Weld North Education Acquires Twig Education

Weld North Education, the largest provider of digital curriculum solutions in the US, has announced the acquisition of Twig Education, creators of high-quality science curriculum products designed to improve science literacy globally. Based in the UK, with a strong team in the US, Twig’s flagship product, Twig Science Next Gen, is a highly engaging, multimedia-rich, digital-first science program, grounded in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), with unique partnerships with Imperial College London, Stanford University, and BBC Studios.

The acquisition of Twig is an important step forward as Weld North continues to expand its digital core curriculum offerings, delivering on its mission to empower educators to drive learning breakthroughs and support each student’s unique learning journey. Founded in 2009, Twig entered the US market in 2018 with an innovative program designed to meet the NGSS, integrating visual, digital, and hands-on learning. Today, Twig has a 30% share of the elementary science market in California with plans to expand across the US. Twig CEO Catherine Cahn, based in California, will continue to manage the business.

 “Our purpose—to ignite learning breakthroughs—has never been more important as we partner with schools, districts, parents, and students to unlock the power of digital solutions to enrich the learning experience,” said Jonathan Grayer, founder and CEO of Weld North Education, “Twig’s engaging science curriculum fits perfectly with our other K–12 core offerings in math and English Language Arts—LearnZillion and StudySync—and has an exceptional reputation among educators using the program. By expanding Twig’s footprint across the country, we can inspire more students to understand the world around us and pursue STEM careers.”

Twig Science Next Gen is a phenomena-based core science program embracing the investigative, hands-on nature of NGSS, with a focus on storytelling and making science relevant for learners through a multimedia-rich product that is visually appealing. It has been adopted by major school districts, such as Irvine and Garden Grove, CA; Beaverton, OR; and Oklahoma City.

“In Weld North we have found a partner who shares our goal to improve global science literacy and understands the important role that science education plays in the development of 21st-century citizens,” said Catherine Cahn. “We are excited to introduce our products to many more classrooms across the US through Weld North’s unrivaled reach and to provide teachers the tools they need to create aha! moments for their students.”

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10 Exciting STEM Careers for 2021… 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.

Environmental Principles and Concepts (EPCs) and the NGSS

You might’ve heard about California’s Environmental Principles and Concepts (EPCs)—but what are they, actually? And how do they affect teaching the NGSS? 

The EPCs were developed in 2004 by over 100 scientists and technical experts, with the purpose of highlighting the strong link between human societies and the natural world. The EPCs consist of five overarching environmental principles and 15 supporting concepts, which are meant to influence the topics that are taught in K–12 schools. In science teaching, they are additional standards that should be covered, in addition to the NGSS standards described by the California Framework.

For Twig Science, we have taken great care to cover all of the EPCs across all grades, so that you don’t need to worry about them. You can simply teach lesson by lesson, safe in the knowledge that you will be covering all NGSS standards and all EPCs. 

Let’s break down the EPCs to see what’s going on—and take a look at some examples of how they work in the context of Twig Science.

Principle 1: People Depend on Natural Systems

The first EPC highlights that humans rely on the natural world for food and other goods and services. As a result, the health of the planet directly affects the health of human life and the future of our societies and communities. 

An example of how we implement this is in Grade 5, Module 3: H2O Response Team. Here, students become hydrologists, investigating the growing problem of water scarcity. They investigate why humans rely so heavily on freshwater and what can threaten our supply of it. Finally, they come up with a campaign to save water.  

Principle 2: People Influence Natural Systems

The life and health of wildlife, marine life, trees and plants are all affected by human behavior, especially with growing populations and increased consumption. This principle stresses that everything from politics and economics to agriculture has a noticeable effect on natural systems.

In The Red List (Grade 6, Module 3) students take on the roles of ecologists on a mission to save endangered species from extinction. They research the threats these species face and what conservationists do to protect them, before coming up with their own conservation plan. 

Principle 3: Natural Systems Change in Ways that People Benefit From and Can Influence

Natural systems depend on cycles and processes—such as the changing seasons. This principle highlights how these natural cycles are also crucial to human life, and how human activity can change them—both in harmful and in positive ways.

As an example, students examine the way that landforms change, in Save the Island (Grade 2, Module 4). They research ways that landforms change and discover how humans have come up with engineering solutions to, for example, hold back floods or slow down erosions. Using what they’ve learned, they come up with a plan to save the island of Tangier, which is at risk of disappearing because of coastal erosion. 

Principle 4: There are no Permanent or Impermeable Boundaries that Prevent Matter from Flowing Between Systems

Principle 4 emphasizes that anything created by humans can easily end up in natural systems—and vice versa. Some things, like plastic waste and oil spills can be very damaging, whereas other things may have a neutral (or sometimes even a beneficial) effect. 

To apply this, students become science journalists in Sparks Energy, Inc. (Grade 4, Module 2), and investigate the consequences of how we get energy: from coal, oil and nuclear, to renewable sources like air and wind. In teams, students carry out research, investigations and interviews, and write an exclusive article from their findings.  

Principle 5: Decisions Affecting Resources and Natural Systems are Complex and Involve Many Factors

This principle considers how politicians and other people in power must take into account social, economic, political and environmental factors when making decisions about the use of natural resources—and how these factors are changing over time. 

In Cities of the Future (Grade 6, Module 4), students become decision-makers as they design an environmentally friendly city of the future. After investigating the impact of human activities on the environment—using case studies, real-life examples, and data—they must balance the needs of a population with the protection of the natural environment, as they plan their cities. 

It is becoming increasingly obvious that human activities can have a detrimental effect on the natural world, and individuals are becoming increasingly aware of these issues, as last week’s global climate march demonstrated.

Your students are growing up in a tumultuous time. Given the right guidance, they may become future scientists, making groundbreaking discoveries and creating revolutionary inventions. Through incorporating the EPCs, Twig Science ensures that students get a thorough understanding of current issues and the chance to think of ways to create solutions.

Two Boys Dressed as Nerds Smiling with Mind Reading Helmets

10 more unusual STEM careers

What’s science without a good challenge? Lots of scientists thrive on solving challenges in the real world: finding possible solutions to world hunger, discovering cures for rare diseases, exploring the mysteries of the universe. Scientists grapple with new and exciting challenges every day. It’s what makes STEM so diverse and exciting, offering endless career opportunities that no list can quantify. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try! Following on from our post on 10 Unusual STEM Careers, we thought we’d make a list of another ten. Here we go:


Fragrance chemist

Fragrance chemists are scientists who specialise in the study of odour molecules and how these molecules can be used to make scents and perfumes. Their jobs include testing and developing a fragrance for perfumes, soaps, lotions and other toiletries. You do need more than just a nose for the job through – most fragrance chemists need a qualification in chemistry and/or biochemistry, and often have high-level degrees, such as a Master’s or PhD.



Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster might be the stuff of legend, but cryptozoologists are very real. These people study to try to detect the presence of cryptids – animals that are considered to be long extinct or maybe even mythical. Before you scoff, we’ll have you know that cryptozoology has contributed to discovering some very valuable species – animals such as giant squids, Komodo dragons and okapi were all once considered creatures of legend but have since been proven to exist. To be a cryptozoologist, you need a degree in zoology or biology and the willingness to travel long distances to remote locations in pursuit of clues. The good news is that if you do discover a previously unknown species, you can name it whatever you like!


Cybersecurity analyst

If the latest WannaCrypt ransomware attack has taught us anything, it’s the importance of cybersecurity analysts – information security professionals who are in charge of monitoring and safeguarding computer networks, sensitive information and proprietary data from hackers and malware. To be a cybersecurity analyst requires a degree in computer science, information technology or another computer technology-related field.



Aquarists are professionals who care and maintain marine life in aquariums and marine conservation centres. They can specialise in a number of different areas, including safely breeding creatures in captivity, creating and maintaining aquatic exhibits and shows, training sea life, and educating the public about sea life. To work as an aquarist, you need a degree in either marine biology or zoology and a compulsory scuba diving qualification, as much of the job involves underwater activities. That alone makes the job fun!



If studying a volcano doesn’t sound exciting enough, just think of all the travel to exotic places or the importance of saving lives by predicting volcanic eruptions. Volcanologists are specialised geologists who study the patterns of volcanoes. But how can you study something that’s spewing lava, ash and poisonous gas? Well, you certainly don’t climb inside it. Volcanologists study a variety of ash and rock samples, simulate controlled explosions that mimic volcanic activity, and even listen to the gurgles of a volcano. Most volcanologists are geologists with an extensive knowledge of geophysics and geochemistry, alongside a qualification in either oceanography (most volcanoes are formed in the ocean) or meteorology.

Environmental specialist

Environmental specialists collect and study samples of soil and water to determine the level and quantity of pollutants present in the samples. Most environmental specialists need degrees in environmental science, biology or chemistry. It’s an environmental specialist’s job to determine the effects of pollutants on animal, plant and human life. What’s more is that Forbes magazine rated environmental specialists as being in one of the best-paid green jobs.

Snake milker

First things first – yes, it is a real job. But no – snakes do not produce milk. This line of work does require a STEM qualification, no small amount of skill and an awful lot of courage, though, as what these people are doing is extracting the snake’s venom. Snake milkers extract venom from the fangs of live, highly poisonous snakes such as rattlesnakes, asps, copperheads and pythons. Snake venom is highly medicinal and can be used to create antidotes for snake bite poisoning, but also for treating Alzheimer’s disease, clotting disorders and even cancer. Naturally, a job this dangerous requires a lot of skill and in-depth knowledge on how to keep snakes, handle them safely, and extract their venom. Most snake milkers get extensive training and almost all have degrees in herpetology or biology. It’s a dangerous career, but it’s also incredibly important.


Nuclear engineer

As the name suggests, nuclear engineers design, operate and maintain nuclear reactors and plants. They also implement procedures that allow the safe disposal of nuclear waste and ensure that every nuclear plant has safety measures in place in case of a leak. All in all, it’s a highly dangerous and important job and one that requires degrees in advanced mathematics and engineering.


Urban grower

With the going-green movement gathering momentum, more and more green jobs are becoming available. Green jobs focus on finding sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives, like growing local produce within cities – urban growers, for example, grow organic fruits and vegetables on rooftop gardens that can be supplied to local communities and restaurants. Not only does this encourage more people to eat healthily, but it also reduces burning fossil fuels for the transportation of goods. In addition to this, urban rooftop gardens also lend some much-needed green to cities, insulate buildings and improve air quality. While it’s not necessary to have a qualification in ecological studies, biology or botany is essential to have a working knowledge of both. Planning and maintaining a rooftop garden needs a good understanding of gardening, conservation methods and ecology. The perks, of course, are many: you’re growing your own food, conserving nature and the environment, giving back to the community, and actually making a difference.

Cosmetic scientist

Ever wondered who’s behind all those shampoos, creams and makeup products that hit the beauty shelves? Cosmetic scientists are the people who make sure that the products we use not only smell and feel good, but are also safe for us to use. Some might work on the formulation of new cosmetics, while others might focus on improving the performance of the current product. If you work with a smaller company, you would often see a product right through from its formulation to its launch. So, what do you need to be a cosmetic scientist? A creative flair over a strong background in chemistry and some serious laboratory skills. After all, all beauty products are products of good chemistry.

Coding: from telepathy to living life on the edge

Generally, telepathy, automated cars and the tricorder are considered to be works of science fiction. Yet even as you read this, all three concepts are being set up for trials in the real world. Facebook is currently recruiting coders to work alongside neuroscientists on various projects at Building 8, a lab unit that intends to develop software allowing us to control computers with our brains. The UK has just pledged £100 million in a bid to be the first country in developing driverless cars, and Oxbotica – the company building the software to operate these cars – has already set up test drives to start in 2019. The tricorder – a Star Trek device held over the body to give an instant diagnosis of any illness – is now a thing of reality. Two firms, in the US and Taiwan, are competing to develop such a product, with clinical trials already taking place for both the entrants.


The image of the coder as a socially awkward loner isn’t something that anyone would associate with either of these projects. And yet coding is integral for the success of all three – not to mention many thousands more projects currently being trialled and developed. And as if working on exciting, cutting-edge material wasn’t enough, coders are now the popular kids on the block, working flexible hours and enjoying substantial pay packages. The divergence of technology into new uncharted territories means that coders are going to be in high demand for a while, too.


So, what is coding? Simply put, it’s linguistic skill in areas of computing language and since code is the building block for the vast majority of technologies out there, from phones to cars to social media, coding is fast becoming an essential skill in the job market.


A career in coding is a ticket past the pearly gates of technical heaven. When Facebook advertised for a brain-computer interface engineer to work on building computers to translate humans’ “silent speech”, the job responsibilities included the use of computers and artificial intelligence to work with neuroimaging and electrophysiological data. In its recent developer conference in San Jose, the company also declared plans to build software allowing people to read each other’s thoughts through touch alone, using pressure points on the skin to relay information. In order to develop this technology, Facebook needs a number of software engineers, and particularly coders, to work with neuroscientists.


Elsewhere in the UK, driverless cars are getting ready to be tested on the roads. But who drives a driverless car? A coder does – or, to be specific, the software written by that coder does. And let’s not forget the tricorder from Star Trek. Coders’ jobs can also involve an element of risk, when they write programs to safeguard sensitive information on home security or the economy against cyber attacks. Ethical hacking, or white hat hacking, is a job where coders are hired by organisations such as the government, social media platforms, or financial institutions to test their security by attempting to hack their firewalls.


Current enrollment numbers suggest a serious skills shortage in this industry. Cybersecurity employs about 58,000 experts, but there have been warnings from the Committee of Public Accounts that hiring the right people is somewhat of a challenge. What’s more worrying is that this shortage could also seriously undermine national cybersecurity. In the UK, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport recently invested £20 million in a pilot program designed to train schoolchildren in cybersecurity with an aim to recruit them.


When it comes to being seen as a national hero, you know this is an age where coders are seriously cool.

10 ways in which the best teachers use technology in the classroom

Teachers are constantly pushed towards new pedagogies in order to improve student performance. For most teachers, who are already overburdened and overworked, maneuvering the jungle of new buzzwords and learning theories can be an exhausting task.


Integrating technology into your teaching, however, isn’t so hard. In fact, research shows that teachers who use ICT to deliver lessons in the classroom work up to 4.6 hours fewer than those who don’t. If used efficiently, a film can save teachers several hours in lesson planning, while simultaneously relieving students of cognitive overload.


Here are 10 ways in which the best teachers use tech in the classroom:


1. Innovate or Compliment

Educational videos can be used to complement traditional teaching in the classroom or assigned as homework to reinforce classroom lessons. Twig videos (for example) are tailored to school curriculums across the world; you can find the topic you want to teach in a matter of seconds.


2. Flip the classroom

If you’re nervous about teaching a class or just plain tired, try flipping the classroom. Assign an educational video as homework for the students to view at home. Teachers can then use this assignment to open up a discussion in the classroom, facilitating student interaction. Flipping the classroom encourages students to understand and process knowledge independently, while allowing each student to learn at his or her own pace by pausing, rewinding, forwarding and replaying the video as many times as they like.


3. Experiment

Science teachers know only too well the complications of conducting science experiments. Not only is it a task to gather a large group of students in a lab to demonstrate a precipitate reaction or the dissection of a cow’s lung, but there is also the concern that a student might break a test tube or pass out at the smell of blood.

Video allows teachers to circumvent these problems by choosing to view videos of experiments that are too complicated or even impossible to conduct in a lab. Students benefit from watching the experiments being conducted without missing out on any of the practical knowledge.


4. Distance learning

Teachers can use video conferencing to teach distance learning programs. Or they can really go the distance, and contact other teachers around the globe to do a collaborative classroom project.


5. Digital storytelling

Digital storytelling combines traditional storytelling techniques with digital multimedia such as images, audio and video. Teachers can also use ready-made digital films or stories by companies like Twig as anticipatory sets to engage students at the beginning of the class. Research proves that the use of anticipatory sets at the beginning of a lesson helps engage students in the learning process, while also linking existing knowledge and new material.


6. Class trip!

School budget cuts giving the class trip the axe again? You can still take your students on a virtual class trip. Video allows educators to bring the real world into the four walls of their classroom. Teachers can take their class on impossible class trips through videos, whether to the Sahara desert to learn adaptation of the cactus, or to deepest outer space to see a nebula.


7. Skype call an expert

Teachers can use video conferencing to request programs from “content experts”.

This way, students get to learn something from an expert in the field; this also breaks up the routine of normal classroom hours. For example, New Market Elementary teachers participated in a video conference with Adora Svitak called “Personal Narrative Writing: Acing Your State Writing Assessment & Beyond” in order to help their students with their writing skills.


8. Game time

The myths around video games are now changing. More and more research shows how games, when implemented properly, are effective in helping children develop problem solving, spatial awareness and reasoning skills, along with good reflexes and lateral thinking. A lot of game developers are now developing educational games like the Angry Birds games to help young children think creatively. So go on – be everyone’s favourite teacher and assign a videogame as class activity or homework. They’ll love you for it.


9. Group activity

Let’s face it: some days, school is just hard for both teachers and students. These are the days when teachers can play a video and get the class to discuss what they saw afterwards. This sort of exercise is great for developing reasoning and thinking skills. It also helps students interact with each other, discuss and share ideas, and have fun doing it.


10. Fun

Video is an easy way to incorporate some fun into the learning process. It allows teachers to facilitate student participation in a particularly difficult or unresponsive class. Watching an educational video can also be a good icebreaker at the start of term, or even just to break the traditional teaching routine every so often. It makes learning fun and enjoyable for the students and, by extension, makes teaching fun and simpler for teachers.