Northern Rockhopper Penguin shakes itself after swimming.

8 Feel-Good Stories to Brighten Up Your Day

Northern Rockhopper Penguin shakes itself after swimming.

The world can feel a bit gloomy at the moment, so we would like to spread some positivity with some feel-good stories from around the world. Let’s jump right in…

Less pollution

With most of the world in lockdown, travel has reduced drastically and many factories have shut, and this has had a positive impact on air pollution! China, the US, the UK, and many other countries are reporting pollution levels that are significantly lower than normal, and experts think that this could actually save thousands of lives, as people aren’t as exposed to air pollution. (1) 

Penguins on a field trip

Many zoos and aquariums around the world are now empty of guests. In Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, the penguins have been enjoying the empty zoo by going on field trips, visiting other animals in the Aquarium, such as beluga whales and tropical fishes. (2) To find out more about this story, make sure to check out this week’s Twig Science Reporter episode! And follow @shedd_aquarium on Instagram to see where the penguins go next…

Animal live streams

Speaking of animals… some zoos and aquariums around the world are hosting live streams so that you can discover giant pandas, penguins, giraffes, and much more—all from the comfort of your home! Check out Georgia Aquarium, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Houston Zoo, and Melbourne Zoo

Online museums and art galleries

It’s not only zoos that are going online. 2,500 museums and galleries worldwide have partnered with Google Arts and Culture to make their collections available online, through virtual tours and displays! Why not wander through Musée D’Orsay in Paris or The Museum of Modern Art in New York, from your sofa? 

Neighborhood dino parade

Even if you’re stuck at home for most of the day and have to keep six feet away from people when outside, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun! Last week, in a neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, people put on inflatable T-Rex costumes to host a dinosaur parade—with the aim to raise peoples’ spirits. Watch the video here

Socialising from balconies

Both Spain and Italy are currently on lockdown, but despite having to stay indoors, people have found ways to connect with their neighbors! In Seville, Spain, a fitness instructor recently hosted a workout from a rooftop, and in many towns in Italy, people have been singing and playing music from their balconies

Window rainbows

Around the world, children have been drawing rainbows and putting them in their windows as a way of connecting with each other. While out on walks or trips to the grocery store, children can go “rainbow spotting” to see how many rainbows they can spot! (3)

Wild goats on the loose

In a town in Wales, in the United Kingdom, over a dozen mountain goats were seen roaming the empty streets on March 31. With most of the 15,000 people who live in Llandudno staying inside due to the coronavirus lockdown, the goats had the town mostly to themselves. They were seen sunbathing, munching on hedges, and visiting peoples’ gardens! (4)

We hope these stories have put a smile on your face and made you feel a bit more positive! 

And don’t forget—we are currently offering thousands of learning resources for free, including grade-specific packets for independent study. Find out more here!


Coronavirus: Updates from Imperial College London

Coronavirus: Updates from Imperial College London

A digital image showing a microscopic rendering of the coronavirus.

Scientists at Imperial College London—one of the world’s leading universities and partner with Twig Education—are racing to develop a vaccine for coronavirus.

Imperial is putting out regular reports on the progress, which can be found on its website:

Below, we link to some of the latest updates.

Pictures from the Imperial lab working on a COVID-19 vaccine

Dozens of Imperial scientists are racing to try to create a vaccine to put a stop to the spread of the coronavirus. They hope to get a vaccine ready for clinical trial in the summer. They recently shared photos of their work so far.

See the photos

Modeling the spread of the coronavirus

Researchers from Imperial use modeling to analyze how the coronavirus will spread based on possible different public health measures. This analysis plays a big part in influencing the policies of the UK government.

Read about modeling and public health measures

Report says public washing hands but not keeping their distance

Imperial’s COVID-19 response team have reported that while most people are following advice to wash their hands more regularly, not enough have been avoiding crowded areas and social events.

Read the report

Twig Education is offering free access to our supplemental programs during this period, including thousands of curriculum-aligned videos, learning materials, activities, and games.

Get access

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).


How to Get Girls to Love 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!

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.