Welcome to sixth grade and the Upper School at GUS! In all disciplines, sixth grade students consider the year-long theme of “The People,” studying how humans interact with their environment through work, art, recreation and thought. By studying and comparing various ancient civilizations in Social Studies, students develop a frame of reference to understand and appreciate cultural differences. The interdisciplinary approach is evident, for example, when students mummify fruit in social studies class and construct clay canopic jars for their mummies in art class.
Understanding various perspectives is reinforced by reading such books as The Misfits in English class. In addition to reading books as a whole class, sixth graders independently select books from a variety of genres. In fiction and non-fiction writing, considered the essential corollary to reading, students are expected to employ sophisticated vocabulary and syntax to express themselves.
In science, students seek to answer questions about the world that surrounds them and to understand how the weather affects the way people live today and in ancient times, in industrialized and third world countries. Conceptions about the universe – geography, astronomy, oceanography and creation – are explored. The year concludes with a three- day trip to Cape Cod to study coastal ecology.
The study of Spanish continues the commitment to learn about different cultures and civilizations. The study of a world language promotes awareness of other cultures and encourages sixth graders to “respect all people and value their differences.” Our Spanish program also offers the students many chances to “act responsibly in our community and in the world,” through lessons about child labor in Latin America and Latino migrant labor in the United States.
Latin instruction at GUS spans sixth to eighth grades. Using the reading-based curriculum Ecce Romani, students complete the first volume of a two-volume Latin I text. Class discussions intersect with grade themes as we consider family, class, and cultural identity in Roman society and compare them to our own. Latin study deepens students’ understanding of English grammar and syntax.
Sixth grade math curriculum is designed to prepare students for the study of algebra. Rather than merely apply a known strategy to solve a problem, students are often asked to find their own way, apply it, and, if it works, explain to others how and why it works. As part of their interdisciplinary study, sixth graders consider the number systems of the Mayans, Egyptians, Babylonians, and Greeks, not only as windows into those ancient cultures but to deepen their understanding of our own decimal place-value number system.
Music, drama, visual art, and sports activities also relate to the year’s theme. Music classes focus on music history from the beginning of recorded time until the late Renaissance period. They cover early sounds, rhythm, pentatonic scales, the diatonic scale and the use of dissonance. Students practice solfege, ear-training, singing, and even composition for a musical. In drama classes, students integrate their earlier study of dance into movement for the stage. In art classes, students engage in El Dia des los Muertos activities, incorporate ancient symbols into modern art, and use geometric shapes in drawing and painting. In sports, students work on the fundamentals and rules of soccer, basketball, and lacrosse. They play a few games against other schools.
Rounding out the sixth grade program is a once-a-week life skills class in which students learn skills for healthy decision-making, communication, problem solving, and conflict resolution.