The renewed understanding of self and society, that has started in years before 11, is now in full swing. Children at this age have or are trying to develop, an independent identity. Yet, their dependence on parents remains, while bonding with friends, in particular friends’ groups, has started to solidify.
On the cognitive front, students at this age can be encouraged to start looking at events, concepts, and systems in an objective or unbiased manner. They can also be expected to deal with more complexity and absorb more information than before.
For example, when it comes to studying history, kids at this age can appreciate the concept of a civilization, its rise and decline, and it’s key features. They are able to study multiple civilizations, their place in history, and appreciate processes and tools for historical research, including archaeological evidence.
In Geography, they can use their analytical and measurement abilities to learn more precise details about the Earth, it’s climate, continents, geology, and oceans. A number of complex geographical and climate science concepts can be introduced at this stage to appreciate individual parts of the Earth system.
In Physics, students get introduced to the fundamental building blocks of mechanics, forms of energy, forms of matter, and their properties. In biology, they traditionally get introduced to classification of the living world.
Implications for nature education
The 6th grade student is being encouraged to be objective, analytical, and absorb a vast variety of concepts. All this newfound knowledge forms a foundation for future educational components, but there is also a risk that if they are not meaningfully integrated, the same education will become dry and examination-oriented.
Nature educators can play a vital role in integrating concepts at this stage:
- Energy: Its natural and man-made forms, conversion of energy, how humans appropriate natural energy sources for their own benefit, and the side effects of it (e.g. land use change and pollution). This will create a foundation for energy use discussions in this and future years.
- Matter: It’s forms in nature and the man-made world. Extraction and use of matter by man for his own benefit and implications for nature (e.g. land use change, energy intensity, and waste creation).
- Soil and Water as natural resources that are shared by other species, natural systems, and man. Their extraction by man vs. their natural cycles of replenishment.
- This is a good year to discuss agriculture in depth – history of agriculture (locally and globally), the prevailing systems in the local area and nationally, their pros and cons, economic linkages, and sustainable agriculture
- Man’s various vocations can be revisited, and role of nature in them can be examined.
- Biodiversity, classification of living things, and documentation of natural observations can be introduced more formally.
- An introduction to the topic of decline of past civilizations when seen from the environmental and natural resource lens.
- Ecosystems and their health can be taken as a running thread through all of the above, as a way to integrate everything that is being discussed.
At this level, we also suggest the beginning of more in-depth field work in observing nature, documenting and classifying species, and analyzing and documenting man’s use of natural resources.