Ancient Rome and the Formation of Countries:
What are fundamental human rights?
In Sixth Grade the students explore Ancient Rome and how the migration of peoples led to the birth of modern government, while investigating the essential question, “What are fundamental human rights, and how has an understanding of these rights changed over time?” Sixth Grade explores what human rights are, how they developed, and how they might be different depending on where people lived or live. In addition, they explore how human rights have related to civil rights through the centuries. Students explore who has rights, how they are protected, and how those rights can be expressed. The study is focused through an in depth look at Ancient Rome and the development of nations. Our students examine 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 the formation of towns and cities. Emphasis is placed on the question of what makes a good leader and a good government. Students learn to examine the impact of factors such as the local geography, climate, and events of the era. They look at the importance of trade and the economics of the times, culminating in a traders’ luncheon at a caravanserai, or trading post. In addition, they begin to understand the importance of context as they also turn their attention to current events in the United States and the world.
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 Google Slide presentations. Oral skills are strengthened through memorization and presentation of poetry and play dialogue, classroom discussions, and oral presentation of research.
The culminating event of the Sixth Grade’s Middle School journey is a 3-day trip to Washington, D.C. The trip builds on their previous studies in Grades 4-5, and offers students a first-hand look at our democratic government in action, with a focus on the evolution of human rights in our country.
Reading: The Sixth Grade uses a workshop approach to reading. Students read and share books as a class, meet in book groups to discuss a chosen book, and read independently at their own levels with coaching from their teachers and peers. Emphasis is placed on practicing and refining the critical thinking skills needed to analyze character and plot and to infer the author’s intent. Students learn important tools for organizing their studies: they keep track of their independent reading and take margin notes in their research materials and reading. Class discussions and written essays help students form and refine thoughts about what they have read. They engage in creative endeavors related to the topic – art, music, drama – that reinforce and deepen their understanding. The Sixth Grade’s culminating event is reading the Shakespeare play they will perform in their Eighth Grade year.
Writing: Building on the skills learned in earlier grades in narrative, information, and argument writing, and poetry, Sixth Grade students expand their writing repertoire to include historical fiction and literary analysis. These skills are practiced throughout the year. In their notebook writing, students learn the process of editing and refining their work through multiple drafts. They are also introduced to writing formal outlines as an aid to organizing longer research essays. Peer review and editing and teacher coaching are components of the process. There is a concentration on the study of vocabulary, grammar, spelling, and punctuation, and students begin to learn how to effectively study for and take tests that require longer written answers. Using Chromebooks in the classroom, they compose and share their written work in Google Docs.
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 as students transition to 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 the study of 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; probability including tree diagrams, Venn Diagrams, and counting principles; solving simple equations, distributive property, and collecting like terms; ratios, scale drawings, rates, and proportions; and graphing inequalities. The students Enrichment activities involve investigations with Google Sheets.
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 Mars. 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 get to and live on Mars. In answering this research question, students study the electromagnetic spectrum, energy, phases of matter, force and motion, climate, and the atmosphere. Students explore Far Brook’s 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. In carrying out their scientific investigations, students ask questions and define problems; formulate hypotheses; select independent, dependent, and control variables; collect, analyze, and present their data; draw conclusions, and write explanations, based on the analysis of their data; and create sound scientific arguments.
Finally, students will 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 3-D 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.
STEAM Immersion Week
For one full week, students in Grades 4-6 exchange their regular schedules for five days of project-based, interdisciplinary STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) activities. Working in small, mixed-grade groups, Middle School students have an opportunity to engage their STEAM skills in solving real-world problems, as well as develop a first-hand awareness of some of the world- and life- changing innovations that are possible in STEAM professions. Students use iPads and Chromebooks to record their findings and progress throughout the week.
- Winter 2016: Prosthetic Devices for Humans and Animals
- Winter 2017: Sustainable Farming Practices
- Winter 2018: The Problem with Plastics
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 our partner school in Brittany, France through monthly videoconferences and writing to penpals there, 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 of Ancient Rome. In addition, students read as a class a French children’s novel where each chapter is read together chorally and students act out the scenes to gain further meaning of the text together.
Group: In Group, students rehearse for the music that they sing during many traditions at Far Brook. This Upper School choir includes all students in grades 6-8. The ensemble prepares the music of the Thanksgiving Processional, An Evening of Choral Music-Stabat Mater, and the Spring Choral Concert. During their Sixth Grade year, students perform for the first time in a leadership role for these Traditions.
Boys’ Choir: A Boys’ Choir, consisting of boys in Grades Six, Seven, and Eight and sometimes the men of the faculty and staff meet weekly. Repertoire is selected specifically for the musical range of male voices. The Boys’ Choir sings in Morning Meeting and performs at the Spring Choral Concert.
Orchestra: Students join the Far Brook Orchestra once they reach a certain level of proficiency in their musical skills. The Orchestra plays in Morning Meeting and at Instrumental Music Night. Many students who participate in Orchestra also perform in the annual Recital Night in the spring.
Drama: Rome and the early Medieval eras are part of the studies during the Sixth Grade year and the class play is chosen from a library of Shakespeare’s plays with Roman or early Medieval settings, and from Ancient Roman comedies. The work challenges the students to imagine themselves living in another time. As the students take on more complex and challenging texts — 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, 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 developed in Dance during their previous years. Students take inspiration both 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 group choreography.
Art: Students create their own original oil paintings on canvas, learning the history and purpose of this style of painting. They become familiar with the formal issues of art which include perspective, color theory, shading, composition, and texture. Other important skills required for this painting process are the ability to mix colors to match their still life objects, convey deep space on a flat surface, utilize tone to describe light and organize available space for maximum visual effect. Students also learn how direct observation influences accuracy and believability of images. It is important to make the connection that the formal issues of painting apply to all other content areas of fine art.
The Sixth Grade curriculum includes the study of major art forms: stained glass making, mosaic art, illuminated manuscript, frescos, and tapestry weaving. These disciplines are all guided by the same formal issues of art that describe oil painting on canvas.
Woodshop: In the woodshop mini, students design their own projects from start to finish. They are guided through planning and concept through a series of group activities. Then the students design a finalized project. They independently examine and overcome challenges as they arise while working collaboratively exploring the trial and error process that is a natural part of original design. Woodshop projects at this level make use of all the tools that have been mastered over the span of the student’s time at Far Brook, including the 3-D printer.
Woodshop/Science Integration: Science and Woodshop come together as part of an exploration of motion. In science class, students select a viable energy source for human inhabitants of Mars by studying the types of energy 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. The designs are tested using a turbine to record the efficiency against other designs. In this manner, students engage in the same iterative design process that is used by scientists and engineers.
In the Sixth Grade technology mini, students explore robotics and the various electrical inputs and outputs that allow robots to fulfill certain functions. Sixth Graders think critically about the purpose and need of artificial intelligence in our modern-day world and how robots can influence our way of life. Throughout the course, students design, build, and program several types of robots using littleBits, Ozobot Evos, and MakeBlock.
Social and Emotional
Community Groups: In the Fifth and Sixth Grades, Community groups form to provide an opportunity for weekly small group conversations across the grade levels. Students explore how community connects us to one another through a variety of relationships and connections. Both as an individual and collective group students have influence as helpers and leaders in their class, the Middle School, Far Brook community, and beyond. Lesson topics include establishing and respecting community expectations, cooperating and compromising, recognizing and accepting differences among people, and building confidence in one’s own contributions as part of a larger community.
School Store: The Sixth Graders play an important role as leaders of the Middle School (Grades 4-6) at Far Brook. As part of their Mini cycle students develop a ‘Sixth Grade Edition’ of products for the school store, and run their own pop-up shop at designated times during the week. To maintain a deeper investment in the products being sold, Sixth Graders also design logos and artwork to be displayed on products. The students are responsible for determining the school’s need, stocking inventory, conducting sales, maintaining inventory, tracking sales and profit, and donating that profit to a chosen cause.
Opportunity Period allows students to self-select into an activity of choice during the school day. Recent options include Far Brook’s Upper School Orchestra, Green Team (leading the community in environmentally sustainable practices), book club, School newspaper, art, chess, and knitting.
Washington, D.C. Trip: In late spring, the Sixth Grade spends 3 days in our nation’s capital. This annual capstone experience gives students the opportunity to travel and learn together. The cost of this trip is included in the Sixth Grade activities fee.
Sports and Wellness
Sports: The Sixth Grade Athletics program includes a combination of cooperative team building activities, fitness and strength development, and participation in a fall and spring interscholastic sport. Boys participate in soccer in the fall and baseball in the spring, and the girls participate in field hockey in the fall and lacrosse in the spring. A co-ed track and field team has been added to the spring program. 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. When not in season, the students participate in activities such as pickleball, ultimate frisbee, team handball, and basketball and various fitness activities.
Health & Wellness: During the winter session, students participate in sports games, fitness training, and health classes. At the Sixth Grade level students complete the American Red Cross First Aid Babysitting Curriculum. Topics covered include leadership, child safety, and emergency care. This class includes an American Red Cross certification at the end of the course.
After School Programs
- Odyssey of the Mind meets weekly during the school year and is open to students in grades Five and Six. It is an international creative problem-solving program that engages students in their learning by inspiring them to bring their knowledge and ideas to life. Team members apply their ingenuity and creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary works. Participants build self-confidence, develop life skills, create new friendships, and are able to recognize and explore their problem solving potential.
- Spectrum: A Social Justice Discussion Group
As expressed in our Diversity Statement, we believe that being intentional about diversity provides a platform for students to understand, to thrive in, and to impact our multi-cultural society. Students in grades Six, Seven, and Eight who are interested in discussing or learning more about race, equity, and social justice are invited and encouraged to attend.
- STEAM Camp (December and June)
During the second trimester, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Grade families may enroll their students in winter After School Programs.
- The Interscholastic Basketball program offers 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.