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).


Master the NGSS with Twig Science

At Twig Education we share the NGSS vision of “All students, all standards.” We’re committed to providing experiences and opportunities to inspire each and every student.

We’re also aware that teachers and administrators face increasing challenges in terms of time, tools, and background knowledge. Twig Science provides a range of dedicated flexible professional learning options, including webinars on a range of topics.

Below, you’ll find a few webinars to begin your journey toward mastering the NGSS:

What are Disciplinary Core Ideas? | NGSS

Disciplinary Core Ideas, or DCIs, are one of the three dimensions that make up the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). DCIs are key components of science education and include ideas that are important across one or multiple science and engineering disciplines. Simply put, they are big ideas that students need to know to be able to understand the world around them. The DCIs form a conceptual framework through which students can understand the scientific disciplines. (1)

The NSTA lists four criteria of which a DCI must meet at least two, but ideally four

  • Have broad importance across multiple sciences or engineering disciplines or be a key organizing concept of a single discipline
  • Provide a key tool for understanding or investigating more complex ideas and solving problems 
  • Relate to the interests and life experiences of students or be connected to societal or personal concerns that require scientific or technological knowledge
  • Be teachable and learnable over multiple grades at increasing levels of depth and sophistication (2)

DCIs are divided into four domains: Life Science, Earth and Space Science, Physical Science, and Engineering, Technology and the Application of Science. Within these domains, there are several groups of ideas that build in complexity as students progress through their academic careers:

Life Science

  • LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
  • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
  • LS3: Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits
  • LS4: Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

Earth and Space Science

  • ESS1: Earth’s Place in the Universe
  • ESS2: Earth’s Systems
  • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity

Physical Science

  • PS1: Matter and Its Interactions
  • PS2: Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions
  • PS3: Energy
  • PS4: Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer

Engineering, Technology and the Application of Science

  • ETS1: Engineering Design

The DCIs don’t just build complexity in themselves—they also build upon each other over the course of a student’s science education, allowing students to form a deeper understanding of the world and make sense of phenomena. The DCIs are interwoven with the SEPs and CCCs, providing opportunities for students to apply these practices and concepts to different core ideas. 

How do you make sure that you cover the DCIs? 

To ensure that you hit the three dimensions of the NGSS, you need the support of a good NGSS program. Twig Science is a phenomena-based science program for Grades PK/TK–8 created specifically for the NGSS, ensuring all students have an interwoven understanding of Disciplinary Core Ideas, Science and Engineering Practices, and Crosscutting Concepts. In Twig Science, students experience dozens of different STEM roles as they become creative problem solvers, making sense of engaging, real-world phenomena. 

Learn more about Twig Science.

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Helen Quinn

Twig talks to… Helen Quinn

Theoretical physicist Helen Quinn chaired the National Research Council committee that created A Framework for K–12 Science Education—the foundation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) program. As such, she was instrumental in building the program that focuses on new ways of teaching and learning science, in which students are supported to think like scientists and engineers in investigating natural phenomena and engineering design problems.

Twig Education CEO Catherine Cahn spoke to Helen about how NGSS will change the way that science is taught in elementary school and why this stage in students’ development is key.

Catherine Cahn: How can we inspire a love of science in students at a young age?

Helen Quinn: To encourage students to learn, to want to learn, means you have to find ways of engaging them in activities which they find interesting and rewarding, but are also learning activities. That’s the kind of situation where kids get turned on—not just to becoming scientists, but to becoming learners and to becoming thinkers. That is what we want to see in elementary school science.

CC: When did you first develop an interest in science yourself?

HQ: I was very fortunate to go to an elementary school that was very progressive. It was actually a new school on 50 acres of bushland with only three classrooms, and so we had a huge outdoor area to explore and study. We didn’t call it science, we called it nature study. We went out and figured out what plants grew where and why. We just spent a lot of time exploring and finding out what was going on, and that was just part of the way that school functioned at that time. And it gave me a grounding in being curious and asking questions that has served me in good stead throughout my career as a scientist.

CC: What is your vision of how the Next Generation Science Standards will transform elementary science education?

HQ: Science should be one of the things that makes school fun and interesting for kids and engages kids in wanting to learn. That is done by the right kind of activity, putting the right kind of material in front of the children that will make them curious and make them want to ask questions—and then the support for them to investigate and find the answer to those questions and to think for themselves. In my experience, that experience gets kids not just more interested in learning science but generally more interested in learning.

CC: How will this shift in elementary science benefit students?

HQ: What young students think about is what do they like to do and what is interesting to them. What would they like to read about? What are they interested to find out more about? If they are only exposed to sports as something that’s interesting and fun to do and read about, then they become interested in sports. If they’re exposed to engineering and the design process, and have fun designing things, then they become more interested in “Where can I get more such opportunities?”—and maybe eventually they’ll start thinking about becoming engineers or scientists.

CC: Can you describe how you think that a successful science experience in elementary builds the foundation for success in secondary school in all subjects?

HQ: I think the issue of middle school children being turned off to science is partly an issue of middle school children who’ve been turned off to learning by their elementary school experiences. Learning is a sequential process—everything we learn we build on our prior knowledge, and the richer and deeper our prior knowledge is the more we are ready to learn the next thing. A good elementary school science program is designed to build a base for the kind of science learning that needs to happen in middle school, and the middle school program builds a base for the kind of science learning that’s to go on in secondary school. At each level, you’re revisiting topics but revisiting them at a greater depth. So if you’ve built the base, you can start at a different place and go further with the topic.

CC: How do we encourage people from all backgrounds to consider STEM careers?

HQ: Put it this way—people don’t choose a career they’ve never heard of. Just knowing that there are people that do science rather than that “science is just a bunch of facts that I have to know”—or knowing there are people who design things rather than just thinking things exist because they exist—is really important in order to even begin to think about careers that are different from those of their parents.

What are phenomena?

If you’re a science educator, you’ve probably come across the word “phenomena” countless times. Phenomena-based learning is at the core of 3-D science—but what are they, really? And why are they important?

Phenomena can be defined as “observable events that occur in a natural or designed system.” They are everywhere around us, but some are easier to notice than others. Common examples of natural phenomena include lightning, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes, and similar. 

However, there are also a lot of phenomena that are less dramatic and less noticeable: simple things like light reflecting in a mirror, the way electricity passes through wires to allow you to switch on a lamp, or the simple fact that gravity allows us to walk on the surface of the Earth! 

Some phenomena occur very slowly and can be hard to notice, such as the passing of the seasons, the decomposition of organic matter, or the erosion of mountains. But they are still observable events that can be explained with science and are therefore phenomena. 

Phenomena are important to science education because they give students tangible, interesting examples of science in the real world. They are also good opportunities for encouraging student inquiry: students can observe a phenomenon and subsequently ask questions and do research to find out more about how it works. 

Trying to explain phenomena to your students? This video explains what they are and why they are important—all in just 60 seconds. 

Need a genuine, phenomena-based 3-D science program? Check out Twig Science

What are Crosscutting Concepts? | NGSS

Crosscutting concepts, or CCCs, are one of the three dimensions of the NGSS. They are themes that appear again and again across STEM subjects. In the NRC’s “A Framework for K–12 Science Education,” CCCs are defined as “concepts that bridge disciplinary core boundaries, having explanatory value throughout much of science and engineering. These concepts help provide students with an organizational framework for connecting knowledge from the various disciplines into a coherent and scientifically based view of the world.” (1)

While they can feel slightly abstract, the CCCs are crucial to building content knowledge and understanding scientific processes. As students progress in their scientific education, these concepts will appear in multiple disciplines, again and again, and should become more and more familiar. They will work as touchstones that students return to as they discover new phenomena and make sense of the world. (2)

There are seven CCCs defined in the NRC Framework and in the NGSS: 

1. Patterns

Patterns appear again and again in nature and science—such as the symmetry of flowers, the lunar cycle, the seasons, and the structure of DNA. Being able to recognize patterns is important for many scientific tasks, like classification or analyzing and interpreting data. Students need to be able to not only recognize patterns, but also ask questions about why and how patterns occur. 

2. Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation

Cause and effect can be seen as the next step after identifying patterns. This CCC involves discovering the underlying cause of phenomena, understanding connections and causation, and finding out why one event might lead to another. This concept will also help students when planning and carrying out investigations, or designing and testing solutions. 

3. Scale, proportion, and quantity

A big part of investigating phenomena involves comparing them using relative scales (e.g., bigger and smaller, faster and slower) and describing them using units of, for example, weight, time, temperature, and volume. Many of the phenomena students study are at a scale either too small or too large to observe, and models can be used to make sense of them—such as comparing the planets in our Solar System to fruits of different sizes. 

4. Systems and system models

To make the world easier to investigate, scientists often study smaller units of investigations, or “systems.” A system contains objects that are related and form a whole. It can be as large as a whole galaxy and as small as the human circulatory system. Or even smaller—a single molecule. System models are useful tools for studying how a system behaves in itself and how it interacts with other systems. 

5. Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation

Building on the previous concept, this one emphasizes that energy and matter flows in and out of any system—for example, the sunlight (energy) and water (matter) that a plant needs to grow, or the flow of water in the Earth’s atmosphere. Being able to observe and model these flows and cycles is important in many areas of science and engineering.

6. Structure and function

This concept refers to the shapes, relationships, and properties of materials in natural and human-made systems. In engineering, for example, understanding the structure and function of different materials can help the engineer create a more effective and successful design.

7. Stability and change

The final CCC has to do with understanding how change occurs in any system and how we can use technology to control change. It also focuses on understanding concepts like dynamic equilibrium, where the perceived stability of a system depends on constant change, e.g. the flow of water through a dam that is always at the same water level, as well as cyclical change, e.g. the Moon’s constant orbit around the Earth and how it affects, for example, tides. 

Each of these crosscutting concepts contains a wide variety of examples and applications which students work through during their academic career. 

How do you make sure that you cover the CCCs? 

To ensure that you hit the three dimensions of the NGSS, you need the support of a good NGSS program. Twig Science is a phenomena-based science program for Grades PK/TK–8 created specifically for the NGSS, ensuring all students have an interwoven understanding of Crosscutting Concepts, Science and Engineering Practices, and Disciplinary Core Ideas. In Twig Science, students experience dozens of different STEM roles as they become creative problem solvers, making sense of engaging, real-world phenomena. 

Learn more about Twig Science.

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