Tuesday 15th March
What’s happening in Sixth Grade by Mark Shiffman, parent of Bruno, 6th Grade and Elio, Early Childhood Program
As children enter the sixth grade year, their awareness has begun to open up to take in the wider world in which they live. In fifth grade they made the transition from the timeless stories of India, Mesopotamia and Greece to a consciousness of history when they saw how Alexander the Great encountered all these cultures as he extended the Macedonian Empire. In the sixth grade, they start the year learning about the Romans, whose empire extended over many peoples in Europe and the Mediterranean, from Britain to Egypt. They learn about the road systems and Latin language that allowed these varied cultural groups to become more interconnected. Their geographic knowledge expands, while at the same time they gain a greater awareness of the tangled mixture of darkness and light, violence and friendship, greed and noble vision that runs through human affairs. These lessons from a distant past take on a more timely relevance as the children turn in the winter months to a study of Latin America. Empires that used to be part of the Roman world now extend their reach into a new world. Lured by gold and silver, they set in motion histories in which the struggles between despotism and constitutional liberties, conquerors and conquered, and rich and poor extend down to our own day.
It’s inspiring to see how fascinated the children are with these Latin American countries. Last year they worked very hard over their demanding U.S. state reports, and learned a lot about other parts of their own country and about how to research and organize information. This year Ms. Parashchuk asked them only to collect material for three essays of five paragraphs each. They all arrived with loads of information, and wanted to write pages and pages. They told her, “We like writing!” They’ve become selfmotivated learners, eager to share their discoveries with their classmates and parents. A student who researched Costa Rica even presented his report to the eighth grade class in preparation for their trip there in the spring. The sixth grade year is a big step forward in the children’s education, and it is encouraging to see them taking that step with confidence and enthusiasm.