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Sixth Grade - A “Watershed” Year

As the word “watershed” implies, sixth grade is a crucial developmental point between childhood and adolescence in which physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual maturity are uniquely situated. In this year, children are turning from the early dependence of the elementary grades and turning to the increasingly independent and complex world of adulthood. They know how to “do school” and are eager to experience new things.

Sixth graders’ physical growth often causes them to feel restless and clumsy. Some have stopped playing outside and some are increasingly drawn to sedentary amusements – they have no venue, other than organized athletics, to become confident in their own skin and become aware of both the capacities and limitations of their bodies. They benefit from encountering challenges both physically and mentally. Experience, not “head knowledge,” is what speaks to them most clearly; they are actively seeking stimulating and authentic experiences in their lives.

Watershed makes use of this particular time of life to create a unique year of learning at Lorien Wood. This year flows out of Lorien Wood’s Biblical Worldview distinctive which informs our belief that God created the world and everything in it, and He created it for good purposes.

The Watershed year immerses sixth grade students in the unique qualities of our regional environment - the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Studies focus on the watershed region surrounding the Chesapeake Bay, Potomac River, and Shenandoah River. As with each year of instruction at Lorien Wood, our integral curriculum in Watershed blends history, science, literature, art, music, and geography into that regional theme. A significant part of these studies takes place “in the field” – exploring the waterways and other natural features through field studies out of the classroom.

Following the sixth grade Watershed year, students re-combine in Form Four for 7th and 8th grades, continuing their academically and spiritually rigorous preparation for high school.

Local Ecology

A “watershed” is a geographic region that drains into a system of rivers or other bodies of water. Our sixth grade students engage with God’s creation directly to study our local waterways and geography. Up to one-third of instructional time is spent outside in the ecology of our local streams and rivers in a series of outings and projects. The goals include gaining a better understanding of the unique qualities of our watershed and how to maintain it. The curriculum makes connections between local and global environmental topics, while Latin studies focus on the terminology of botany and zoology.

History and Culture of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Watershed students study the unique history and culture of our watershed region. There is much about the Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. area that enriches the Watershed program: Revolutionary and Civil War battle sites, the changing life in our coastal communities, and the role of citizens in shaping the future of our watershed.

Watershed is a unique opportunity for our sixth graders to exercise their minds and bodies in a manner distinct from other phases of their education at Lorien Wood. Many resources informed the crafting of our Watershed Program, including the experience of a public school in Pennsylvania whose program is documented in the book "Watershed: A Successful Voyage into Integrative Learning" by Mark Springer. 

Local Partnerships

We partner with local environmental organizations such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Rapp FLOW, Virginia Soil and Water Conservation, and the Reston Association to refine our understanding of the watershed.

Click here for examples of the literature woven into various Watershed units every year.

For more information, download our Watershed Overview and Curriculum Chart! 


Tour our unique Outdoor classrooms

Watershed Leisure Book List

At Lorien Wood, we are passionate about helping our students develop into lifelong readers. We hope this curated list of books about adventure and courage inspire the reading life of your 6th grader!

Get the Watershed Leisure Book List!