Fighting the Coronavirus

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic. (1) While the virus originated in China, the spread of the virus is slowing down there, and there are now more cases in the rest of the world than in China. The numbers of cases and deaths continue to rise in the US and Europe (with Italy worst hit). Other countries that have been hit badly are Iran and South Korea.

Many countries are now putting drastic measures in place to fight the virus. Italy has banned large events and unnecessary travel, (2) and larger events around the world are being cancelled or postponed.

These numbers might seem scary, but scientists around the world are fighting the virus. Among those leading the research are scientists at Twig Education partners Imperial College London, who have been researching how the virus spreads and how it affects the human body while also developing a vaccine against it. 

Let’s break down what we know so far. 

How dangerous is the virus?

The virus is one of seven in the coronavirus family, and its scientific name is Covid-19. Most coronaviruses cause only common cold-like symptoms while some are more dangerous, like the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) that caused thousands of deaths in 2002. (3)

The mortality rate is still uncertain. On March 3, the World Health Organization reported that 3.5% of those infected had died worldwide. (4) However, we still don’t know exactly how many people have been infected, with less serious cases potentially going unnoticed. Professor Wendy Barclay at the Imperial College London Department of Infectious Disease says that the mortality rate is likely to go down since the cases that are discovered first are always the more serious ones, with a higher mortality risk. (5)

Who is more likely to get sick? 

The vast majority of deaths will be those who already have weak immune systems, such as the elderly or sickly, and children under the age of two. (6) Older children and adults who are healthy and have a working immune system are less likely to get infected—and if they do, they have a very high chance of recovering. 

How does it spread? 

According to Wendy Barclay, Covid-19 is likely an airborne virus, just like around 50% of the common colds that infect humans. It’s not yet clear if the virus can spread in the early phase of infection, before a person shows symptoms, and this is something that scientists are keen to find out. While Sars had a higher mortality rate (10%) than Covid-19, we were able to control it quickly because only people who were obviously sick could pass on the virus. (7)

Finding a cure

Scientists at Imperial, spearheaded by Professor Robin Shattock, have been working hard over the last months to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus. This will soon be tested on animals and could be ready for human trials as early as the summer of 2020. (8) In the meantime, it’s best to know the symptoms and protect yourself and others. 

Know the symptoms 

Covid-19 usually starts with a fever and a dry cough, followed by shortness of breath. It rarely causes sneezing or a runny nose. (9) If you have these symptoms, it’s probably worth getting tested—especially if you have recently traveled abroad. According to the World Health Organization, the time between infection and showing symptoms is 14 days, but some scientists say it could be as much as 24 days. (10)

Protecting yourself and others

There are some easy things you can do to avoid getting infected and to stop the virus spreading (this goes for all infectious diseases!):

  • Wash your hands regularly using soap.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, face, and mouth, as this can cause viruses and bacteria from your hands to enter your body. 
  • Sneeze and cough into a tissue or your elbow, not directly into your hands—and try to wash your hands after.
  • Avoid standing too close to people sneezing or coughing, as water droplets can travel as far as one meter! 

Until a vaccine becomes available, we recommend you make sure to take precautions, watch out for symptoms, and avoid traveling to countries where there are high numbers of cases (such as China and Italy).


Twig Secondary: Award-winning STEM videos for your secondary students

We know that many teachers spend a lot of time sourcing appropriate STEM videos to use in the classroom—valuable time that could be spent on other tasks. That’s why our goal is to provide teachers of all grade levels with standards-aligned, age-appropriate, and engaging video content and lesson materials. 

Twig Secondary is our award-winning online resource for ages 11–16, containing thousands of STEM videos, activities, and supportive learning materials. Twig Secondary videos are perfect for making your science lessons more exciting, while allowing you to connect STEM topics to the real world. Let’s find out more:

High-quality videos

Twig Secondary videos use high-quality footage from reputed sources such as NASA and the BBC, and are edited by our experienced in-house production team. There are four types of Twig Secondary videos:

  • Curriculum videos cover key learning points from international curricula.
  • Context videos ground scientific concepts in real-world phenomena.
  • Science glossary videos act as a visual glossary of science terminology.
  • Experiment videos take students through hands-on experiments, from set-up to analysis.

These videos can be peppered throughout your lesson plans to improve engagement, or can be assigned to your students for them to watch in their own time.

View by standard or subject

You can explore videos either through our Standards view tool to find the right videos and learning materials for your lesson, or using the Twig Secondary Mindmap, which is organized into subjects, modules and topics. The unique design of the Mindmap makes it a great tool for showing your students the depth and breadth of a subject, and to illustrate how topics relate to one another. 

Teacher support and learning materials

Every video comes with extension activities, worksheets, diagrams, classroom images, multiple choice quizzes, key learning points, and review sheets. These support materials can be used together to form a full lesson, or you can cherry-pick what you need and add to your existing lesson plan. 

Student assignments

The Twig Secondary assignment feature allows you to save valuable teaching time. You can easily assign films and quizzes for your students to watch and complete before attending their lesson, saving valuable face-to-face time for discussion and extension activities. This function is especially helpful in a distance learning environment when teaching time is even more precious. 

Multilingual support

Twig Secondary videos all come with voiceovers and captions in several languages, including Standard and Simplified English, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Portuguese, and Spanish, allowing you to support your bilingual students and your English learners. 

Twig Newsdesk

The Newsdesk is updated regularly with articles about current science events, and means that you can connect your students’ learning to topical news stories from the world of science.

Want a taster? Watch some example videos now:

Head over to Twig Secondary to request a free trial now!

How to Get Girls to Love Science | Twig Science

There’s a common misconception that girls aren’t as interested (or as talented) in science and math as boys are—and sadly, this misconception affects the number of women working in STEM careers. Only 28% of workers in science and engineering in the US are women. This difference is even larger in the sciences that require a lot of math: in physical sciences, computer science and engineering, only 25–30% of junior workers and 7–15% of senior workers are female. 

This all starts in school. While girls perform just as well as boys, and often better, in mathematics and science in K–12 (with the exception of computer science and engineering), they are less likely to study science at college. 

The only science field where women receive half of the degrees is biological sciences. Women are underrepresented in computer sciences (18%), engineering (20%), physical sciences (39%), and mathematics (43%). The problem is even greater among minority women, who make up only 12.6% of those who have degrees in science and engineering.

Why is this important?

STEM careers, and especially those in engineering, math, and technology, are high-value jobs that are becoming more and more sought-after. Not only should women have the same opportunities to work in well-paid jobs, but the world also needs as many people as possible interested in these subjects in order to meet employment demands. 

Many women have done outstanding things in STEM throughout history. For example, Nettie Stevens (1861–1912) discovered the X and Y chromosomes,  Lisa Meitner (1878–1968) helped discover nuclear fission (the basis of nuclear power) together with Otto Hahn, and Katherine Johnson (1918–present) was responsible for calculations that were crucial to sending the first American (Alan Shepard) into space. And that’s just to mention a few! 

So how do you encourage girls to keep studying STEM subjects?

It all starts in the classroom. A recent study of young European women found that more than half (57%) said they would’ve been more likely to pursue a STEM career if their teacher had encouraged them. So here are three simple things you can do to encourage your students…

  1. Make an effort to involve girls in the classroom

Demonstrate that you believe in your students by making an extra effort to address the girls in your class when asking questions, or by inviting them to extra-curricular activities that are STEM-related. The belief that girls aren’t as good as boys at STEM subjects still exists, even though it’s just not true. 

By involving girls in the classroom, you show them that they are just as talented as the boys and that you believe in them. This will give your students the confidence to consider all sorts of careers—rather than questioning whether they are clever enough! 

2. Make science class more creative

Many girls decide to go into arts and humanities because they see those careers as more creative. However, research indicates that young people in STEM careers are actually more likely to find their jobs creative than those in arts and humanities!

STEM jobs can be really creative, so it’s important to show that in the classroom. Take the opportunity to combine arts and science by involving your class in creative projects, such as designing their own playgrounds, creating shadow puppets, or producing their own guidebook to the night sky! 

3. Expose girls to STEM careers 

An important part of making a decision on what to study or what career to pursue is simply knowing what careers are actually available. So start by showing your students just how many different careers there are out there—as we wrote in a recent blog post, there are new STEM opportunities being created all the time.

It’s also important to expose girls to women who work in STEM—that way, they are more likely to be able to see themselves in the same role. This was something we took very seriously when developing Twig Science. We made sure that students were exposed to a wide range of different STEM careers, such as conservationists, earthquake engineers, and hydrologists—some of these are roles that students get to try out during investigations, and others are roles they learn about through interviews and case studies with real STEM workers. 

So there you go—three easy steps toward encouraging girls to pursue STEM careers. Never underestimate the difference an encouraging teacher and a fun science class can make!

Master the NGSS with Twig Science

At Twig Education we share the NGSS vision of “All students, all standards.” We’re committed to providing experiences and opportunities to inspire each and every student.

We’re also aware that teachers and administrators face increasing challenges in terms of time, tools, and background knowledge. Twig Science provides a range of dedicated flexible professional learning options, including webinars on a range of topics.

Below, you’ll find a few webinars to begin your journey toward mastering the NGSS:

Scaffolding and Differentiation in Twig Science Nevada

Twig Science Nevada provides EL, SEL, and special needs 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 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 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

Special Needs 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.