Meet the Twig Coaches

Our team of Twig Coaches is made up of virtual teachers who appear in bite-sized studio-quality coaching videos. They’re all experienced teachers, who specialize in teaching science at particular grades. But who are they and what makes them tick? Let’s find out…


Carmen Gallagher is a science teacher. She has a BA in Liberal Studies and an MA in Teaching from San Diego State University. She has worked as a teacher in California for nine years. In her free time, Carmen loves to hike, camp, and backpack. She has hiked hundreds of miles all over California, including Yosemite and the Sierras!


Krystina Jackson is a STEM educator and curriculum development manager. She has a BSc from Xavier University of Louisiana and is a former Chemistry teacher. These days she works in curriculum development, and in her free time she loves playing logic games, specifically nonograms.


Harvey Bagshaw is an elementary teacher. He studied Elementary Education at UNC Charlotte, where he also obtained his Birth–K license. He’s currently teaching in North Carolina, and science is his favorite subject. Once, he spent a month teaching science in New Zealand! Harvey has two maltipoo puppies and recently rebuilt a Volkswagen convertible.


Denise Stearns lives in California and has been an elementary teacher for 11 years. With her dad in the military, she moved around a lot growing up, and has lived in Hawaii, North Carolina, and more! In school, Denise loved science and social studies, and she always knew she wanted to be a teacher.


Cameron Hall is a producer, director, and writer. He has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Medieval History and a graduate degree in Teaching. He’s a former high school teacher who now writes and presents shows for science festivals and loves combining science and storytelling. Cameron also enjoys reading and board games.


Noby Leong is a scientist and TV presenter. Strictly speaking, he’s not a Twig Coach—instead, he’s one of the faces of our hands-on Video Labs. Noby has a PhD in Chemistry and believes that food is the perfect gateway to learning about chemistry. After teaching for five years, he moved on to TV presenting. He has co-hosted two documentaries for ABC and even participated in a cooking competition called The Chef’s Line.


The lessons that Twig Coaches present are fun and fast-paced, but at the same time they’re carefully designed to fit right into your students’ full program of science learning. Twig Coach sessions aren’t bonus lessons to fill in when the teacher is not available. They hit exactly the same learning standards as teachers would be expected to cover in the classroom.

Want to preview the student version of Twig Distance Learning, including Twig Coach lessons and Video Labs? Try it now.

3 Must-Have Components of Twig Distance Learning

We’re in strange times for science learning, and many of the distance learning solutions out there are scrambling to catch up. It’s not hard to find solutions that are designed to engage students on a basic level just to get them doing something at home, but resources to help students master Performance Expectations or to prepare for state testing, for example, are another matter.

Twig Distance Learning is a product of listening to what teachers say are the key challenges they’re facing this year—and devising creative solutions that are adaptable, easy to use, and genuinely inspiring. We thought carefully about the problems teachers and students are going to face in the months to come, and we’re confident we’ve made some good choices that users are going to appreciate. There are lots of important features that help to make the Twig Distance Learning experience a tool for setting up students for long-term STEM success. Here’s a run-through of three of the standout features and benefits.

1. Synchronous/Asynchronous Distance Learning

Many of the distance learning resources available up until now were stopgap solutions. They help keep students learning something, which is important, but they’re not a replacement for what students used to get solely though in-class instruction.

Twig Science Distance Learning, however, is a high-quality, standards-based program that finally makes it possible to achieve a quality and depth of instruction equivalent to the classroom experience. Twig Distance Learning does this by combining synchronous and asynchronous learning—and, uniquely, being equally strong at both.

You no doubt know that synchronous learning is when teachers and students take part at the same time, such as when the teacher is presenting a lesson online. This is fine, and closer to the traditional classroom model, but synchronous learning needs everyone to be available at the same time, which isn’t always possible. Technical challenges can also get in the way.

Asynchronous is by nature a more flexible approach. Teachers don’t need to be virtually present when students complete lessons and work—they can assign content later that students can work through at their own pace. This feature of asynchronous learning is actually really empowering, giving all students greater freedom to guide their own progress.

The way Twig Distance Learning incorporates both synchronous and asynchronous models means you really have the best of both formats. In a synchronous session, teachers are able to walk through a Digital Twig Book live with students or present to students via a split screen. Asynchronously, teachers can assign students the same sections from their Twig Books and use feedback tools to check on students’ progress. We’ve made sure that no matter what approach is being used, teachers can switch between using Twig Distance Learning synchronously or asynchronously and the content and standards covered will blend seamlessly with what was taught before and what’s coming up next. We know it’s not going to be an either/or situation this fall. We know teachers are going to need to flip between live, online teaching, in-class situations, and assigning students independent work. Twig Distance Learning allows for exactly this flexibility in approaches. We hope this adaptability is going to bring real peace of mind to teachers, students, and parents in the year ahead.

2. Twig Coach/Video Labs

Twig Coach is the feature that really makes Twig Distance Learning the strongest asynchronous solution out there. As mentioned, Twig Distance Learning is the only program that can offer equally strong synchronous and asynchronous instructions.

Our team of Twig Coaches is made up of virtual teachers who appear in bite-sized studio-quality coaching videos. They’re all experienced teachers, who specialize in teaching science at particular grades. The lessons Twig Coaches present are designed to fit right into your students’ full program of science learning—they’re not bonus lessons to fill in when the teacher is not available. They hit exactly the same learning standards as teachers would be expected to cover in the classroom. Likewise, they’re not simply presenter-led videos that students passively watch—Twig Coaches encourage participation and engagement.

Twig Distance Learning Video Labs are another vital tool for asynchronous learning. They allow students to take part in experiments from home, which helps to support the teaching of hands-on science—a crucial part of getting students engaged in science. Video Labs are carried out by engaging presenters from different backgrounds, and all of the experiments are shot in HD from start to finish in the Twig Science studio.

While the primary use of Video Labs is as an aid to enable students to view hands-on lab work they’re unable to complete themselves, they can also be used as a refresher for work you carry out with students in a synchronous session.

Just as with the Twig Coach videos, Video Labs aren’t just random fun experiments. They’re carefully designed to teach important standards—including science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas—as stepping stones on students’ paths towards STEM success at school and, much later, in college and careers.

3. Culturally Relevant Content

Twig Distance Learning shares with the wider Twig Science program a commitment to bring the wonder of science learning to every student, no matter their background. Twig Distance Learning features immersive story-based investigations full of theater-quality videos, interactives, and imagery, and in all of it we’ve tried to be sensitive to the need to represent the realities of the diversity of student experience.

In this respect, we’ve gone way beyond what is legally and socially compliant. We want absolutely every student to get the same level of opportunity to succeed in STEM. And we firmly believe that students get excited about science careers when they understand that scientists are regular people just like them. We’ve made sure to include representation of different genders and races in our learning materials—including in our Twig Coaches and Video Labs—and the program includes examples of a wide range of STEM professionals from all backgrounds to inspire students, including interviews with real-world scientists who talk in a relatable way about what they do, how they got started, and the tools they use.


Twig Distance Learning trials are being rolled out right now—so get in touch today to apply to have your school try out the entire program.

Science Activities Using Easy-to-Find Resources

As educators, we make sure our students keep actively learning, regardless of whether they’re learning from home or in-school. 

Hands-on activities are perfect for encouraging students to really get involved. Experiments and activities allow students to think and work like scientists and engineers as they figure out problems and learn how scientific concepts actually apply to real-world situations.

To give you some inspiration, we’ve collated lots of fun science activities that can be done at home as part of a student’s remote learning activities, or in-class as a fun group project. All of these activities use items that are super easy to find, many of which you’ll probably already have lying around the house!

Just click one of the images below to get the full instructions. Happy investigating!

For more investigations and experiments, learn more about our fantastic science resources below:

US: 

Twig Science (TK/PK to Grade 6)

Rest of the world

Twig (ages 11–16)

Tigtag (ages 7–11)

Tigtag Junior (ages 4–7)

3 Ways Twig Distance Learning Makes Back-to-School Easier for Your Child

We created Twig Distance Learning to be a comprehensive, exciting program that takes on the challenges of these unprecedented times. There are lots of cool features that help to make the Twig Distance Learning a great way for kids to develop the sense of wonder and achievement that will set them up for a lifetime of STEM success. Here are just three of the ways Twig Distance Learning does this:

1. Synchronous/Asynchronous Distance Learning

Many of the distance learning resources available up until now were stopgap solutions. They help keep students learning something, which is important, but they’re no replacement for in-class instruction.

The new Twig Science Distance Learning, however, is a high-quality, standards-based program unlike anything anyone’s seen before. It finally makes it possible to achieve a quality and depth of instruction equivalent to the classroom experience.

Twig Distance Learning does this by combining synchronous and asynchronous learning. These sounds like complex terms, but really they’re quite straightforward. Synchronous learning is when teachers and students take part at the same time, such as when the teacher is presenting a lesson on Zoom. This is fine, and closer to the traditional classroom model, but synchronous learning needs everyone to be available at the same time, which isn’t always possible. Technical challenges can also get in the way.

Asynchronous is a more flexible approach. Teachers don’t need to be virtually present when students complete lessons and work—they can assign content later that students can work through at their own pace. This feature of asynchronous learning is actually really empowering, giving all students greater freedom to guide their own progress.

Twig Distance Learning incorporates both synchronous and asynchronous models, so you really have the best of both formats.

2. Twig Coaches

Twig Coaches make up a team of virtual teachers who appear in bite-sized studio-quality coaching videos. They’re all experienced teachers, who specialize in teaching science at particular grades.

The lessons Twig Coaches present are designed to fit right into your child’s full program of science learning—they’re not bonus lessons to fill in when your child’s teacher is not available. They hit exactly the same learning standards as the teacher would be expected to cover in the classroom. Likewise, they’re not simply presenter-led videos that your child passively watches—Twig Coaches encourage participation and engagement!

3. Video Labs

Twig Distance Learning Video Labs allow students to take part in experiments from home, which helps to support the teaching of hands-on science—a crucial part of getting students engaged in science.

Every Video Lab is carried out by Twig Scientist Noby, who’s an engaging scientists and media presenter. All of the experiments are shot in HD from start to finish in the Twig Science studio.

Video Labs can be used as an aid to enable students to view hands-on lab work they’re unable to complete themselves, or they can also be used as a refresher.

Just as with the Twig Coach videos, Video Labs aren’t just random fun experiments. They’re carefully designed to teach important standards as stepping stones on your child’s path to STEM success at school and, much later, college and career.

We’re rolling out trials of Twig Distance Learning right now—so get in touch with your child’s school to encourage it to apply to try out the entire program.

8 Key Distance Learning Approaches | Twig Distance Learning

Over the last few months, teachers and students have had to adapt to distance learning, which comes with a whole host of new challenges. Since most of us are unlikely to get back full-time to a normal classroom anytime soon, it’s important to find ways to make distance learning as successful as possible. 

There are several reasons why distance learning can sometimes be a challenge. One-to-one contact is important for motivation and accountability, and students are less likely to continually engage in coursework without personal contact with teachers and classmates. It’s also not as straightforward for struggling students to receive the support they need if they’re not in the same room as their teachers. 

On top of that, not all children have easy access to digital devices or a good internet connection. While teachers can’t control a student’s home environment, there are some things you can do to ensure your students stay engaged, challenged, and motivated. 

Here are our top tips for how to successfully navigate a distance learning environment.

  1. Make it fun

This one might seem obvious, but it’s arguably even more important in a distance learning classroom. Students need to feel motivated to keep coming back to virtual lessons, engage with group work, and do their independent work. Change it up every day and make use of digital resources like videos, interactive games, and hands-on activities. 

  1. Don’t lecture—prioritize conversation

Keep the explaining to a minimum and prioritize video content, investigatory projects, or independent research to ensure that students familiarize themselves with topics before coming to class. Reserve face-to-face time for conversations, feedback, and hands-on projects. 

  1. Make learning as collaborative and interactive as possible

This is trickier in a distance learning environment, but not impossible. Make use of break-out rooms (available with most video conference platforms) to encourage group work and/or discussion, assign practical projects as homework, and use interactive activities and games when suitable.  

  1. Make use of a learning management system (LMS)

Using an LMS or other application for sharing content can help immensely in a distance learning environment. For example, students can be asked to share research findings or work on group projects in shared documents. In addition, an LMS will usually allow you to easily share videos or other content with students as “assignments.” 

  1. Hold students accountable

Students who are naturally self-motivated are often more successful in a distance learning environment. With students who struggle, there are strategies you can use:

  • Prioritize group assignments over individual homework, and make use of break-out rooms during class time to give groups dedicated time to catch up. 
  • Keep parents in the loop. Of course, parents aren’t teachers, and most will have jobs that take up their time, but many will likely be keen to keep their kids accountable when it comes to doing their schoolwork. 
  1. Set clear individual goals and check learning

Look at how each student has performed recently and put together goals for them to achieve. Tailor your lesson content and assignments to meet these goals, and make sure to check students’ learning regularly. This will help motivate students to learn and means you can keep track of student needs.

  1. Don’t forget about differentiation

It can be challenging to cater to every single student in a distance learning environment, but it’s perhaps even more important. There are a few things you can do to help: 

  • Put groups of students together in different break-out rooms. Depending on the task, it may be more helpful to either put students of the same ability together, or group students in a range of different abilities. 
  • Adapt homework and feedback to student needs. Not everyone learns in the same way, and some students may need additional help in certain areas. 
  • Find learning resources that allow for differentiated learning, such as videos that come with captions/voice-overs in different language levels or different languages. 
  1. Find reliable resources

Having a reliable resource that you trust and can use for a wide range of purposes is essential for successful distance learning. Twig Distance Learning does just that. Our distance learning solution is based on our full PreK/TK–8 standards-based science program. In addition to the full Twig Science program, Twig DL features additional support:

  • Twig Coach videos are bite-sized studio quality coaching videos, presented by experienced teachers who lead students through each lesson, encouraging participation and engagement.
  • Video Labs allow students to take part in experiments from home. Students can now investigate and participate in experiments with our digital labs, created to support teaching hands on science. 

We hope that these tips will help you feel more equipped to tackle distance learning in the future. 

Teenage girl student at a high school standing among the students and looking at camera. All students wearing N95 Face masks waiting in line.

Global Approaches to School Reopenings

Teenage girl student at a high school standing among the students and looking at camera. All students wearing N95 Face masks waiting in line.

In March, the world came to a halt and schools closed for weeks, sometimes months, on end. Since then, countries have slowly started reopening schools, trying to find a new normal—but what is this new normal? Different countries have had different strategies, and the world is still figuring the best approach.

What are the pros and cons of reopening schools?

A much-cited argument for opening schools is that those under the age of 18 are less likely to catch the virus and less likely to get severely ill.(1) However, there have been cases of children under 18 falling seriously ill, even if it is rarer.(2) Naturally, many parents are wary of putting their children at risk, even with a smaller risk of illness.

But there are other aspects to the problem. For many families, not being able to send their children to school can have tough consequences: parents may not be able to work full-time, resulting in less income, and in some places, children rely on school lunches to not have to go hungry. Students also risk falling behind without adequate support. As the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) points out, schools are “critical to addressing racial and social inequity” and school closures impact differently on “diverse racial, ethnic, and vulnerable groups.”(3) As a result, schools reopening has been a priority for many countries.

Global approaches

Denmark and Norway have often been mentioned as success stories: only about a month after schools first closed, primary students were welcomed back in smaller classes with stricter rules about hygiene and social distancing. In Denmark, students were assigned to “micro-groups” of 12 students, arriving at separate times. So far, neither country has reported a spike in cases as a result of schools reopening.(4) 

The majority of countries that have started reopening schools have done so with at least some changes to hygiene rules and physical distancing. Many countries have also staggered starting and ending times.(2) Younger students have often been welcomed back first, since they are less likely to get infected. This is also beneficial to families as parents don’t have to worry about supervising their children and can go back to work. 

While some countries have gone for the physical distancing approach, some are opting for the safety of face coverings instead. Belgium, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are some of the countries where face masks are now required. Meanwhile, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Norway and Switzerland have instead reduced class sizes to allow for a 6ft distance between students.(2) There is still little evidence for which of these approaches is the most effective in a school environment. 

Do schools really play a big role in spreading the virus? 

In Israel, schools reopened at the end of May, which led to several schools becoming clusters of infection. However, this is thought to be due to much less strict social distancing and preventive measures, and higher infection rates throughout the country.(4) Israel is thought to be an exception, as most countries report no significant effect from schools reopening.

In a German study, a very small number of the 2,000 schoolchildren and teachers involved showed COVID-19 antibodies. Another study compared Finland and Sweden, two countries that have a similar demographic but tackled school closures very differently. Both countries showed a similar, very small number of cases among school-aged children. These studies both suggest that schools don’t play a significant role in spreading the virus.(2) That said, we are still at the very beginning of research around COVID-19, and until we know more, caution is advisable. 

Going forward

Some countries that successfully reopened in the spring, such as Japan, are now planning to reopen without full social distancing measures. However, facial coverings are still mandatory and stricter hygiene measures are still in place. In France, the distancing requirement has been reduced to one meter. Many countries, such as Canada, are sorting students into “bubbles,” allowing for less physical distancing measures and more students attending schools.(5) Countries that have high infection rates are now beginning to welcome students back for the new school year, whether in-person or remotely. 

In the United States, most school districts are opting for distance learning as the new school year starts this month.(6) Of the country’s 15 biggest school districts, only one is offering in-person instruction:

  • New York City, Chicago and Hawaii are opting for a hybrid model, with students attending school a few days a week and learning from home the rest of the time. Students are also required to socially distance and wear face coverings. 
  • Districts that are only offering digital, remote learning include Los Angeles (CA), Clark County (NV), Houston (TX), Palm Beach (FL), Wake County (NC), and others. 
  • Orange County, Florida is offering students and parents a choice between in-person only or online only instruction.(7)

Both the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and the AAP have published recommendations for school reopenings. The CDC recommends increased supervision around hand hygiene and “respiratory etiquette,” regular cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces, spaced seating and physical barriers as appropriate, and face coverings if feasible.(8) Similarly, the AAP recommends smaller classes, physical distancing and face coverings whenever possible.(3) 

There are of course many variables that can affect the success of reopenings, such as the number of cases in the state, the size of the school, the combination of various measures, etc. Ultimately, it is a question of finding the right balance between keeping the rate of infection low, while simultaneously ensuring that children receive an education. As the year progresses, we are likely to find out more about what strategies are successful. 

As we move forward, teachers and students will likely have to get used to distance learning as part of their education, even if it’s only part-time. Thankfully, many educational companies now offer tailored distance learning solutions that will help teachers give students a full learning experience, even during the time they spend learning from home. 

At Twig Science, we have worked hard to produce a distance learning solution that works, complete with coaching videos presented by experienced teachers, and science lab videos that allows students to take part in experiments from home. Find out more!

SOURCES:

(1) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/14/school-reopenings-what-can-the-us-learn-from-other-countries-experiences

(2) https://globalhealth.washington.edu/file/6393/download

(3) https://www.aappublications.org/news/2020/06/26/schoolreopening062620

(4) https://www.vox.com/2020/7/15/21324082/coronavirus-school-reopening-trump-children-safety

(5) https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/schools-reopening-coronavirus/2020/07/10/865fb3e6-c122-11ea-8908-68a2b9eae9e0_story.html

(6) https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/508105-heres-your-states-plan-for-reopening-schools

(7) https://edition.cnn.com/2020/07/30/us/schools-reopening-district-plans/index.html

(8) https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools.html