What Science Is Taught In Sixth Grade?

Written by Dan

Are you looking to understand what science topics your sixth-grader will learn this year? Don’t worry—it can all seem overwhelming initially, but we’ve got you covered! In this blog post, we’ll demystify the sixth-grade science curriculum and give you a fun way to learn more about the various concepts your student will be exploring.

From earth sciences like geology and meteorology to life sciences such as genetics and cells biology, the variety of scientific topics is sure to pique any student’s interest. Read on for some great ideas on how parents can get involved in their kids’ education by helping them understand this complex subject!

Life Science

Life science is essential for sixth graders as it helps them understand the world around them and how living organisms function. This fundamental knowledge provides a strong foundation for further studies in biology and other related fields.


Genetics is the study of heredity and the variation of inherited characteristics in living organisms. It helps students understand how traits are passed down from one generation to another through genes, which are segments of DNA that carry instructions for making proteins. Some key concepts in genetics include:

  1. Dominant and Recessive Traits: Some traits, such as eye color or hair type, are determined by dominant and recessive genes. Dominant genes are those that show their effect even if only one copy is present, while recessive genes require two copies to show their effect.
  2. Punnett Squares: A Punnett square is a diagram used to predict the outcome of a genetic cross between two individuals with known genotypes. This tool helps students visualize the possible combinations of alleles and calculate the probability of inheriting specific traits.
  3. Genetic Variation: Genetic variation occurs due to mutations, genetic recombination during sexual reproduction, and gene flow between populations. This variation is essential for evolution, as it allows species to adapt to changing environments.


Ecology is the study of relationships between organisms and their environment. Students learn about the delicate balance in ecosystems and the importance of conserving biodiversity. Key concepts in ecology include:

  1. Ecosystems: An ecosystem is a community of living organisms interacting with each other and their physical environment. Ecosystems can be as small as a pond or as large as a rainforest.
  2. Food Chains and Food Webs: Food chains show the flow of energy and nutrients through an ecosystem, from producers (plants) to consumers (animals). Food webs are a more complex representation of these relationships, illustrating the interconnectedness of various food chains within an ecosystem.
  3. Biomes: Biomes are large regions of the Earth characterized by specific climate conditions and distinctive plant and animal life. Examples of biomes include tundra, rainforests, deserts, and grasslands.
  4. Human Impact on the Environment: Students learn about various ways humans impact the environment, such as deforestation, pollution, and climate change. They also explore conservation efforts and sustainable practices to protect ecosystems and preserve biodiversity.

The Human Body

The human body is a complex system of organs, tissues, and cells working together to perform essential functions. In sixth grade, students learn about the major organ systems and their roles in maintaining overall health. Some important topics include:

  1. Circulatory System: The circulatory system transports blood, oxygen, and nutrients throughout the body. It consists of the heart, blood vessels, and blood.
  2. Respiratory System: The respiratory system allows us to breathe and exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide between our body and the environment. The primary organs in this system are the lungs and the trachea.
  3. Digestive System: The digestive system breaks down food into nutrients that can be absorbed by the body. Key organs in this system include the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines.
  4. Nervous System: The nervous system processes information from our senses and controls our body’s responses. It includes the brain, spinal cord, and nerves.

By learning about genetics, ecology, and the human body, sixth graders gain a deeper understanding of life science and its relevance to their daily lives. This foundation prepares them for more advanced studies in biology and related fields, fostering a lifelong appreciation for the natural world.

Earth and Space Science


Geology is the study of the Earth’s structure, materials, and processes that have shaped it over time. In sixth grade, students can learn about various aspects of geology, including:

  1. Rocks and Minerals: Students can explore the three main types of rocks (igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic) and learn how they are formed. They can also study the characteristics of minerals and identify common examples.
  2. Plate Tectonics: This concept explains how the Earth’s lithosphere is divided into large plates that move over time. Students can learn about the different types of plate boundaries, such as divergent, convergent, and transform boundaries, and the geological features that result from these interactions.
  3. Earthquakes and Volcanoes: Students can study the causes and effects of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions by understanding plate tectonics. They can learn about the different types of faults, the seismic waves generated by earthquakes, and the structure and eruption styles of volcanoes.
  4. Fossils and Geologic Time: Fossils provide valuable clues about the history of life on Earth. Students can learn how fossils are formed, the importance of the fossil record, and the concept of geologic time, including the major eras and periods in Earth’s history.

Weather Patterns

Weather patterns are an essential aspect of Earth science, and sixth graders can study various topics related to this, such as:

  1. Atmosphere and Weather: Students can learn about the Earth’s atmosphere, its composition, and the layers that make it up. They can also study the factors that influence weather, including temperature, humidity, air pressure, and wind.
  2. Water Cycle: The water cycle is a crucial process that influences weather patterns. Students can explore the different stages of the water cycle, including evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and runoff.
  3. Climate: Climate refers to the long-term patterns of temperature, humidity, wind, and precipitation in a particular region. Students can learn about the factors that influence climate, such as latitude, elevation, proximity to bodies of water, and the different climate zones around the world.
  4. Extreme Weather Events: Sixth graders can study various extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and droughts. They can learn about the causes and effects of these events and the methods used to predict and mitigate their impacts.


Astronomy is the study of celestial objects and phenomena beyond Earth’s atmosphere. In sixth grade, students can learn about several aspects of astronomy, including:

  1. The Solar System: Students can explore the composition and structure of our solar system, including the sun, planets, moons, asteroids, and comets. They can learn about the characteristics of each planet and their unique features.
  2. Stars and Galaxies: Students can study stars and galaxies beyond our solar system. They can learn about the life cycle of stars, the different types of stars, and the formation of galaxies.
  3. The Universe: Students can delve into the broader concepts of the universe, including its origin, expansion, and the fundamental forces that govern it. They can also learn about the Big Bang theory, dark matter, and dark energy.
  4. Space Exploration: The history and future of space exploration can be an exciting topic for sixth graders. They can learn about the various missions, spacecraft, and technologies used to study and explore our solar system and beyond.

Physical Science

Physical science is a fascinating subject that explores the natural world around us. For sixth graders, learning about energy, motion, and matter can be an exciting journey into understanding how everything in the universe interacts. Let’s dive into these fundamental topics and see what makes them so essential to our understanding of the physical world.


Energy is the ability to do work or cause change. It comes in many forms, such as kinetic energy, potential energy, thermal energy, and more. Understanding energy is crucial because it powers everything from the smallest cell in our body to the largest machines we use daily.

Kinetic Energy

Kinetic energy is the energy of motion. Any moving object has kinetic energy. The amount of kinetic energy depends on the object’s mass and speed. For example, a car moving at high speed will have more kinetic energy than a slower-moving bicycle.

Potential Energy

Potential energy is stored energy that has the potential to be converted into other forms of energy. An object’s position, shape, or state can give it potential energy. For example, a stretched rubber band has potential energy due to its position and shape, while a battery possesses chemical potential energy.

Energy Conservation

The law of conservation of energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only converted from one form to another. This principle helps us understand how various forms of energy interact with each other. For example, when a ball falls from a height, its potential energy is converted into kinetic energy.


Motion is the process of an object changing its position over time. We need to explore concepts like speed, velocity, and acceleration to understand motion.

Speed and Velocity

Speed is the measure of how fast an object moves, while velocity is the speed of an object in a specific direction. For example, if a car travels 60 miles per hour east, its speed is 60 mph, and its velocity is 60 mph east.


Acceleration is the rate at which an object’s velocity changes over time. It can occur when an object speeds up, slows down, or changes direction. For example, when a car accelerates from a stoplight, its velocity increases, resulting in positive acceleration.


Matter is anything that has mass and takes up space. Everything we see, touch, and interact with is made up of matter. To understand matter, we need to explore its different states and properties.

States of Matter

Matter exists in four primary states: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. In a solid, particles are tightly packed together and maintain a fixed shape and volume. In a liquid, particles are close together but can flow past one another, allowing liquids to take the shape of their container. Gases have far apart particles that move freely, taking both the shape and volume of their container. Plasma in stars and lightning consists of highly charged particles and is not commonly encountered in everyday life.

Properties of Matter

Matter has various properties, such as mass, volume, and density. Mass is the amount of matter in an object, while volume is the space an object occupies. Density, a measure of how much mass is contained in a given volume, can help us identify substances and determine whether an object will float or sink in a fluid.


Chemistry is a fascinating subject that helps us understand the world around us. In sixth grade, students are introduced to the basics of chemistry, focusing on chemical reactions and the periodic table of elements. This knowledge lays the foundation for more advanced chemistry and other sciences studies.

Chemical Reactions

A chemical reaction is a process where substances, known as reactants, are transformed into new substances, called products. During a chemical reaction, atoms are rearranged, and chemical bonds are broken and formed. There are many types of chemical reactions, but some common ones that sixth graders learn about include:

  1. Combination reactions: In this type of reaction, two or more reactants combine to form a single product. For example, when hydrogen (H₂) and oxygen (O₂) combine, they form water (H₂O).
  2. Decomposition reactions: These reactions involve the breakdown of a single compound into two or more simpler substances. For example, when water (H₂O) is broken down through electrolysis, it forms hydrogen (H₂) and oxygen (O₂).
  3. Displacement reactions: In these reactions, one element in a compound is replaced by another element. For example, when copper (Cu) is placed in a solution containing silver nitrate (AgNO₃), silver (Ag) is displaced, and copper nitrate (Cu(NO₃)₂) is formed.
  4. Acid-base reactions: These reactions involve the transfer of a proton (H⁺) from an acid to a base. For example, when hydrochloric acid (HCl) reacts with sodium hydroxide (NaOH), they form water (H₂O) and sodium chloride (NaCl).

In order to recognize and predict the products of chemical reactions, sixth graders learn about the Law of Conservation of Mass, which states that matter cannot be created or destroyed in a chemical reaction. This means that the reactants’ total mass must equal the products’ total mass.

The Periodic Table of Elements

The periodic table of elements is a chart that organizes all known chemical elements based on their properties. It was created by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869 and has since been updated as new elements have been discovered. In sixth grade, students learn about the basic structure of the periodic table and how to use it to predict the properties of elements.

The periodic table is arranged in rows, called periods, and columns, called groups. Elements in the same group share similar properties, such as reactivity and the number of electrons in their outer shell. Some important groups that sixth graders learn about include:

  • Group 1: Alkali metals: These elements are highly reactive and have one electron in their outer shell. Examples include lithium (Li), sodium (Na), and potassium (K).
  • Group 2: Alkaline earth metals: These elements are less reactive than alkali metals but still quite reactive. They have two electrons in their outer shell. Examples include beryllium (Be), magnesium (Mg), and calcium (Ca).
  • Group 17: Halogens: These elements are highly reactive non-metals with seven electrons in their outer shell. Examples include fluorine (F), chlorine (Cl), and iodine (I).
  • Group 18: Noble gases: These elements are very stable and unreactive due to having a full outer shell of electrons. Examples include helium (He), neon (Ne), and argon (Ar).

By understanding the patterns and relationships within the periodic table, sixth-grade students can better understand the properties of elements and predict how they will behave in chemical reactions.

Introducing Scientific Inquiry

Scientific inquiry is an essential part of science education and plays a crucial role in developing critical thinking skills in students. In sixth grade, students are at an ideal age to dive into scientific inquiry, as they possess the curiosity and cognitive abilities needed to explore complex scientific questions. By introducing scientific inquiry in the classroom, educators can help students develop the necessary critical thinking skills and foster a love for learning that will last a lifetime.

What is Scientific Inquiry?

Scientific inquiry is a process that involves asking questions, making observations, gathering data, analyzing results, and drawing conclusions based on evidence. It is a method used by scientists to explore the natural world and investigate various phenomena. Scientific inquiry aims to develop explanations for observed events and test those explanations through experimentation.

Benefits of Scientific Inquiry in the Classroom

Incorporating scientific inquiry in the sixth-grade curriculum has several benefits, such as:

  1. Developing Critical Thinking Skills: Scientific inquiry encourages students to think critically, analyze data, and draw conclusions based on evidence. These skills are essential for success in any field and are transferable to other areas of life.
  2. Fostering Curiosity and Creativity: Encouraging students to ask questions and explore the world around them helps cultivate their natural curiosity and creativity.
  3. Enhancing Problem-Solving Abilities: Through scientific inquiry, students learn how to identify problems, develop hypotheses, and design experiments to test their ideas. This process sharpens their problem-solving skills and teaches them the importance of perseverance and resilience.
  4. Building Collaboration and Communication Skills: Working together on scientific inquiries allows students to develop collaboration and communication skills, as they must share ideas and findings with their peers.
  5. Promoting Science Literacy: Engaging in scientific inquiry helps students gain a deeper understanding of scientific concepts and the nature of science, preparing them for future success in science courses and careers.

How to Introduce Scientific Inquiry in the Sixth Grade

  1. Encourage Questioning: Start by encouraging students to ask questions about the world around them. This can be done through classroom discussions, brainstorming sessions, or individual journaling exercises.
  2. Teach the Scientific Method: Introduce the scientific method as a systematic approach to answering questions and solving problems. Discuss each step of the process, including observation, hypothesis formation, experimentation, data collection, and analysis.
  3. Design Experiments: Guide students in designing their own experiments to test hypotheses. Encourage them to think about variables, controls, and how to collect and analyze data.
  4. Provide Hands-On Activities: Offer opportunities for students to engage in hands-on activities and experiments related to the topics they are studying. This could include lab work, outdoor observations, or simulations.
  5. Facilitate Group Work: Encourage students to work together on scientific inquiries, promoting collaboration and communication. Assign roles within the group, such as a recorder, materials manager, or data analyst, to ensure that all students are actively involved in the process.
  6. Evaluate and Reflect: After completing an inquiry, have students evaluate their results and reflect on their learning. This can be done through group discussions, written reflections, or presentations to the class.

By integrating scientific inquiry into the sixth-grade curriculum, educators can help students develop critical thinking skills, foster a love for learning, and prepare them for future success in science and beyond.

From understanding the basics of scientific notation to forming hypotheses, it’s clear that sixth grade science classes provide students with a unique and engaging learning experience. Through active discussion and exploration of core concepts like systems of the human body or states of matter, teachers equip their students with valuable scientific knowledge that can last them into middle school and beyond.

No matter what subject is chosen for the class, sixth grade science can always drive intellectual curiosity and encourage creativity. So stay curious as you explore further! And don’t forget to read our other articles for more resources on geology or astronomy. We’ll continue to bring educational content your way, hoping you’ll one day build the skills necessary to pursue a life-long love for STEM.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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