students with visual cues; and pairing students with peers who can assist them with language tasks.
  • Fine Motor Skills
    • These sidebars address students who struggle with fine motor skills (e.g., manipulating tools).
    • Supports include: using computers or other digital tools rather than manual ones; giving students alternate tasks if an activity is too difficult for them; and pairing students with a peer to whom they can dictate investigation steps during hands-on activities.
  • Memory
    • These sidebars address students who struggle with information recall.
    • Supports include: prompting students to review notes in their TBs; recording key information on the board for students to follow; and playing videos more than once, often with a viewing purpose.
  • Physical Disability
    • These sidebars address students with a range of physical disabilities (e.g., hearing impairments, mobility issues). 
    • Supports include: ensuring ample physical space to conduct hands-on activities or gallery walks; tailoring hands-on activities for students with gross motor skills; and consulting the accommodations set forth in the students’ Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
  • Social-Emotional Functioning
    • These sidebars address students who need additional social-emotional support in the classroom.
    • Supports include: accommodating students who are overwhelmed by too much noise or too little personal space; providing focused guidance for more open-ended activities; and allowing students to record an oral presentation, rather than reciting it from memory before the class.
  • Strengths-Based Approach
    • These sidebars address all special needs students. They serve to highlight the strengths of special needs students by encouraging them to share these strengths with the class. 
    • Supports include: having artistic students share their sketches to communicate their ideas in a discussion; encouraging students with hearing impairments who are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) to share a message through signing; and asking students with sensory impairments to share how they experience natural phenomena (e.g., rain).
  • Visual-Spatial Processing
    • These sidebars address students who struggle with processing visual information.
    • Supports include: pairing students with a peer who can help them with visually complex tasks such as graphing; providing students with a piece of paper to use as a reading guide, in order to screen out competing visual information; and using color-coding, labeling, and other strategies to help students visually organize information.

Below-Level Support

Below-Level Support sidebars are modifications to the task to support students lacking the prior DCIs or SEP/CCCs needed to access the task. They call back to the Grade 3-5 outcomes and expectations.

Below-Level support sidebars can vary dramatically in scope, and may include:

  • Writing and other concept frames, additional prompts that improve access to the lesson content (e.g. worksheet that structures ‘cause & effect’ thinking)
  • Restructuring of tasks to simplify the requirements
  • Intervention films from Twig Science Tools and Twig Science Glossary


Honors sidebars are additional instructional opportunities to challenge honors students. 

Honors sidebars can vary dramatically in scope, and may include:

  • Additional variables in a hands-on investigation, and/or running additional tests
  • Additional drawing or writing prompts that build on the lesson content
  • Restructuring of tasks to provide additional challenge (e.g. through additional texts and synthesis)
  • Providing another ‘harder’ question they can do (Challenge question)
  • Stretch films from Twig Secondary

Honors Extensions

Extension activities are used to provide opportunities for extended tasks aimed at honors and GATE students. These contain standard activity instructions. For example, they may be an additional data analysis piece which extends the results of a completed investigation, or DOK4-style investigation which builds on the work of a series of lessons. They may occur every 5-10 lessons. 


5 Social and Emotional Strategies for STEM Learning

The skills we want to help young students develop don’t just include those directly connected to the subjects being taught. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) give guidance on how students should investigate matter, forces, and living things, of course, but they also emphasize skills like working in teams, collaboration, and engaging in argument from evidence. These skills are important parts of students’ social and emotional learning (SEL), but why is SEL so important and what makes it ideal for bringing into science lessons?

Science lessons—even virtual ones—provide great opportunities to give students investigative problems they must work together to solve. The engineering design process is a perfect opportunity to encourage students to team up, develop and test ideas, appreciate each other’s creativity, and talk about their successes and failures.

As students work in teams, they’re learning to communicate, to respect the ideas of others, and to understand why everybody’s role is important. These are essential aspects not only of classroom collaboration, but also of being part of society. Good teamwork improves students’ social skills. It makes them more self-confident. It even reduces bullying. And it helps children to go on to become successful adults.

That’s why we made teamwork, communication, and collaboration fundamental components of Twig Science Next Gen. It’s there in all of our story-driven investigation modules, and we also created special 3-D Team Challenge mini-modules totally focused on teambuilding and how scientists and engineers work in teams. In doing so, we came up with some useful ideas for increasing the SEL value of lessons that we thought we’d share with you—you’ll find all of these in the Twig Science Next Gen Team Challenges and investigations, but they can be adapted for any lesson.

Here are our favorite five ideas:

1. Student-agreed Science Expectations – Children hate being told what to do when they don’t understand why they’ve got to do it.

It’s a good idea to get students to discuss the factors that create a productive learning environment. Guide them to come up with their own ideas for how investigations should be carried out in an environment that encourages collaboration and respect. Children hate being told what to do when they don’t understand why they’ve got to do it—but if they are included in creating the rules, they respect and learn from them. Twig Science Next Gen mini-modules include sections where students brainstorm “Science Expectations.” They think about what good teamwork involves and how it could work better, and they produce a Science Expectations poster to display in the classroom throughout the year. Examples of Science Expectations could include “We respect each other,” “We let everyone share their ideas,” “We encourage each other,” or “Everyone helps to clean up.”

2. Team-building exercises – Prepare students for just about every situation they’ll ever encounter in their professional and personal lives!

Before getting students to embark on in-depth, full-length engineering investigations, it can be helpful to have them take part in shorter, low-stakes team-building exercises. In the Twig Science Next Gen mini-modules, we suggest various icebreaker activities, storytelling games, and classroom discussions. These get students engaging in civil discourse, deliberating, debating, building consensus, compromising, communicating effectively, and giving presentations. These are incredibly valuable skills that not only prepare students for the longform storyline investigations that make up the main Twig Science Next Gen modules—they prepare them for just about every situation they’ll ever encounter in their professional and personal lives!

3. Reflection points – Students review and discuss their work as a form of self-assessment.

Involving students every step of the way in thinking about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and how they could do it better helps to embed the skills that they are developing. We made sure to put frequent reflection points in Twig Science Next Gen to give students a chance to discuss how teams are working together and whether everyone is getting their chance to take part. The important thing about reflection is that it’s a form of self-assessment. You’re not grading the students, and there are no correct or incorrect responses. The purpose of the discussion is for students to think about the investigation processes and to share and reflect on different ideas. What have they enjoyed? What was easy and what was challenging? How do their experiences in their teams connect to experiences outside the classroom?

4. Real-world connections –  Get students acting out behaviors that they’ll be able to use again and again throughout their lives.

A big part of Twig Science Next Gen’s collaborative investigations is how they connect to the way real-life scientists and engineers work in teams. Giving students this real-world connection adds meaning and purpose to what they’re doing. As they take on the roles of scientists and engineers, they’re acting out behaviors that they’ll be able to use again and again throughout their lives. They’ll understand that scientists, too, have team roles. They listen to each other. They’re respectful when they disagree. They build on each other’s ideas. Students will associate these attitudes with success as they act them out and become used to recognizing them in the world around them.

5. Language routines – Communication is a fundamental component of teamwork.

How students use language is an important indicator of their levels of understanding and respect. Communication is a fundamental component of teamwork, which involves a careful balance of being able to express ideas and opinions and also listen to those of others. It’s directly connected to our social and emotional development, because language is our primary method of expressing what we feel about ourselves and each other and describing what we agree and disagree about. Twig Science Next Gen includes a number of repeated language routines (e.g. Turn and Talk, Collect and Display) that structure the way students use language in investigations. They’re encouraged to use the words they feel comfortable using—without the need for formal “perfection”—while given the support to connect these to scientific vocabulary when they’re ready. The language routines support English Learners—and other students who lack confidence—to take part fully in discussions. Communicating in an inclusive, encouraging, understanding environment leads to confidence, and confident communication increases students’ ability to work well as team members in the classroom and as successful and respectful citizens.

To find out how you can implement Twig Science Next Gen in your school or district, get in touch today.