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5 Social-Emotional Strategies for 3-D Science

The skills we want to help young students develop don’t just include those directly connected to the subjects being taught. 3-D science standards 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-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.

Anchor Phenomena and Investigative Phenomena in Twig Science Next Gen

In Twig Science Next Gen, every module has a storyline that sets its module anchor phenomenon in a grade-appropriate context. The storyline is introduced near the start of each module through a module trailer video. This video is not a replacement for complex observable events that students must investigate to solve or explain, but an engagement tool to get students excited about the challenges and phenomena they are about to explore.

Every module’s anchor phenomenon is scaffolded through a sequence of smaller investigative phenomena and problems, known as Driving Questions in Twig Science Next Gen.

In every grade and every module of Twig Science, observing and explaining phenomena and designing solutions provide the purpose and opportunity for students to engage and drive their own learning.

Grade 4, Module 3: Time-Traveling Tour Guides

For example in Grade 4, Module 3, students make sense of the module anchor phenomenon: How have weathering and erosion sculpted some of Earth’s most interesting landscapes?

As per our instructional design, the investigation of this anchor phenomenon is resolved over several weeks of instruction. The students’ first exposure to it is carried out at local level in the module’s first lesson, when students take part in an outdoor investigation in their schoolyard, recording their observations for changes that might have occurred over time.  Afterward, in a class discussion, they connect their findings to the first investigative phenomenon (Driving Question):  What makes landscapes change over time?  They begin to understand how landscapes change, and they identify water, wind, and ice as possible agents of those changes.

In Lesson 4, the scale of what they’ve seen and discussed changes both in terms of size and time as they explore geological features of the Grand Canyon.  Students observe 360-degree photographs of the Canyon. They generate wonderful questions about this phenomenon.   The module trailer video is shown in Lesson 4, introducing the storyline in which students take on the role of tour guides and explain what they learn about the Grand Canyon to visiting tourists.  

Students continue their investigation to explain the geological features of the Grand Canyon in subsequent Driving Questions.  

In Driving Question 2 (Why do we see different rock layers in the Grand Canyon?), students make physical models of layers of rock at the Grand Canyon containing different fossils within different layers.  Students come to understand that rock layers represent different periods of geological time and that layers further up the canyon are more recent.  They figure out that fossils help us understand what landscapes used to be like. Students begin to connect the component parts of a landscape and the evidence available to them as to how it was formed.

In Driving Question 3 (How did the Colorado River sculpt the Grand Canyon?), students make stream tray models to observe the phenomenon of how the movement of water causes erosion, connecting it to nature by looking at satellite photos. They figure out that water can change the land (including carving river channels) by modeling the water flow of a river in a stream tray and making observations. They figure out that there are variables (stream flow, steepness of slope) that affect the rate of erosion. Students have now investigated one of the key agents of erosion that sculpted the Grand Canyon. 

In Driving Question 4 (What other amazing landscapes have been sculpted by weathering and erosion?), students extend their investigations of landscape change beyond the Grand Canyon.  They explore the investigative phenomena How do wind and ice change the land? They use physical models to help investigate natural phenomena such as Yosemite Valley and connect their findings to real-world examples. They figure out that the movement of ice and the wind can dramatically change landscapes, finding evidence for this in the models they create: observing changes in clay when a block of ice is moved over it and in sand when blown by a fan.

In exploring these anchor and investigative phenomena in Time-Traveling Tour Guides, students revisit the topic of landforms, explored in Grade 2 in Twig Science Next Gen, and investigate erosion and weathering. They also look ahead to the H2O Response Team module in Grade 5, in which they build on their Grade 4 ideas about how water and wind affect Earth.


Want to find out more about Twig Science Next Gen? Contact us today.

Three-Dimensional Performance and Assessment in Twig Science for Grades 6–8

Developed in partnership with Stanford University’s SCALE team, the Twig Science Next Gen assessment system for Grades 6–8 evaluates student attainment of 3-D Performance Expectations.

The assessment strategies measure students’ knowledge and practical skills. They consist of performance tasks—not rote memorization—and include a rich variety of measures, including written assignments, collaborative engineering challenges, and oral presentations. There are many informal ways to quickly evaluate student progress built in throughout each module, and teachers can refer to a Twig Journal with example answers to help assess student work.

Pre-Exploration
(Diagnostic Pre-Assessement)

In the first session of a module, students complete a Pre-Exploration (Pre-Assessment). The multiple choice questions establish a baseline of understanding from which to measure student growth or learning. The reasoning questions provide valuable information about students’ prior knowledge and abilities.

Formative Assessment

Ongoing Formative Assessments are woven into each lesson, offering quick ways to gauge student understanding and allowing teachers to tailor their instruction accordingly. Formative Assessments include class discussions, constructed responses (written and drawn), hands-on activities, self and peer assessment, and teacher observations.

Summative Performance Tasks

Summative performance tasks are rich and highly engaging activities designed to motivate students to demonstrate their mastery of the expected grade-level proficiency for the Performance Expectations. Leveled rubrics are provided to support teachers to grade the attainment levels of students of all abilities (Emerging, Developing, Proficient, and Advanced), and student versions of the rubrics give students a clear understanding of what success looks like.

Summative Benchmark Assessments

Benchmark Assessments assess students’ ability to apply the knowledge and skills gained throughout the module to new contexts. This gives students exposure to the types of assessments they’ll face in the state test, both stand-alone questions and performance tasks. Leveled rubrics support easy grading, with sample student answers provided in the form of “Look Fors.” Student versions of these rubrics are available without “Look Fors.”

Assessment Platform

Comprehensive tools for planning, assigning, grading, and analyzing student assessments, with rubric-based scoring and reporting.


Want to find out more about Twig Science Next Gen? Contact us today.

Three-Dimensional Performance and Assessment in Twig Science Next Gen

Developed in partnership with Stanford University’s SCALE team, the Twig Science Next Gen assessment system for Grades 6–8 evaluates student attainment of 3-D Performance Expectations.

The assessment strategies measure students’ knowledge and practical skills. They consist of performance tasks—not rote memorization—and include a rich variety of measures, including written assignments, collaborative engineering challenges, and oral presentations. There are many informal ways to quickly evaluate student progress built in throughout each module, and teachers can refer to a Twig Journal with example answers to help assess student work.

Pre-Exploration
(Diagnostic Pre-Assessement)

In the first session of a module, students complete a Pre-Exploration (Pre-Assessment). The multiple choice questions establish a baseline of understanding from which to measure student growth or learning. The reasoning questions provide valuable information about students’ prior knowledge and abilities.

Formative Assessment

Ongoing Formative Assessments are woven into each lesson, offering quick ways to gauge student understanding and allowing teachers to tailor their instruction accordingly. Formative Assessments include class discussions, constructed responses (written and drawn), hands-on activities, self and peer assessment, and teacher observations.

Summative Performance Tasks

Summative performance tasks are rich and highly engaging activities designed to motivate students to demonstrate their mastery of the expected grade-level proficiency for the Performance Expectations. Leveled rubrics are provided to support teachers to grade the attainment levels of students of all abilities (Emerging, Developing, Proficient, and Advanced), and student versions of the rubrics give students a clear understanding of what success looks like.

Summative Benchmark Assessments

Benchmark Assessments assess students’ ability to apply the knowledge and skills gained throughout the module to new contexts. This gives students exposure to the types of assessments they’ll face in the state test, both stand-alone questions and performance tasks. Leveled rubrics support easy grading, with sample student answers provided in the form of “Look Fors.” Student versions of these rubrics are available without “Look Fors.”

Assessment Platform

Comprehensive tools for planning, assigning, grading, and analyzing student assessments, with rubric-based scoring and reporting.


Want to find out more about Twig Science Next Gen? Contact us today.

Marking Black History Month: Scientists’ Stories

As part of our celebration of Black History Month, Twig Education is running a series of articles about some of the many historical Black scientists who have made their mark with their inspiring and important contributions to science history.

Click on the links to read each of of our Black History Month scientists’ stories.


Alice Ball

Born: 1892
Died: 1916

Chemist who invented the “Ball Method,” the most effective method of treating leprosy in the early 20th century.

Read more…


Mae Jemison

Born: 1956

Engineer, physician, and former astronaut, who became the first Black woman to go to space.

Read more…


George Washington Carver

Born: 1864?
Died: 1943

Agriculturist who developed innovative crop system and invented 300 new ways to use peanuts.

Read more…


Read more about Twig Education’s commitment to access and equity for all students in our white paper, “A Mission to Increase Equity and Inclusion in STEM Education.”

George Washington Carver | Black History Month

George Washington Carver was an African-American scientist, famous for his development of new inventions based on agricultural products, including several innovative uses for the common peanut.  

Carver was born into slavery around 1861 (indeed, his surname comes from the slave owner Moses Carver). He was kidnapped along with his mother, Mary, when he was just one week old. Baby George was retrieved, but his mother would never be seen again. With the abolition of slavery in 1865, George ceased to be a slave when he was about 4 years old. However, he remained on his former owner’s plantation until he was 10 or 12 years old. Moses Carver and his wife taught George to read and write, and life on the plantation left George with a keen interest in plants and animals. 

Despite the abolition of slavery, educational opportunities for African-Americans were limited. George Washington Carver in effect educated himself while working at a number of jobs, including household worker, cook, laundry worker, and farm laborer. Later on, in his late 20s, he obtained the equivalent of a high school education while working on a farm in Kansas. 

Newly qualified, Carver sought to take his studies further, but he was refused admission to a Kansas college because of his race. He did manage to enroll at Simpson College in Iowa, where he studied piano and art. His skillful drawings of the natural world eventually led to him transferring to Iowa State Agricultural College, the first Black student to attend there. Carver proved to be a brilliant student, and he achieved a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science in 1894 and a master’s in 1896. It was at Iowa State that Carver began the botanical research that would cement his reputation as a significant scientist. 

After graduating, Carver taught and carried out research at the Tuskegee Institute, a historically Black university in Alabama. Eventually, he became head of the agricultural department, which achieved national prominence for its research into methods of crop rotation and diversification of crop use, which helped to make the livelihoods of many people—including many who like Carver had once been enslaved—more secure. 

Carver encouraged the education of African-American students at Tuskegee, directly improving the economic stability of Black people in the area. He also introduced a mobile classroom that brought lessons to farm workers.

As part of his work, Carver discovered that the soils in Alabama were particularly suited to growing peanuts. However, when farmers began cultivating peanuts, they discovered that there wasn’t enough demand for them to make it commercially viable. In response, Carver invented a huge number of alternate uses for them, about 300 in total, including using peanuts to make milk, flour, ink, dyes, plastics, wood stains, soap, linoleum, medicinal oils, and cosmetics.

These and other scientific innovations he discovered led to George Washington Carver becoming one of the most prominent scientists, and one of the most famous African Americans, of his era. In fact, President Roosevelt even sought Carver’s advice on agricultural issues in the United States.

Carver used his celebrity status to promote science and education for African Americans, writing for a newspaper and touring the nation to speak about agricultural innovation and the opportunities Tuskegee Institute provided to Black people.