Highlights and Challenges of 6th Grade: The Science Main Lesson in Geology

crystalsSixth grade is a wonderful time to begin the exploration of the earth in a science main lesson. As Donna notes in her book, From Nature Stories to Natural Science:

” Geology is usually taught in Waldorf schools in the Sixth Grade. That is when children are twelve years old, on the threshold of adolescence and at a period in their lives when they really want to get to the bottom of things. Their bodies are becoming more mineralized and denser. What better time to study the physical foundations of our Earth?” (89)

She goes on to give some broad recommendations for working with this main lesson in sixth grade, all of which are very helpful. Since sixth grade has only a rough guide to this main lesson (aside from the chapter in the Nature Stories book), I thought it would be helpful to give you a concept outline that I created when I taught this main lesson to my children and also in a co-op format. One of these Geology weeks is also outlined in Amy’s Christopherus Homeschool Planner as well. Obviously each week was much more detailed with spelling and definitions and colored drawings on the board, but this concept outline will I hope be helpful to you in creating at least one thematic structure for dealing with this main lesson. This unit is designed to be done in three weeks but could easily take four. This outline was designed for 6th graders but it could easily be used with any middle school grade, even up through grade 9 since the concepts are challenging. Remember to make Geology hands on with field trips and outdoor explorations. A good rock testing kit is essential to this unit as well. One very complete resource I used was a kit called Our Amazing Planet Earth, Earth Science Kit. ( Educational Design, Inc,. New York, NY 10014 No.7200)with a 100 page book by Caleb Crowell and many experiments.


A Brief Concept Outline for Sixth Grade Geology

A Brief Concept Outline for Sixth Grade Geology (3 week class)

WEEK ONE: Inside the Earth/ Forces on Earth

CONCEPT ONE: Layers of Earth

Introduce a little history of science and what ancient philosophers like Aristotle thought inside the earthabout the nature of the physical Earth. When the seismograph was invented in 1880, scientists were more able to “see” into the interior of the Earth. Parent creates a large colored chalk drawing showing the layers of the Earth (cut-away) indicating core, mantle, asthenosphere, lithosphere, and oceanic and continental crust. Discuss drawing and indicate thicknesses and distance of layers. Have child do rough sketch from chalkboard.

CONCEPT TWO: Tectonic (crustal) plates and Pangea (continental drift)

Discuss 1923 theory of meteorologist Wegener and his ideas of a supercontinent and continental drift. Discuss fossil and other evidence for Pangea. Cut out major continent pieces and try to fit them together like a jigsaw puzzle. Does it indicate value in the Pangea theory?

Look at theory of Hess and Wilson in 1960s. Discuss how movements of the plates build the surface of the Earth. Look visually at overlays of oceanic and continental plates that cover Earth. Discuss spreading, subduction and translation of plates plus links with volcanoes and earthquakes.

Have an outline world map and indicate the crustal plate boundaries of world. If possible, show through overlays the rifts, ridges and tectonic plates in layers.

Homework would include Spelling and Definitions quiz; colored layers of earth drawing with description, Pangea explanation plus continent pieces glued in main lesson book; crustal plate boundaries map.


WEEK TWO: Volcanoes, Earthquakes, Mountain Building and the Rock Cycle.

CONCEPT ONE: Plate Movements of Subduction and Collision and Mountain Building

Discuss plate movements of subduction and collision. Look visually at what happens when two plates can’t subduct because their rock was too light by giving prepared clay “plates” to student. Move plates into collision and observe the process of mountain “folding”. Discuss mountain building and the types of mountains (folded, block, volcanic and dome). Look at the world’s subduction zones with specific discussion of the Cascade Range.

CONCEPT TWO: How Subduction Leads to Volcanoes and Types of Volcanoes

Introduce myths and early history of science about volcanoes then discuss current science. Create a volcano eruption experiment. How did the experiment volcano “erupt” and how do real volcanoes erupt? Look at types of volcanoes. Show hot spots for volcanoes on world map.

CONCEPT THREE: Transform Faults and Earthquakes

Discuss origin and measurement of earthquakes (Richter scale and Mercalli). Earthquake and fault zones on Earth explored. Do hands experiment to demonstrate movement along transform fault.


Create a diagram and study sheet of the rock cycle. On blackboard is a colored drawing of rock landscape showing oceanic plate subducting with continental plate and showing where three type of rocks (igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary) arise in the landscape. Show samples of rock types.

Homework would include spelling and definitions for a quiz next week, drawing of each type of volcano with labels, choice of either a colored drawing of rock landscape or a one page earthquake report.


WEEK 3: Minerals, Crystals, Gems and Caves

geologyCONCEPT ONE: How to Test and Identify Rocks

Discuss minerals, crystals etc and put definitions up on board. Work to understand relationships and show specimens. Discuss how to identify and test specimens (streak test, hardness, acid, crystal shape) and fill out a study sheet on concepts, including the ten minerals on Mohs scale. Do tests using the test kit. Be sure and explore intrusive and extrusive igneous rocks, halite, granite, quartz, feldspar and mica. Look at sedimentary rocks of sandstone and limestone. Identify hematite with streak test and pyrite. Look at metamorphic rocks of slate and gneiss using various test mediums.


CONCEPT TWO: Gold and Gems

Discuss history and properties of gold, look at precious gem pictures or samples. Complete summary sheet about minerals, diamonds and gold. Crystal veil painting begun.


Discuss how caves form and some cave definitions. Prepare for a cave field trip

Homework would include a spelling and definitions quiz, a mineral and crystal quiz, a gem or crystal drawing with brief explanation, and completion of veil painting. After cave trip there should be a one page report of experience and a cave drawing.

Student Completes Main Lesson Book, with index, cover page and title page for presentation to non teaching parent.












Posted on May 5, 2016 in 6th Grade, Barbara, Older Children, Science, Waldorf Education

  • Barbara says:

    Where can I get the infos for the topics? What book did you use for this lesson.

  • Barbara Benson says:

    Hi Barbara,
    Aside from Donna’s guidelines,the primary resource I used was the “Our Amazing Planet Earth ” kit that I referenced in the main part of my blog. There is a good booklet that accompanies the kit with nice tectonic overlay maps to use. Also, I did some basic online research myself on certain topics. Hope this helps.

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