Grade 6

Grade 6 Curriculum


6th grade is an essential time in a child’s social, emotional and cognitive growth. Students embark on a journey filled with a myriad of new challenges and changes as they move toward young adulthood. 


At Cambridge Friends School, our goals are to:


  • Affirm students’ identities, diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, and racial identities.
  • Build empathy, community and connection to the Middle School  
  • Build upon a continued  sense of civic responsibility and inspire change-makers
  • Ground students in an understanding of the larger social, economic and political landscape of the US, currently and historically
  • Foster a love of learning  
  • Deepen students critical thinking and inferential skills
  • Foster growing self-awareness, social awareness, empathy, growth mindset, and responsible, ethical decision making
  • Develop critical thinking skills including perspective taking, systems thinking, and analysis
  • Develop executive functioning skills such as time management and organization
  • Build confidence in one’s own ideas and opinions
  • Communicate effectively both orally and in written expression


Sixth grade is a year of significant transition for students as they gain more independence and apply the skills they have learned in more complex and multifaceted ways. The structure of the school day significantly changes from the lower school model of mainly one teacher to multiple teachers, students move from class to class, and the volume of work expected increases. Students become increasingly responsible for being aware of their own schedules and keeping track of their school materials and assignments. A major focus, therefore, is on developing the executive functioning skills, such as time management and organization, necessary to be a successful, independent middle school student.


Cambridge Friends School sixth- grade students kick off the year with a 3-day immersive visit to the Farm School, a small New England dairy farm, in Orange, MA. Students have the opportunity to not just visit a farm, but to actually be a part of farm life. They feed and groom the animals, muck out stalls, repair equipment, harvest vegetables, and cook our meals. They may plant garlic bulbs that will be harvested by another group in the spring or enjoy maple syrup on their pancakes at breakfast that was collected in the spring. This experience gives our students the opportunity to learn about and appreciate where their food comes from and the amount of hard work it takes to sustain a farm. Students work cooperatively and collaboratively at the Farm School, building a stronger sense of community within our classroom when we return.


In the spring, the CFS  6th-grade humanities curriculum culminates in a hands-on, multi-disciplinary project to create their own ideal civilizations, complete with a system of government, laws, religion, and economy. This is a synthesis of our work around our theme of Ancient Civilizations and our literature unit exploring utopias and dystopias. Students use the techniques they learn in the art studio in the spring to craft a clay artifact from their civilization that will tell something about the people who live there. They draw detailed maps of their civilization and create a 3-D replica of a building from their civilization in the maker space.


At Cambridge Friends School, in sixth grade Humanities, students learn to engage with literature in meaningful and mindful ways. We use a variety of historical and contemporary texts and resources to make personal connections between our individual experiences and the greater world in which we live. Through projects, academic endeavors, and discussions, students work collaboratively to establish a positive learning environment that aims to honor all perspectives, similarities, and differences. Our students develop critical thinking and literacy skills by engaging with more complex literature, develop their writing skills across a variety of genres, and hone their ability to responsibly evaluate history and the varieties of perspectives that create it. The Quaker testimonies provide the lens through which we view our curriculum and conduct our discussions.


The underlying theme for our work in sixth grade is the study of Ancient Civilizations. We investigate the origins and development of major ancient societies of both western and nonwestern civilizations, including the Near East, Africa, Greece, Rome, India, China, and the Americas. By examining the contributions these civilizations have made to the development of society, our students better understand the world we live in today.


Students begin the year with a unit exploring community, looking specifically at what makes a community, why people form communities, what an individual’s responsibility is to a community and what a community’s responsibility is to each individual, and what is more important – the community or the individual. In this context, our reading and writing focuses on the genre of memoir as we learn to share our own stories and build community within our classroom. Students identify the qualities of an effective memoir, develop a clear voice in their writing, and write from their own experience. 


We will then turn our attention to an in- depth study of Ancient Civilizations, as we learn how the social sciences contribute to our understanding of the world. Our essential questions will include:


  • How does learning about ancient cultures impact how we understand the world and our connections to other people and countries?
  • How does geography influence how people live, move, and define regions?
  • How does the movement of ideas, goods, and people affect cultures?
  • What was the role of religion in ancient civilizations and how does it still impact the world?
  • How were the systems of power, authority, and governance used to establish order in ancient civilizations? How are they still present in today’s modern government?


Sixth grade ends the year with a close examination of the current water crisis around the globe.  We discuss the views of water as a right and as a commodity, investigate the conflicts that have arisen from unequal access to safe drinking water, and analyze who decides and by what criteria how water will be used when there are competing water needs. Throughout the unit, students have the opportunity to consider their own civic responsibilities and form an action plan for responding to the injustice of water insecurity in our world today.


Throughout the year, students have the opportunity to read and write across a wide range of genres, including analytical essays, poetry, feature articles, and short stories. Through collaborative and independent projects, field trips, guest experts, research projects, and oral and visual presentations, sixth graders further deepen their understanding of each unit.


Sixth-grade mathematics at Cambridge Friends School focuses on the development and understanding of mathematical concepts and their applications using an exploratory, inquiry-based curriculum, Connected Math Project (CMP3) as the foundation of the course. 


Using a problem-centered approach, we build the students’ fluency in both conceptual and procedural knowledge across a range of mathematical topics. Students have the opportunity to uncover key mathematical ideas and skills, while applying them to real-world situations. Each investigation is designed to build on and connect to other important mathematical ideas and requires higher-level thinking, reasoning, and problem- solving skills. Students will learn to reason effectively, share their mathematical thinking both verbally and in written form, and develop strong mathematical practices as they delve into the Investigations presented in each unit. 


Units of study include:


  1. Prime Time: Factors and Multiples
  • Number theory, including factors, multiples, primes, and composites
  • Greatest Common Factor and Least Common Multiple
  • Prime factorization


  1. Comparing Bits and Pieces: Ratios, Rational Numbers and Equivalence
  • Ratio, unit rates, and rate tables
  • Rational numbers (including fractions, decimals, and percents)
  • Equivalence
  • Absolute value and number line


  1. Let’s Be Rational: Understanding Fraction Operations
  • Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of fractions


  1. Covering and Surrounding: Two-Dimensional Measurement
  • Area and perimeter relationships
  • Area and perimeter of polygons
  • Surface area and volume of rectangular prisms


  1. Decimal Ops: Computing with Decimals and Percents
  • Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of decimals (with estimation)
  • Solutions for a% of b = c


  1. Variables and Patterns: Focus on Algebra
  • Variable expressions and equations
  • Representations of relationships in tables, graphs and equations


  1. Data About Us: Statistics and Data Analysis
  • Analysis of data distributions
  • Measures of center (mean, median, mode)
  • Measures of variability (range, interquartile range, mean absolute deviation)


In sixth-grade science, Cambridge Friends School students address the essential question: What is life? Our approach to this topic largely follows a micro- to macro-scale progression, allowing students to examine life in the context of its basic building blocks all the way to the functioning of highly complex life systems. 


We begin the year with a unit focused on a deeper understanding of observation and inference as well as the scientific method through a hands-on, mock paleontological excavation. Upon completion of this mini unit, students work in collaboration to compose a set of criteria that all living things share. These two mini lessons form the foundation for an in-depth examination of life’s essential building block: the cell. After completing a content assessment on the material, students use knowledge of cell function, DNA, and protein-building to kick off our genetics unit. As we continue to explore life on an increasingly macro scale, students examine larger systems and apply their knowledge of Mendelian genetics to the concept of evolution through natural selection. This unit challenges students to question both the uniqueness and similarities that all life forms possess in relation to each other. To conclude the year, students look at human body systems and pull together concepts on cells, genetics, and evolution to understand the interconnectivity of human body systems and how the complexity of each system has uniquely evolved to sustain life. We utilize the maker space during this unit – utilizing the engineering and design process in order to form a deeper understanding of how each unit covered this year is connected.


The personal identity of each Cambridge Friends School middle school student is at the core of the Middle School Arts program. . The sixth-grade visual arts course introduces students to the middle school art studio, and offers students the structure and support to explore numerous ways of expressing their thoughts, feelings and ideas as they build and refine their creative skills with materials.


The structure of the studio is built around the in-depth study of materials and personal choice. During in-depth studies, students explore a material, practice and refine skills, and use the material to create a major project. Each in-depth project is a multi-step design problem. An important goal of in-depth projects is for students to practice working both independently and collaboratively. Often, major projects are collaborations between visual art and another discipline.


Personal choice occurs between major projects and gives students the opportunity to learn from the art studio. Personal choice is not an unstructured time. During personal choice, each student chooses to work on a number of design challenges, or experiment with a material, or propose an independent project.

Physical Education

Middle School Physical Education aims to develop basic skills, concepts, and dispositions needed to lead a physically active lifestyle. Students transition through a variety of movements, and skill-based units including, individual, partner, small-sided, and large group activities, all of which aim to promote activity, movement, and increase a student’s sense of self-confidence. Units and activities are tiered from grade to grade increasing challenges throughout the middle school Physical Education experience. 


Students in grade six focus on the history of the English language during their library time. Through Beowulf, students understand how historical movements of populations have created new languages, as seen through stories that reflect the traditional culture and beliefs of Northern Europe. Stories surrounding King Arthur provide students with an understanding of the origin of medieval legends and how legends influence historical truth, folklore and myth. English has such a large and varied vocabulary, with words from many language families. 


The Cambridge Friends School sixth-grade drama program begins with students choosing short stories and adapting them into script form. Character development is looked at through the lens of familiarity with the stories themselves. Our students are encouraged to pick stories that they feel a connection to, and to develop their own version of these characters. They are taught to adapt stories into functional scripts that young audiences can follow. Students are also introduced to the concepts of “given information,” and learn how to integrate their own choices into preconceived characters. 


During the second half of the school year, CFS sixth-graders are introduced to the on-camera medium by constructing their own newscast. Writing, editing, acting, directing, stage-managing, and post-production are combined into a half-year unit where the ensemble creates the newscast template from its inception to the final product. Knowing who does what on a film set and the subtleties of the on-camera medium are taught in a project-based curriculum that encourages creativity, risk-taking, and teamwork. 


Through a foreign-language immersion pedagogy, Cambridge Friends  School’s sixth graders are able to learn and use Spanish through casual and spontaneous conversations.  They are able to listen and ask questions in Spanish based on these conversations rather than through using memorized pre-planned answers.  CFS Spanish students also spend time studying Spanish culture and incorporate the celebration of specific events like Dia de Muerto (Day of the Dead) in order to better understand both the language and  social structure of Spanish-speaking countries.