• Dear Sixth Grade Families;

    Welcome to the Ann Arbor Public Schools Family Pages. We hope the information you find here assists you in supporting your child while s/he is learning important skills and concepts throughout the sixth grade year.     






    Light & Matter

























    Thermal Energy




















    Water Cycle, Weather & Climate









    Earth Systems - Geoscience







     Natural Disasters 







    Amy Deller-Antieau

    District Science Department Chair
  • 2021-22 Sixth Grade Science Units

    How does a one-way mirror work? Though most everyone knows that one-way mirrors exist, having students model how they work turns out to be a very effective way to develop their thinking about how visible light travels and how we see images. Initial student models in this 6th grade light and matter science unit reveal a wide variety of ideas and explanations that motivate the unit investigations that help students figure out what is going on and lead them to a deeper understanding of the world around them.

    A video of an experience with a one-way mirror, gets students to organize and write down their initial ideas and then they dig in to test those ideas and figure out what is really happening. Students build a scaled box model of what they saw in the video to test out their ideas. Using two boxes combined together with a one-way mirror in between the two, students vary the presence of light in the two boxes to figure out how a one-way mirror works and improve their initial models so they accurately explain how light is reflected and transmitted through materials and the basics of how these behaviors of light result in the images we see.

    As the first 6th grade science unit in the OpenSciEd program, during the course of this unit, students also develop the foundation for classroom norms for collaboration that will be important across the whole program while answering several questions. 

    Learn more on Atlas: Light and Matter


    This unit on thermal energy transfer begins with students testing whether a new plastic cup sold by a store keeps a drink colder for longer compared to the regular plastic cup that comes free with the drink. Students find that the drink in the regular cup warms up more than the drink in the special cup. This prompts students to identify features of the cups that are different, such as the lid, walls, and hole for the straw, that might explain why one drink warms up more than the other.

    Students investigate the different cup features they conjecture are important to explaining the phenomenon, starting with the lid. They model how matter can enter or exit the cup via evaporation However, they find that in a completely closed system, the liquid inside the cup still changes temperature. This motivates the need to trace the transfer of energy into the drink as it warms up. Through a series of lab investigations and simulations, students find that there are two ways to transfer energy into the drink: (1) the absorption of light and (2) thermal energy from the warmer air around the drink. They are then challenged to design their own drink container that can perform as well as the store-bought container, following a set of design criteria and constraints.

    Learn more on Atlas: Thermal Energy


    Why does a lot of hail, rain, or snow fall at some times and not others? 

    This unit on weather starts out with students exploring a series of hailstorm events from different locations across the country at different times of the year. The videos of hail from these events show pieces of ice of different sizes (some very large) falling out of the sky, sometimes at the same time that rain is also falling, accompanied by wind gusts, all on days when the temperature of the air outside remained relatively warm (i.e., 50°F or more) for the entire day. These cases sparked ideas for investigations around trying to figure out how ice can be falling from the sky on a summer day, how clouds form, why some clouds produce storms with large amounts of precipitation and others don't, and how all that water gets into the air in the first place.

    Learn more on Atlas: Water Cycle, Weather, Climate


    Students will examine geoscience processes and their effects on Earth's surface at varying times and spatial scales. Large scale changes in the Earth's crust require large scale energy transformations. Skill development includes identifying appropriate evidence to document and describe these changes. Students will develop and use models to explain these phenomena.    Learn more on Atlas: Earth's Systems: Geoscience 


    “Where do Natural Hazards happen and how do we prepare for them?”

    The emphasis is onhow some natural hazards, such as volcanic eruptions and severe weather, are preceded byphenomena that allow for reliable predictions, but others, such as earthquakes, occursuddenly and with no notice, and thus are not yet predictable. Examples of natural hazardscan be taken from interior processes (such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions), surfaceprocesses (such as mass wasting and tsunamis), or severe weather events (such ashurricanes, tornadoes, and floods). Examples of data can include the locations, magnitudes,and frequencies of the natural hazards. Examples of technologies can be global (such assatellite systems to monitor hurricanes or forest fires) or local (such as building basements intornado-prone regions or reservoirs to mitigate droughts). Learn more on ATLAS: Natural Disasters