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Skills available for Virginia sixth-grade science standards

Standards are in black and IXL science skills are in dark green. Hold your mouse over the name of a skill to view a sample question. Click on the name of a skill to practice that skill.

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Scientific Investigation, Reasoning, and Logic

Force, Motion, and Energy

  • 6.2 The student will investigate and understand basic sources of energy, their origins, transformations, and uses. Key concepts include a) potential and kinetic energy; b) the role of the sun in the formation of most energy sources on Earth; c) nonrenewable energy sources; d) renewable energy sources; and e) energy transformations.

  • 6.3 The student will investigate and understand the role of solar energy in driving most natural processes within the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, and on Earth's surface. Key concepts include a) Earth's energy budget; b) the role of radiation and convection in the distribution of energy; c) the motion of the atmosphere and the oceans; d) cloud formation; and e) the role of thermal energy in weather-related phenomena including thunderstorms and hurricanes.

    • Earth receives only a very small portion of the sun's energy, yet this energy is responsible for powering the motion of the atmosphere, the oceans, and many processes at Earth's surface.

    • Solar radiation is made up of different types of radiation (including infrared, visible light, and ultraviolet).

    • Incoming solar radiation is in close balance with the energy that leaves the atmosphere; otherwise Earth would heat up or cool down. Excess carbon dioxide and other gases may disrupt this balance, creating a greenhouse effect.

    • About one-third of the sun's incoming energy is reflected back out to space. About one-half of the energy striking Earth is absorbed by Earth's surface.

    • Earth's surface is heated unequally.

    • When air or water is heated, the molecules move faster and farther apart, reducing their density and causing them to rise. Cooler air or water molecules move more slowly and are denser than warm air or water. Warm air or water rising coupled with cooler air or water descending forms a cyclic rising/falling pattern called convection.

    • Radiation and convection from Earth's surface transfer thermal energy. This energy powers the global circulation of the atmosphere and the oceans on our planet.

    • As bodies of water (oceans, lakes, rivers, etc.) absorb thermal energy, the water evaporates causing the air to be warm and moist. Warm, moist air is less dense than cold, dry air, so it rises relative to colder, drier air. As warm, moist air rises, it gives off some thermal energy as the moisture condenses, forming clouds. Clouds are not gaseous water vapor; rather they are minute, condensed water particles.

    • Some thunderstorms are formed where the land is strongly heated. Hurricanes form over warm, tropical water and are fed by the energy of that water.

    • comprehend and apply basic terminology related to solar energy, including wavelength; ultraviolet, visible, and infrared radiation; and reflection and absorption.

    • analyze and interpret a chart or diagram showing Earth's energy budget.

    • analyze, model, and explain the greenhouse effect in terms of the energy entering and leaving the atmosphere.

    • design an investigation to determine the effect of sunlight on the heating of a surface.

    • analyze and explain how convection currents occur and how they distribute thermal energy in the atmosphere and oceans.

    • analyze the role of heating and cooling in the formation of clouds.

    • order the sequence of events that takes place in the formation of a cloud.

    • describe the relationship between thermal energy and the formation of hurricanes and thunderstorms.


Living Systems

  • 6.7 The student will investigate and understand the natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems. Key concepts include a) the health of ecosystems and the abiotic factors of a watershed; b) the location and structure of Virginia's regional watershed systems; c) divides, tributaries, river systems, and river and stream processes; d) wetlands; e) estuaries; f) major conservation, health, and safety issues associated with watersheds; and g) water monitoring and analysis using field equipment including hand-held technology.

    • An ecosystem is made up of the biotic (living) community and the abiotic (nonliving) factors that affect it. The health of an ecosystem is directly related to water quality.

    • Abiotic factors determine ecosystem type and its distribution of plants and animals as well as the usage of land by people. Abiotic factors include water supply, topography, landforms, geology, soils, sunlight, and air quality/O2 availability.

    • Human activities can alter abiotic components and thus accelerate or decelerate natural processes. For example, people can affect the rate of natural erosion. Plowing cropland can cause greater erosion, while planting trees can prevent it. Flood protection/wetland loss is another example.

    • A watershed is the land that water flows across or through on its way to a stream, lake, wetland, or other body of water. Areas of higher elevations, such as ridgelines and divides, separate watersheds.

    • The three major regional watershed systems in Virginia lead to the Chesapeake Bay, the North Carolina sounds, or the Gulf of Mexico.

    • River systems are made up of tributaries of smaller streams that join along their courses. Rivers and streams generally have wide, flat, border areas, called flood plains, onto which water spills out at times of high flow.

    • Rivers and streams carry and deposit sediment. As water flow decreases in speed, the size of the sediment it carries decreases.

    • Wetlands form the transition zone between dry land and bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, or bays. Both tidal and nontidal wetlands perform important water quality functions, including regulating runoff by storing flood waters; reducing erosion by slowing down run-off; maintaining water quality by filtering sediments, trapping nutrients, and breaking down pollutants; and recharging groundwater. They also provide food and shelter for wildlife and fish and nesting and resting areas for migratory birds.

    • Estuaries perform important functions, such as providing habitat for many organisms and serving as nurseries for their young.

    • The Chesapeake Bay is an estuary where fresh and salt water meet and are mixed by tides. It is the largest estuary in the contiguous United States and one of the most productive.

    • Water quality monitoring is the collection of water samples to analyze chemical and/or biological parameters. Simple parameters include pH, temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and the presence of macroinvertebrate organisms.

    • comprehend and apply basic terminology related to watersheds.

    • use topographic maps to determine the location and size of Virginia's regional watershed systems.

    • locate their own local watershed and the rivers and streams associated with it.

    • design an investigation to model the effects of stream flow on various slopes.

    • analyze and explain the functioning of wetlands and appraise the value of wetlands to humans.

    • explain what an estuary is and why it is important to people.

    • propose ways to maintain water quality within a watershed.

    • explain the factors that affect water quality in a watershed and how those factors can affect an ecosystem.

    • forecast potential water-related issues that may become important in the future.

    • locate and critique a media article or editorial (print or electronic) concerning water use or water quality. Analyze and evaluate the science concepts involved.

    • argue for and against commercially developing a parcel of land containing a large wetland area. Design and defend a land-use model that minimizes negative impact.

    • measure, record, and analyze a variety of water quality indicators and describe what they mean to the health of an ecosystem.

Interrelationships in Earth/Space Systems

  • 6.8 The student will investigate and understand the organization of the solar system and the interactions among the various bodies that comprise it. Key concepts include a) the sun, moon, Earth, other planets and their moons, dwarf planets, meteors, asteroids, and comets; b) relative size of and distance between planets; c) the role of gravity; d) revolution and rotation; e) the mechanics of day and night and the phases of the moon; f) the unique properties of Earth as a planet; g) the relationship of Earth's tilt and the seasons; h) the cause of tides; and i) the history and technology of space exploration.

    • The solar system consists of the sun, moon, Earth, other planets and their moons, meteors, asteroids, and comets. Each body has its own characteristics and features.

    • The distance between planets and sizes of the planets vary greatly. The outer, "gas" planets are very large, and the four inner planets are comparatively small and rocky.

    • Gravity is a force that keeps the planets in motion around the sun. Gravity acts everywhere in the universe.

    • Planets revolve around the sun, and moons revolve around planets. A planet rotates upon an axis.

    • A dwarf planet revolves around the sun, and can maintain a nearly round shape as planets do, but it cannot move other objects away from its orbital neighborhood.

    • As Earth rotates, different sides of Earth face toward or away from the sun, thus causing day and night, respectively.

    • The phases of the moon are caused by its position relative to Earth and the sun.

    • Earth is a rocky planet, extensively covered with large oceans of liquid water and having frozen ice caps in its polar regions. Earth has a protective atmosphere consisting predominantly of nitrogen and oxygen and has a magnetic field. The atmosphere and the magnetic field help shield Earth's surface from harmful solar radiation. Scientific evidence indicates that Earth is about 4.5 billion years old.

    • Seasons are caused by a combination of the tilt of Earth on its axis, the curvature of Earth's surface and, thus, the angle at which sunlight strikes the surface of Earth during its annual revolution around the sun.

    • Tides are the result of the gravitational pull of the moon and sun on the surface waters of Earth.

    • The ideas of Ptolemy, Aristotle, Copernicus, and Galileo contributed to the development of our understanding of the solar system.

    • With the development of new technology over the last half-century, our knowledge of the solar system has increased substantially.

    • describe the planets and their relative positions from the sun.

    • compare the characteristics of Pluto to the planets and explain its designation as a dwarf planet.

    • design and interpret a scale model of the solar system. (A scale model may be a physical representation of an object or concept. It can also be a mathematical representation that uses factors such as ratios, proportions, and percentages.)

    • explain the role of gravity in the solar system.

    • compare and contrast revolution and rotation and apply these terms to the relative movements of planets and their moons.

    • model and describe how day and night and the phases of the moon occur.

    • model and describe how Earth's axial tilt and its annual orbit around the sun cause the seasons.

    • describe the unique characteristics of planet Earth.

    • discuss the relationship between the gravitational pull of the moon and the cycle of tides.

    • compare and contrast the ideas of Ptolemy, Aristotle, Copernicus, and Galileo related to the solar system.

    • create and interpret a timeline highlighting the advancements in solar system exploration over the past half century. This should include information on the first modern rockets, artificial satellites, orbital missions, missions to the moon, Mars robotic explorers, and exploration of the outer planets.

Earth Resources

  • 6.9 The student will investigate and understand public policy decisions relating to the environment. Key concepts include a) management of renewable resources; b) management of nonrenewable resources; c) the mitigation of land-use and environmental hazards through preventive measures; and d) cost/benefit tradeoffs in conservation policies.

    • People, as well as other living organisms, are dependent upon the availability of clean water and air and a healthy environment.

    • Local, state, and federal governments have significant roles in managing and protecting air, water, plant, and wildlife resources.

    • Modern industrial society is dependent upon energy. Fossil fuels are the major sources of energy in developed and industrialized nations and should be managed to minimize adverse impacts.

    • Many renewable and nonrenewable resources are managed by the private sector (private individuals and corporations).

    • Renewable resources should be managed so that they produce continuously. Sustainable development makes decisions about long-term use of the land and natural resources for maximum community benefit for the longest time and with the least environmental damage.

    • Regulations, incentives, and voluntary efforts help conserve resources and protect environmental quality.

    • Conservation of resources and environmental protection begin with individual acts of stewardship.

    • Use of renewable (water, air, soil, plant life, animal life) and nonrenewable resources (coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power, and mineral resources) must be considered in terms of their cost/benefit tradeoffs.

    • Preventive measures, such as pollution prevention or thoughtfully planned and enforced land-use restrictions, can reduce the impact of potential problems in the future.

    • Pollution prevention and waste management are less costly than cleanup.

    • differentiate between renewable and nonrenewable resources.

    • describe the role of local and state conservation professionals in managing natural resources. These include wildlife protection; forestry and waste management; and air, water, and soil conservation.

    • analyze resource-use options in everyday activities and determine how personal choices have costs and benefits related to the generation of waste.

    • analyze how renewable and nonrenewable resources are used and managed within the home, school, and community.

    • analyze reports, media articles, and other narrative materials related to waste management and resource use to determine various perspectives concerning the costs/benefits in real-life situations.

    • evaluate the impact of resource use, waste management, and pollution prevention in the school and home environment.