The sixth-grade Humanities course combines the study of history, geography, current events, and study skills. In the first part of the year, in conjunction with Language Arts classes, students complete a unit on understanding and applying basic geography and map skills, such as time zones, latitude, longitude, land and water forms, the use of scale, and map keys. This study forms the basis of a semester-long project in which the students create their own country.
Students then examine the medieval period in three geographic areas: the Islamic world, Europe, and Japan. We study Islam both as an empire and as a faith, while also looking at the geography of the Middle East in detail. Often, to conclude the Islam unit, we explore Islamic contributions to and influence on our culture in a three-day study of Islam across the curriculum coordinated with other disciplines. The program then turns to an analysis of the environment, people, culture, and economy of medieval Europe. We emphasize the feudal system, the rise of towns, knights, castles, the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, the Crusades, and the contributions of the arts and sciences during the Middle Ages. Finally, we look at the similarities as well as the differences in historical patterns between medieval Europe and medieval Japan, particularly feudal political organizations, bonds between warriors, and the role of religion in both societies.
Extensive projects for reinforcement of these concepts may include independent research, organizational charts, oral reports, plays, speeches, videos, podcasts, digital slide shows, and the creation of a newspaper or book. Formal current events discussions take place once a rotation, and we look for ways to continue these conversations with a larger audience outside the classroom. These discussions are based on articles found in The New York Times and other sources.
The skills we work on throughout the year include the following:
- prompt and accurate completion of daily work
- prompt and accurate completion of long-term projects
- ability to demonstrate accurate comprehension of text content
- ability to compare and contrast information in a single paragraph and in a multi-
- paragraph essay
- ability to develop and write clear, multi-paragraph essays
- ability to take clear and accurate notes from a text
- ability to prepare for all types of tests and quizzes
- ability to write thorough yet concise summaries
- ability to research information from several sources
- ability to master geographic terms and maps and comprehend
- primary sources, such as legal documents, artwork, and graphs