The Sixth Grade integrated core curriculum explores both Ancient Rome and the Middle Ages, where knowledge and creativity merge in the classroom. In the spring, Sixth Graders come together with their young Kindergarten partners to share in the Medieval Feast. They assume more challenging roles in School Traditions through their participation in Group, our advanced music ensemble.
Ancient Rome and the Middle Ages is the focus of the Sixth Grade’s studies. The development of the Roman Republic and its evolution into an empire; the rise and tenets of Judaism, Christianity and Islam; the migration of tribes and the formation of countries and governments in Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East; and finally, the age of chivalry, castles, and the formation of towns and cities. Emphasis is placed on the question of what makes a good leader or a good government. There is also an emphasis on an understanding of the geography of the area to examine what part geography and climate play in a society.
The class engages in reading for information and research, class discussion, and simulations to understand the history and cultures they are studying. They are exposed to the great works of art of these ages and have a chance to research and report on their findings through PowerPoint presentations. They also create many integrated projects such as creating a piece of art in the style of a fresco, painting an elaborate medieval shield, performing a medieval dance, or writing a piece of music.
One of the culminating events of the Sixth Grade year is a Medieval Feast which the class shares with the Kindergarten. Here they have a chance to display their creativity and what they have learned. They also have the chance to exercise leadership skills and responsibility as the planning and the execution of the day lays primarily in their hands, from choosing the food and planning the menu, to the seating and entertainment.
Reading: The Sixth Grade uses a workshop approach to reading. Time is given for the whole class to read and share books together, for book groups to meet and discuss a chosen book, and for students to read independently at their own levels with coaching from their teacher and peers. A wide variety of literature is available for independent choice and to meet individual reading level needs. Books for the whole class to read are selected based on needed skill work, as well as books which tie into the core social studies curriculum. Skills of character and plot analysis as well as skills in inference and the understanding of author’s purpose are emphasized. Responses to reading take the form of class discussion, a book log and journal, and essays and related projects such as artwork for envisioning, a drama production, or notes and margin notes for research and reading.
Writing: Sixth Grade writing builds on the skills of personal narrative, fiction, personal essay, and poetry. Writing historical fiction and essays for literary analysis and research are added and practiced multiple times throughout the year. The process of learning to write is practiced through journal writing, drafting, and editing. The writing of formal outlines is taught as an aid to the organization of longer research essays. Peer review and editing, and teacher coaching are both components of the process. There is also a concentration on the study of vocabulary, grammar, spelling, and punctuation both as instruction for the whole class and on an individual basis.
Keeping with the themes of expansion, migration, and survival in a new environment which are introduced in the Sixth Grade study of Rome and the Middle Ages, the science curriculum involves the exploration and potential pioneering of the planets in our Solar System. In the Sixth Grade science course, “Matter and Energy in Our Lives: An Exploration of Earth and Space Systems,” students apply scientific practices while problem-solving scenarios on the planets Mars and Earth. Students gain knowledge about Mars and use math and science skills to complete “authentic space mission tasks” in the classroom and at The Buehler Challenger & Science Center.
In addition to successfully completing their space missions at Buehler, students determine whether or not it is possible for humans to live on Mars. In answering this research question, students study the electromagnetic spectrum, phases of matter, meteorology, and the atmosphere. Students explore the Wetlands Habitat to learn about photosynthesis and the sources of oxygen on our planet, such as plants and cyanobacteria. Students work to perfect their science practices while designing and conducting their own experiments on whether or not cyanobacteria collected from the Wetlands Habitat could thrive in the light and temperature conditions on Mars. In carrying out this scientific investigation, students ask questions and define problems; formulate hypotheses; select independent, dependent, and control variables; collect, analyze, and present their data; draw conclusions, explanations, and predictions based on the analysis of their data; and create a sound scientific argument.
Finally, students select a viable energy source for human inhabitants of Mars by studying the types of energy being utilized on Earth and the effect that each has on our environment. With a focus on wind power, students use a CAD program to design blades that are then created on a 3D printer in coordination with Woodshop. Students attach their blades to a turbine, measure how much energy is produced, and then redesign the blades to see if they can produce more energy in the second trial. In this manner, students engage in the same iterative design process that is used by scientists and engineers.
The skills of problem solving, communication, critical thinking, and analysis continue to evolve in Sixth Grade Math. Emphasis is placed on problem-solving processes and sound computation skills. Oral and written communication of mathematical ideas as well as analyzing problems become more important in the process of transitioning into more abstract concepts of early algebra. Studies of geometry and probability become increasingly sophisticated as the abstract thinking skills of the students grow. Skills developed throughout the earlier Grades are combined with more advanced creative analysis and sequential thinking.
The Sixth Grade math curriculum includes data analysis and graphs; decimal operations; introductory algebra with tables, graphs, and formulas; fraction comparisons and fraction operations; angle geometry and introduction to deductive geometry; signed number operations and order of operations; percent/decimal/fraction conversions and percent word problems; solving simple equations, distributive property, and collecting like terms; and ratios, rates, and proportions. If time permits, the following topics may also be included: negative exponents, graphing inequalities, scale drawings and maps, and probability including tree diagrams, Venn Diagrams, and counting principles. Text: Everyday Math 6.
In Sixth Grade French, teachers continue to use storytelling techniques, personalized conversations, songs, and communicative games to develop reading, writing, listening comprehension, and speaking skills. The students acquire new vocabulary relating to shopping, describing people, animals, clothing, food, the home, and the classroom. They also learn to use numbers from 0-100, and to tell time. Communicating with students in France through monthly videoconferences and writing to their pen pals, students practice their listening, speaking, and writing skills in a meaningful way. The curriculum includes some early French history through the comic Astérix le Gaulois integrating students’ study in their core curriculum Ancient Rome.
Group: In “Group” students rehearse for the music that they sing during many traditions at Far Brook. The ensemble prepares for the music of the Thanksgiving Processional, Harmonia, Stabat Mater and the Spring Choral Concert.
Boys’ Choir: A Boys’ Choir, consisting of boys in Grades Six, Seven and Eight and sometimes the men of the faculty and staff. Repertoire is selected specifically for the musical range of the male voices.
Orchestra: The Director of Music invites students to join the Far Brook Orchestra once they reach a certain level of proficiency in their musical skills. Many students who participate in Orchestra also perform in our annual Recital Night in the spring.
Drama: Rome and the early Medieval eras are the studies during the Sixth Grade, and the class play is chosen from a library of Shakespeare’s plays with Roman or early Medieval settings, and from Ancient Roman comedies. Plot and character begin to further drive the story; and plots, told in multiple scenes, take place over days, weeks, or even months. The work challenges the students to imagine themselves living in another time. As the students take on more complex and challenging texts, often Shakespeare plays set in Roman or early Medieval times such as Julius Caesar, King Lear, Cymbeline, and the Roman comedies of Plautus or Terence such as Phormio or Epidicus, the technical elements supporting the production, especially period costuming, also begin to become a larger part of the process, helping the students enter into the details of these historical periods.
Dance Choreography: The Dance minis build on the skills and creative experiences the students have in Dance during their previous years. The Sixth Graders perform a celebratory dance marking their spring Medieval Feast. Students work with the dance teaching artists to explore the movement of Medieval times and to learn the distinct circle patterning of social dancing from this time period. Students take both inspiration from their classroom learning and from instruction in dance to create their own movement in small groups that will be woven into the larger structure of the group choreography. The public performance of the Medieval dance will heighten the performance experience of the students and their understanding of the Medieval time period, and will prepare them for performing activities in all artistic disciplines in later Grades.
Art: Students create their own original package and logo designs that emphasize an understanding of the psychology of consumer responses to products in a commercial setting. Clarity of design for the package and for the product logo is essential to support and convey a sense of the contents. An understanding of the process which reflects the initial development of the sketch all the way through to the completed three dimensional object is an important conceptual skill that requires repeated assessment and refinement of goals. Students often work in teams on this project and the incorporation of negotiation skills and critical thinking skills becomes an integral aspect of this process.
Students also develop original designs to create batiks, a process that uses wax resist and dye on fabric. Students use their completed fabric to create a pillow or banner. An understanding of color overlay and negative space is an essential component of this project. There is also some sewing required to complete the final object.
Woodshop: In the Sixth Grade Woodshop mini, students are challenged to make projects centered around the creation of motion. The students are able to choose any subject they want to design, however, the development of motion is the driving force of the project. Many projects make use of all the tools that have been introduced over the span of the student's time at Far Brook, including the 3-D printer. The Sixth Grade mini is the final year of woodshop projects before beginning new skills in the Junior High.
Science and Woodshop come together as part of their exploration of motion in the woodshop. Sixth Graders use the 3-D printers to work on an integrated project that combines their woodshop knowledge and skills with their Science studies in climate change and renewable energy resources. Students are given the challenge of fabricating wind turbine blades using computer-aided design programs. The designs are then printed and tested using a real turbine in order to record their efficiency against other designs.
Sports: The Sixth Grade Sports program includes a combination of cooperative team building activities, fitness and strength development, and participation in a fall and spring interscholastic sport for all students. Boys participate in soccer in the fall and baseball in the spring, while the girls participate in field hockey in the fall and lacrosse in the spring. Students learn the rules and regulations of these games and practice the basic skills and strategies of these sports. Peer leadership and learning to be a supportive teammate is reinforced during every practice and game. The cornerstone of the sports curriculum is character development through demonstrating good sportsmanship. During the sports' seasons, students share a Sports' Report each Friday in Morning Meeting reporting the team's accomplishments and goals for the next game for the entire School community.
During the second trimester, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Grade families may enroll their students in winter After School Programs. The newly piloted basketball program offers separate teams for boys and girls and includes games against other local independent schools. On Friday evenings in January and February, Ski Club offers all levels of skiers an opportunity to ski and snowboard on Shawnee Mountain.
Health & Wellness: The goal of the winter season is to foster an appreciation of fitness, sports, and living a healthy lifestyle. Activities may include flag football, basketball, pickle ball, volleyball, and cardio kick boxing. For approximately 10 weeks, students have one health and wellness lesson in place of a physical education class each week. This comprehensive curriculum has been developed to closely follow national health and sexuality curriculum standards. Each topic has been carefully selected to serve the developmental level of the students. The Sixth Grade curriculum includes discussions of living a healthy lifestyle including nutrition, sleep and exercise, media and body image, basic first aid, building healthy relationships, teasing and personal safety, self-esteem, hygiene, and making good decisions when using technology and social media.
Connections: In the Sixth Grade, Connections discussions continue to provide an opportunity for small group conversations. Discussions focus on societal issues, personal goal-setting, self-discipline, and envisioning one’s future. Students complete a community service project as an opportunity to explore problems in their own neighborhood and develop a sense of action and empowerment. Partnerships have been formed with organizations such as St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center. Including the Educational Technology Specialist, students explore how they can use technology responsibly. Students ponder questions relevant to their lives in an age with increased media involvement and discuss the power of digital tools to promote a cause.
In addition, Fifth and Sixth Graders participate in a series of workshops extending the Connections classes. The Ophelia Project curriculum offers students an opportunity to explore the challenges of navigating social situations that are typically encountered in Fifth and Sixth Grades meeting the specific needs of both boys and girls. The goals of the program include: promoting non-aggressive pro-social behavior; encouraging children to express their feelings in appropriate, healthy ways; equipping each child with strategies and skills, s/he needs to protect his/herself and others in a healthy, constructive manner; and providing opportunities for children to develop alternative solutions to conflicts. Additional topics such as The Language of Peer Aggression; The Role of the Bystander; Normative Beliefs; Friendship; Leadership; and Cyberbullying are explored as well.