The twelve year old, on the cusp of adolescence, experiences subtle changes in the body. There is a densification of the bones, and consequently a feeling of weight and gravity. The twelve year old now stands firmly on the earth. With an increasing awareness of their own physicality, the time is right for sixth graders to study the physical body of the earth. Through geology, the students study the types of rock and the forces that shape the landscape. Through geography, the students become familiar with the earth’s features, such as the distribution of oceans, seas and continents. They learn about the biodiversity within the eight biomes. After exploring the geography of their home continent in fifth grade, the sixth graders now focus on the geography of Europe, which relates to the study of history this year.
During the study of Ancient Greece in fifth grade, the students made a gradual transition from myth to history. Now in sixth grade, the students are interested primarily in fact. They can now grasp history as a temporal sequence of cause and effect relationships. The students study the rise and fall of the Roman Empire and its effect on European civilization through the Middle Ages. The power to transform and dominate the physical world in the building of cities and armies during Ancient Rome epitomizes historically the feeling of every sixth grader that “I can do anything!”
In sixth grade the students are introduced to laboratory science and physics. Now they are eager to test their ideas and are able to form clear and accurate judgments. Subjects taught include acoustics, optics, heat, magnetism, and static electricity. The goal is to train the students to make careful observations of the physical phenomena in order to arrive at valid conclusions.
Sixth grade mathematics reviews and builds upon lessons in the previous year and moves on to the study of ratio, percent, and balancing equations. These skills are applied to business math, including discounts, interest, taxes, and profit and loss. The students usually run a class “business” to learn about these principles directly. The history of money and role of banks relates to the broader study of history this year.
Form Drawing in the previous grades trained the eye and hand, paving the way for geometry now in sixth grade. The students learn the discipline of precision in using the compass, protractor and ruler to bisect angles, construct parallel and perpendicular lines, and divide the circle. The students are introduced to the number pi and geometric proofs.
Grammar lessons include a review of previous work and an introduction to compound and complex sentences, the subjunctive and conditional, and transitive and intransitive verbs. Spelling rules, dictionary use, and vocabulary words support writing in the all subjects. The students learn the Latin roots of words in connection to the study of Ancient Rome. Writing focuses on expository compositions.