Free Sample Science Curriculum: Sixth Grade

This article traces the key topics and themes that form the basic framework for teaching the sixth grade national Science curriculum.

Jimmy Neutron, the science genius, is inspiring a new generation of students. Every state has a science curriculum that follows the national standards of "No Child Left Behind." The most important concept for the sixth grade science curriculum rests with sequencing skills. It is critical for any curriculum to build on the concepts and terms learned from kindergarten through the fifth grade. The key topics and themes that form the framework for the curriculum in every state can be broken down into basic categories.

The sixth grade Science threads shared by all states are: critical thinking, cross-curricular instruction, laboratory and field experience, integration of technology, and inclusion of meaningful hands-on experiences including experimentation and lab work. Specific Science concepts for the sixth grade curriculum include Biology and cell theory, Life Science, the basic components of an atom, the nature of motion, sound waves and vibrations, and the Earth's water cycle.


The design of cells and the basic concepts of DNA are developed in the sixth grade. These topics are studied in depth in the seventh and eighth grade levels in discussion and experimentation in cell division and reproduction. Plant experimentation and observation are recommended for teaching DNA terms and concepts for sixth graders. Growing hybrid seeds and manipulation of the physical growing environment allow students the hands-on, experimental approach that the national education guidelines encourage. Beans and sprouts grow quickly and quickly demonstrate the basic principles of plant growth.

Life Science

Life Science themes for the sixth grade include populations and ecosystems. Discovery and exploration of tide pools introduce the basic concepts of an ecosystem. Plants and photosynthesis, climate, disease and predators offer another way to explore the basic terminology and themes of this sixth grade Life Science thread. A visit to a nature preserve or marine aquarium offers a first hand view of these concepts, as well as encouraging students to view Science in a natural setting. The curriculum standards ask teachers to use nature and community resources in teaching Science at the elementary school and middle school levels. Human geography and social sciences are suggested topics for integration.


Concepts of basic physics including motion, measuring speed of an object, force of an object in motion and the effect of objects on other objects (whether in motion or at rest) are important concepts taught at this grade level. Experiments and use of magnets to illustrate these concepts are suggested activities. The National Space and Science Administration website offers imaginative lesson plans and activities to teach the basic theories of physics and force and also discuss the historical background of Kepler and Copernicus.

Earth and Space Science

Earth and Space Science topics, including the formation of the Earth's crust, plate tectonics, the Earth's rotation, examination of the rock cycle and soil composition of the Earth, are introduced in grade six and expanded upon in curriculum over the next two years. Earthquakes and volcano study make excellent beginnings for understanding important terminology and required curriculum concepts.

The Water Cycle

The water cycle is another required area for sixth grade study. The chemical properties of water, including the concept of solvents and the properties of water combining and bonding are key topics for the sixth grade curriculum. Cloud formation and weather are fun ways to introduce these concepts into the curriculum. A visit from a meteorologist makes for interesting discussion in introducing these concepts. There are numerous websites that offer lessons and activities, as well as a first-hand view of weather in its most violent and active states.

Integration of Science Themes

Required Space Science themes also include lessons and activities introducing the Earth's location, the concept of gravity and the influence of the sun. Physical Science themes of energy from heat, light, electricity, mechanical, chemistry and nuclear energy are also taught at this grade level and integration with the Space Science themes is recommended. Lessons and activities that explore the human eye are excellent ways to illustrate the effect of light. Introducing the astronomical study of stars and the length of time transmission takes to reach the earth, as well as the apparent color of stars are suggestions for activities. The effects of heat transmission from a cold and warm environment illustrate the properties of heat. Nuclear and use of fossil fuels in production of electricity are suggested topics. The curriculum should branch out from the traditional sources of energy to explore alternative energy resources, such as nuclear, wind, fuel cells, hydrogen, or geothermal. The design of a basic battery has not changed much since the battery was invented, and the sixth grade curriculum details the design of batteries and how they are used in society today. Use of storage ponds for solar energy ties the concept of battery storage into the study of the sun.

Cross-Curricular Emphasis

While the themes and suggested curriculum might appear daunting, it is important to remember the concept of subject area integration are important to covering all of the curriculum assigned to the sixth grade. The concepts surrounding heat transfer can be integrated into the study of cells, plant growth, the motion of the Earth, as well as discussion of new sources for creation of heat in the 21st Century. Historical study integrates discussion of how our ancestors used fossil fuels. Few homes use wood or coal burned in a basement furnace as a source for heat today, but these resources were the primary forms for heat a hundred years ago. Natural disasters, such as earthquakes and flooding, influenced the location of cities and towns. Literature ties to the sixth grade required Science curriculum in unexpected ways. Weather may play a key part in a short story. Science fiction is an excellent way to integrate discussion about alternative sources of power and heat. Discussion of hypothetical cities on other planets or the resources planets have for heat and power, help fuel the student imagination on themes of Science.

Curricular Planning

While Jimmy Neutron may rely on sheer brain power, most students need human assistance to guide them through the detailed Science curriculum at the sixth grade level. With careful attention and a detailed plan, every topic can be easily covered during the year. Once these are mastered, the student will use this foundation in physics, life sciences, chemistry and biology to move onto more complex concepts presented in the seventh and eighth grade curriculum.

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