Topical Science—December 2020

It’s been a rollercoaster of a year, and we’re sure everyone is looking forward to having some time off before starting a new year. Before we take a break for the holidays, let’s have a look at what notable days are coming this month. We’ve collated some topical science videos and articles for you to share with your students.

Thursday, December 1

World AIDS Day

Each year, UNESCO and UNAIDS partner for World AIDS Day—a day that aims to raise awareness of how to prevent HIV and AIDS. In this video, find out more about why HIV is such a dangerous virus:

Friday, December 4

World Soil Day

Keeping soil healthy is crucial if we want to protect the world’s ecosystems—and by extension, humanity’s well-being. On this day, why not share these five fascinating soil facts with your students? Read now.

World Wildlife Conservation Day

This annual event aims to raise awareness of how important it is that we preserve and protect the world’s ecosystems. Many species on Earth are threatened. One of these is the kakapo: Learn more.

Thursday, December 10

Nobel Prize Day

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist and engineer, known for the invention of dynamite. In his will, he asked that his fortune be used for a series of prizes. As a result, the Nobel Prizes were established and first awarded in 1901. One of the most interesting winners of the Nobel Prize for physics was awarded in 1978. Find out more:

Friday, December 11

UNICEF founded on this day in 1946

On this day in 1946, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was founded. Since then, UNICEF has provided humanitarian and developmental aid to children around the world. This year, Twig Education partnered with UNICEF to make science education available to young students in need: Learn more.

International Mountain Day

Did you know that almost half of the world’s biodiversity hotspots are located on mountains? Mountains are very important to the health of the planet. But how are they formed? Learn more about fold mountains:

Thursday, November 17

Wright Brothers Day

This day commemorates the brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright, who were the first men to fly a heavier-than-air, mechanically propelled airplane, back in 1903. To celebrate, why not find out how planes are able to fly?

Friday, December 18

International Migrants Day

This UN observance day celebrates migration as an important contribution to “building a world of peace, prosperity, dignity and opportunity for all” (UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon). On this day, why not find out more about migration? Learn more.

Monday, December 21

Winter Solstice

The days are getting shorter and the nights longer, which means we’re getting closer and closer to the winter solstice—but what exactly is the winter solstice? Find out more.

Friday, December 25

Christmas Day

Christmas might be a fun holiday but unfortunately, the amount of trash we throw away at Christmas increases every year. Thankfully, there are ways to have a greener holiday season! Find out more.

What Are Vaccines?

A scientist working at our partners Imperial College London explains what vaccines are and what the latest developments mean.

If you have ever had a cold or the flu, it was probably caused by a virus. If you have had a cold sore, it was definitely caused by a virus. Viruses are tiny particles that can enter our bodies and make us ill. Some viruses are more harmful than others. It is hard to avoid them. We can breathe some viruses in without even realising it.

Viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics kill bacteria that make us ill, but they don’t affect viruses. But vaccines can stop us getting ill from a virus. We take a vaccine – or get vaccinated – by swallowing medicine or having an injection. Vaccines are like Superman’s Kryptonite for viruses – the best thing to defeat them! 

Scientists spend years working on vaccines to prevent viruses from infecting us. The first-ever vaccine was for a disease called smallpox. This disease killed 30% of people who caught it. The smallpox vaccine was developed over 220 years ago by English scientist Edward Jenner. Thanks to the vaccine, smallpox was wiped from the face of the Earth. Nobody will ever catch the disease again! Scientists think ancient Egyptians suffered from smallpox, over 2,300 years ago. It can take a long time and a lot of work to find a vaccine.

Currently, a virus called SARS-CoV-2 is causing illness and death around the world. This virus comes from a family of viruses called coronaviruses. You can say that SARS-CoV-2 is a type, or strain, of coronavirus. If this virus enters your body, it causes a disease called COVID-19.

Many scientists all over the world, including those at Imperial College London, are working hard to find a vaccine that stops COVID-19, and recently this hard work produced some great news. Scientists from two companies, Pfizer and BioNTech, have put their heads together and it looks like they might found a vaccine – they say that their vaccine is 90% effective. Another company, Moderna, has discovered a vaccine that they say is almost 95% effective. This means that if 100 people caught the virus, 95 of them would not get ill. And other companies and universities are trialling a number of vaccines right now.

This exciting news means the world might soon be able to go back more or less to how things were previously. Watch this space for more updates! We hope to have some more exciting news from the hardworking and dedicated scientists at Imperial soon!

Digital learning for young people and educators most in need

Twig Education and Imperial College London are honored to announce a new initiative to create science content for UNICEF’s Learning Passport, a digital personalized learning platform for children and young people. 

Through the partnership, science content created by Twig’s remote learning team and Imperial expert educators will be available to children and young people using the Learning Passport in Jordan, Puntland (Somalia), Timor-Leste and Ukraine, with expansion to more countries expected in the coming months. 

The Learning Passport has already been recognized as one of the 50 Most Influential Projects of 2020 by the Project Management Institute. The ranking highlights the ingenious ways project managers and change-makers have found to keep initiatives moving forward in the face of unexpected obstacles associated with the global pandemic.

Catherine Cahn, Chief Executive of Twig Education, said:

“Last year’s global climate strikes demonstrated how the next generation will use their voices and knowledge to shape the future of our planet. Together with UNICEF and the Learning Passport, Twig Education and Imperial College London are honored to provide digital STEM resources for young people around the globe who might otherwise be excluded from this conversation.”

The Learning Passport was initially developed by UNICEF and partners to provide quality education to displaced and refugee children, and young people whose education had been disrupted due to conflict and emergencies. When COVID-19 shuttered schools for more than 90 per cent of the world’s schoolchildren, the platform underwent rapid expansion to help children access their school curriculum and other learning materials remotely.

Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London, said: 

“We are delighted to be collaborating with Twig Education on this important UNICEF project, the Learning Passport.  We are excited about the benefits this project will bring to those young people and educators most in need. We are honored that Imperial College London will be part of this legacy.”

What does the Passport focus on?

The Passport covers a range of key topics frequently covered by primary schools internationally, including:

  • Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
  • Humanities and social sciences

These are integrated into a cohesive curriculum and offered on a unique online platform.

Robert Jenkins, UNICEF Chief of Education, said:

“The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated a long-standing learning crisis and digital divide. The most marginalized children, who have to fight the hardest to get an education, are at greatest risk of losing it altogether. As the impact on education deepens, these partnerships are a powerful reminder that by working together we can create innovative, scalable solutions that keep children learning.”

The urgency of providing a high-quality education

With disruption due to the pandemic continuing to impact the life chances of millions of children, fostering local, national, and international leaders of future generations has never been so critical. 

In the UK in response to the rise in home-schooling due to COVID-19, Imperial is offering free, online material based on the UK school curriculum. Partnering with UNICEF means Imperial and Twig are now able to reach an even larger audience of primary school children in need of an accessible and high-quality STEM education.

Learn more

Topical Science—November 2020

This year has flown by, and we’ve already reached November. The days are getting darker and colder… at least in the Northern Hemisphere! Thankfully, we’ve got lots of fascinating science content to inspire your class. Below, we’ve collated some notable days of this month, along with related topical science videos and articles. Let’s dive right in.

Thursday, November 5

World Tsunami Day

World Tsunami Day encourages countries and communities to develop strategies for coping with tsunamis, with the aim to reduce the damage when they happen. Find out more about tsunamis:

Saturday, November 7

National Bison Day

Did you know that the bison is the largest land mammal in North America? It’s also the official National Mammal of the US. Bisons live on temperate grasslands, which they share with various other animals. Find out more about temperate grasslands:

Sunday, November 8

National STEM/STEAM Day

National STEM/STEAM Day inspires kids to explore STEM subjects and encourages them to pursue these subjects both in school and in their future careers. We’ve collated 10 exciting STEM careers to get your students excited: Discover now.

Monday, November 9

Geography Awareness Week

Geography Awareness Week was first introduced by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, with the aim to encourage people (especially young people) to study geography. This week, why not learn more about time zones? Watch now. 

Tuesday, November 10

World Science Day for Peace and Development

World Science Day for Peace and Development highlights the importance of involving the wider public in discussions about scientific issues—including younger people! The recent NGSS Framework has changed how science is taught in schools in the US. Theoretical physicist Helen Quinn chaired the National Research Council committee that created A Framework for K–12 Science Education—the foundation of the NGSS. In this blog post, Twig Education CEO Catherine Cahn speaks to Helen Quinn about the importance of science education: Learn more.

Saturday, November 14

World Diabetes Day

Diabetes has become increasingly common around the world—in 2014, 422 million adults lived with the condition, compared to just 108 million in 1980. Find out more about diabetes and how it’s treated in this video:

Sunday, November 15

America Recycles Day

On this day, people across America are encouraged to learn more about the importance of recycling, with the hope that more people will get into the habit of recycling daily. But even more important than recycling is reducing and reusing. Find out more about the three Rs:

Friday, November 20

World Children’s Day

World Children’s Day is a UN observance day that has been celebrated since 1954, with the aim to improve children’s welfare worldwide. On this day, why not find out more about how children’s brains develop, and how they learn to recognize themselves in a mirror?

Tuesday, November 24

The Origin of Species

On this day in 1859 “The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection” by Charles Darwin was published. Charles Darwin was a British scientist whose theory of evolution changed the world! Find out more.

Lanzamiento global de Learning Passport

Twig Education y el Imperial College London tienen el honor de anunciar una nueva iniciativa para crear el contenido de ciencias para The Learning Passport de UNICEF, una plataforma de aprendizaje personalizado para niños y jóvenes.

Mediante esta colaboración, el contenido de ciencias desarrollado por el equipo de aprendizaje remoto de Twig y educadores expertos de Imperial College estará disponible para niños y jóvenes que utilicen Learning Passport en Jordania, Puntlandia (Somalia), Timor Oriental y Ucrania, con expansión a más países en los próximos meses.

Catherine Cahn, Directora Ejecutiva de Twig Education, comentó:

“Las protestas del año pasado por el calentamiento global demostraron cómo la próxima generación usará su voz y su conocimiento para determinar el futuro de nuestro planeta. Juntos con UNICEF y The Learning Passport, Twig Education y el Imperial College London tienen el honor de proveer de recursos digitales STEM a estudiantes de todo el mundo que normalmente estarían excluidos de esta conversación.”

El proyecto fue inicialmente creado por UNICEF y sus aliados para brindar educación de calidad a niños refugiados o en situación de desplazamiento, y jóvenes cuya educación ha sido interrumpida por conflictos y emergencias. Cuando COVID-19 obligó al cierre de escuelas para más del 90% de los niños en edad escolar del mundo, la plataforma fue escalada rápidamente para ayudar a que los niños pudieran acceder a su plan de estudios y otros materiales de aprendizaje de forma remota.

Professor Alice Gast, Presidenta de Imperial College London, anunció: 

“Estamos encantados de colaborar con Twig Education en este importante proyecto de UNICEF, The Learning Passport. Nos emociona saber los beneficios que este proyecto traerá a aquellos jóvenes y educadores que más lo necesitan. Es un honor para Imperial College London ser parte de este legado.”

¿En qué se enfoca The Learning Passport?

El Pasaporte abarca una serie de temas clave frecuentemente cubiertos por escuelas primarias a nivel internacional, incluyendo:

  • Ciencias, tecnología, ingeniería y matemáticas
  • Humanidades y ciencias sociales

Éstos son integrados en un plan de estudios cohesivo y ofrecidos en una plataforma en línea excepcional.

Robert Jenkins, Jefe de Educación de UNICEF, mencionó:

“La pandemia ha expuesto y exacerbado una crisis de aprendizaje que existe desde hace mucho tiempo, así como la brecha digital. Los niños que se encuentran más excluidos, que tienen los mayores problemas para obtener una educación, están en el más alto riesgo de perderlo todo. A medida que el impacto en la educación se profundiza, estas alianzas son un poderoso recordatorio de que trabajando juntos podemos crear soluciones innovadoras y escalables que mantengan a los niños aprendiendo.”

La urgencia de proveer una educación de alta calidad

Con la disrupción causada por la pandemia que sigue impactando las oportunidades de vida de millones de niños, es el momento más importante para respaldar a los líderes locales, nacionales e internacionales de las futuras generaciones.

En el Reino Unido, en respuesta al incremento de la educación en casa debido a COVID-19, Imperial College está ofreciendo material en línea gratuito basado en el currículum nacional. Esta alianza con UNICEF significa que Imperial College y Twig ahora podrán alcanzar una audiencia más amplia de niños en edad escolar que se encuentran en necesidad de una educación STEM accesible y de alta calidad.

Conozca más

Creepy Science: 8 Halloween-Themed Facts to Scare Your Students

Halloween is coming up, so we thought we’d share some facts from the weird world of science and beyond…

  • Dead bodies can get goosebumps! This is because dead muscles stiffen, which causes the hair follicles to contract, giving the appearance of goosebumps. (1) 
  • The largest pumpkin recorded in US history weighed 2,528 pounds and was grown by Steve Geddes from Boscawen, New Hampshire. (2)
  • Pumpkins are actually classified as a fruit, not as a vegetable! In 2006, New Hampshire even decided that the pumpkin was its state fruit. (3)
  • The fastest jack-o’-lantern carver in the world is Stephen Clarke, Pennsylvania, who managed to carve a pumpkin in just 16.47 seconds. The rules state that the pumpkin is required to have a complete face, including eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. (4)
  • Halloween could actually make children more evil—a 1970s study found that costumed children in groups were more likely to steal money and candy than non-costumed kids not in a group! (5)
  • Albert Einstein’s brain was preserved after his death. It’s been studied by scientists and even displayed in museums! (6)
  • Female spiders often eat male spiders that she comes by. Male spiders sometimes use courtship rituals to show the female that they are potential mates, not food! (7)
  • There are three species of vampire bats that feed on blood—the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus), the hairy-legged vampire bat (Diphylla ecaudata), and the white-winged vampire bat (Diaemus youngi). Of these, only the common vampire likes feeding on cows, and occasionally humans. The other two prefer birds! (8)

Hopefully, these have got you into the Halloween spirit—why not share with your students for a Halloween-themed session?

Twig Science Next Gen is full of ways to tie topical and local phenomena into K–12 science, inspiring students every single day of the year. 

Happy Halloween!


1. https://www.quora.com/How-can-dead-people-get-goosebumps

2. https://time.com/5410698/largest-pumpkin-north-america-history/

3. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/a21246075/is-pumpkin-a-fruit/

4. https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/fastest-time-to-carve-one-pumpkin/

5. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1976-20842-001

6.  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-32354300

7.  https://www.thoughtco.com/fascinating-facts-about-spiders-1968544

8.  https://www.thoughtco.com/fascinating-facts-about-bats-4124369