In sixth grade, the following curriculum components are introduced:
- Math: Introduction to Algebra; ratios; proportions; geometric formula and drawing with instruments; continuation of fractions, percentages, decimals
- Language Arts: Dictation; composition; spelling; Latin and Greek roots, etymology; biographies; mythological literature; drama
- Science: Mineralogy; introduction to physics: acoustics, electricity, magnetism, optics, heat; geocentric astronomy
- History & Social Studies: Roman and Medieval history; projects and reports
- Geography: European geography
- Handwork: Knitting socks using four needles
- Woodworking: Concavity and Construction which may include a project such as a spoon
- World Language: Continuing Spanish study with grammar work, historical and cultural studies, poetry, music, plays. Focus on geography and history of Spain.
- Visual & Performing Arts: Calligraphy; painting; clay modeling; mosaics; drawing, drama; chorus; recorder; instrumental ensemble
- Movement/Physical Education/Games: Introduction to competitive games; more formal movement skills; complex strategy; calisthenics
The children entering the twelfth year in the sixth grade begins to experience an important change in their physical bodies. In earlier years, their movements were naturally graceful (generally speaking), but now a certain clumsiness often appears, as if the children don’t know quite what to do with their bodies. On the inner level the child is entering strongly into a conscious awareness of the skeletal system. The child is more aware of gravity and weight; growth in the skeletal and muscular systems challenge the student’s capacities for balance and coordination, They are seeking a conscious recovery of order and control over themselves.
With this increased awareness of the physical body, this is the appropriate time to introduce the study of the physical body of the earth and its mechanical laws.
Mineralogy and Geology form a major unit of study in the sixth grade, focusing on comparative studies of major geographic and geologic formations, and on the identification and classification of mineral components of rocks.
Physics is also introduced this year. In the curriculum, physics is an active process of listening, observing, discovering, and exploring that leads to the formation of concepts. During the course of study, the child learns to understand and appreciate the phenomena of sound, light, heat, electricity, and magnetism, while developing his/her observational and explanatory skills. It is at this stage that concepts based on the laws of mechanics are introduced. The introduction of the physical sciences at this age is also a response to the intellectual development of the sixth grade child, which is characterized by greater powers of discernment and judgment and a new capacity to grasp cause and effect.
Geography studies are balanced with an upward perspective through the study of naked eye astronomy, the astronomy of the Middle Ages. The study of Astronomy is introduced this year, concentrating on those bodies of the solar system that are directly observable by the naked eye. The effects of the Sun and the Moon on the cyclical phenomena we experience on Earth are explored through observation and simple experimentation. The five “visible” planets are studied, and the major constellations of the Northern Hemisphere are identified. The telling of the myths behind the names of the constellations provides rich material for the creative writing exercises in sixth grade. Once again, the child is encouraged to carefully and accurately observe phenomena.
The practical nature of the sixth grader is met through a study of business math; its emphasis on transactions, profit and loss, and interest establish the foundation for algebra that will soon come. It is linked to the historical period of the grade with its rise of towns, trade, and guilds.
Practicality is balanced with artistry; the sixth grade child is challenged to complete a series of precise geometric forms using instruments and beautifying with carefully applied color. Whereas geometric shapes have in the prior grades been drawn freehand as artistic exercises, the sixth grader learns the mathematical properties of these forms and strives to construct them with great accuracy using ruler and compass.
Basic proofs are derived inductively through the construction of geometric forms; the child will learn to copy and bisect angles as well as construct parallel and perpendicular lines, and the concept of pi is also developed pictorially and arithmetically.
The History curriculum that governs much of the sixth grade Language Arts work takes as its theme Rome and medieval Christian Europe, and Moslem North Africa. The study of the Roman epoch begins with the mythical account of the travels of Aeneas and his founding of the city; it examines the evolution of Roman government, laws and rights through its successive rulers, the wars it waged, and its great achievements in technology and the arts; and it charts the events leading to its decline and the concomitant rise of Christianity and Islam.
The Roman epoch epitomizes, in a historical sense, what the children are experiencing in their bodies. Of all the ancient peoples the Romans most strongly dominated the physical world. Their cities, roads, aqueducts, the Roman army, and their conquest of the Western world – all these accomplishments match a feeling of ego-confidence and a consciousness of personal power that the sixth grader has: I can do anything! Yet equally important for the children is the example of how the excesses of the Roman period led to the eradication of other cultures, the fall of the Roman Empire, and the Middle Ages. Study of the Middle ages brings students in touch with the ride of Feudalism. A sense of order and justice is embraced, mirroring the progression of the children developmentally. Students art introduced to the concepts of chivalry, Arthurian Legend, and the search for the Holy Grail.
The rather matter of fact, material approach to life that was the hallmark of Rome is a perfect mirror of the developing sixth grader who is interested in mastery of the physical and is less willing to engage in the fanciful or emotional aspects of life – at least externally. The child’s inner life may become both deeper and less accessible; the light, sanguine quality of the younger child has now receded as new forces begin to appear. This turning inward, the foreshadowing of adolescence, is mirrored historically by the European Dark Ages, when knowledge and civilization seemed to disappear. It is reassuring for teacher and parent alike to recall that knowledge and culture had not vanished but were hidden for protection and deepening, waiting to reappear in a flurry of learning and progress in the High Middle Ages.
The sixth grade child feels solidly on the earth; therefore, the curriculum includes a study of geology, exploring the formation of the earth’s surface. The world enlarges for the sixth grade child in the study of Geography. Following the consideration of basic physical configurations as part of the Geology unit, the study of specific geographic regions extends to Europe. The emphasis is on the interrelationship between the environment and traditional human cultures and ways of living. Students may be asked to engage in independent research on a country in Europe resulting in a project/presentation to the class.
English Language Arts
The law-abiding, rule-bound culture of Rome offers an instructive backdrop for the sixth grade child in developing his/her English language skills. The Latin roots of common words and expressions are explored. Conventions of composition and research are elaborated upon this year, and the fundamentals of scientific writing are introduced to coincide with the science main lesson units. Formal grammar rules are also dealt with in greater detail. Grammar studies are linked to causal thinking with an exploration of the conditional and subjunctive moods. The beauty and order of calligraphy makes it another appropriate skill to be introduced in the sixth grade.
The text above is adapted from the Alliance for Public Waldorf Education, with revisions that reflect the MPCS curriculum.