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Advanced Earth Science for 6th Grade (Independent Study)

Advanced Earth Science for 6th Grade (Independent Study)

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Quick Overview

The K12 Middle School Earth Science curriculum presents the fundamentals of geology, oceanography, meteorology, and astronomy. Students explore amazing landforms around the globe, the nature of the sea and air, the wonders of geological history, and recent discoveries about our universe. Practical, hands-on lesson activities help students discover how scientists investigate the living world.

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Course Overview

The K12 Middle School Earth Science curriculum presents the fundamentals of geology, oceanography, meteorology, and astronomy. Students explore amazing landforms around the globe, the nature of the sea and air, the wonders of geological history, and recent discoveries about our universe. Practical, hands-on lesson activities help students discover how scientists investigate the living world. Students perform laboratory activities and a full unit investigation to learn about the application of scientific methods. Students will explore topics such as:

  • Mapping and maps of the earth
  • Minerals
  • Rocks
  • The interior of the earth
  • Plate tectonics and continental drift
  • Forces that shape the surface of the earth
  • Fossils and their importance
  • Oceans
  • Weather and climate
  • Resources, renewable and nonrenewable

Course Outline

Mapping the Earth

If everything on Earth were the same, our planet would look like a big, smooth ball--uniform and not very interesting. Instead, Earth is like a giant jigsaw puzzle, made of many different parts, from the layers of rock beneath our feet to the atmosphere above our heads. Driven by energy, these puzzle pieces of Earth are always moving--the oceans, the mountains, and even the land we stand on. Learn what these various parts are, the kinds of energy that drive them, and how they fit together in the living planet we call home.

  • Welcome to Earth Science
  • Spheres of the Earth
  • Map Essentials
  • Cartography
  • Laboratory: Map Projections


Find out what makes one mineral different from another and learn some simple tests to show what kinds of fascinating minerals make up common rocks. Discover, too, that almost half the earth's crust is made of one very important thing--oxygen.

  • Identifying Minerals and Crystals
  • Classification of Minerals
  • Laboratory: Mineral Identification


Do you know where that big rock in your backyard came from? What about the little, flat rocks you skip across a lake? Why are rocks different colors? Why is one smooth and another jagged? Learn how rocks are "born" and then how they're "reborn." Discover different types of rocks, how they're made, what they're made of, and how they're constantly changing.

  • Igneous Rocks
  • Sedimentary Rocks
  • Metamorphic Rocks
  • Laboratory: Rocks in the Rock Cycle

Earth's Interior

Our home planet is like a giant onion. Explore Earth's interior by peeling back each layer to uncover what lies beneath. Find out what the layers are made of, how they move and alter the landscape, and how scientists have used seismographs to learn about the mysteries of our planet's depths.

  • Structure of the Earth's Interior
  • Using Seismic Waves to Map the Earth's Interior
  • Laboratory: Using a Seismograph in Earthquake Engineering

Plate Tectonics

Scientists think that, from one supercontinent that broke apart into smaller continents hundreds of millions of years ago, the continents have been moving around ever since. Explore the forces driving this large-scale motion, and discover what happens when two continents meet on a collision course.

  • Drifting Continents
  • Seafloor Geography
  • Plate Tectonics
  • Advanced Earth Science
  • Divergent and Transform Plate Boundaries
  • Convergent Plate Boundaries
  • Folding and Faulting
  • Laboratory: Convection and Plate Motion
  • Laboratory: Plate Motion and Geography

Forces Reshaping Earth's Surface

How can simple things--gusts of wind, drops of water--cause Earth's surface to change? How does a young river affect the land? What about an old river? How can rivers be "young" or "old"? What does a glacier do to the land? Explore the relentless processes of weathering, erosion, and mass wasting on Earth's landforms, and learn how they work together over time to change the way our planet looks.

  • Weathering and Soil Formation
  • Surface Water and Ground water
  • Glaciers
  • Laboratory: Desertification

The Fossil Record

The past is still with us today, if you know how to look for it. More than a million living things have left traces of their bodies in the earth. Dig up some fossils and discover how things looked in the distant past, from ancient environments to long-ago animals and plants. Learn how to play detective and read the clues told by the walls of the Grand Canyon.

  • Steno's Principles
  • Fossil Succession and Uniformitarianism
  • Geochronology: Dating the Past
  • A Geologic Tour of North America
  • Laboratory: Index Fossils and Paleoenvironments


If you could stand on the moon and look at the Earth, you'd see a big, blue ball. Why blue? Most of Earth's surface is water: lakes, seas, and deep oceans. Learn more about all the splashing, sloshing stuff that covers three-fourths of the planet. Explore tides, waves, thermoclines, and water temperatures. And find out about a phenomenon called El Niño and its effects on our world.

  • Welcome to Earth Science, Semester 2
  • Properties of Ocean Water
  • Surface Currents
  • Deep water Currents
  • Ocean Waves and Tides
  • Laboratory: Tidal Power: Benefits and Costs

Weather and Climate

Snow usually falls quietly and softly, yet it has the power to bring down power lines and shatter tree branches. Rain can cause the land to bloom with flowers and crops, but it's also capable of washing away fields and trees. Winds can do everything from mussing up your hair to rearranging the face of a rugged cliff. Learn what weather really is, where it comes from, why it happens the way it does, and how constant changes in weather are part of what happens in the energy-filled outer shell of Earth known as the atmosphere.

  • Daily Weather
  • Air Masses and Fronts
  • Weather Versus Climate
  • Climate Control
  • Ocean, Land, and Air: Water and Energy Budgets
  • Laboratory: Changing Climates: Global Warming

Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources

What happens to the soda can tossed into a recycling bin? Learn about the potential and perils associated with both renewable and nonrenewable resources.

  • Energy Resources: Overview
  • Nonrenewable Energy: Fossil Fuels, Part 1
  • Nonrenewable Energy: Fossil Fuels, Part 2
  • Nonrenewable Energy: Nuclear
  • Laboratory: Consuming Fossil Fuels
  • Renewable Energy: Hydroelectric Power
  • Renewable Energy: Alternate Energy Resources
  • Laboratory: Energy from Wind

Project: Scientific Investigation

Become a scientist as you design and carry out your own experiment. Discover how the scientific process works, what makes it different from just guessing, and why it's the most powerful and successful way of figuring out how the forces of nature work.

  • Scientific Process: Selecting a Research Topic
  • Making a Hypothesis and Experimental Design
  • Step-by-Step Experimenting
  • Data Collection: Data Types
  • Data Tables
  • Data Analysis
  • Conclusions and Lab Reports
  • Writing a Bibliography and Making a Display
  • Preparing for an Oral Presentation and Final Check
  • Science Investigation Presentation

Our Place in the Universe

What does a faraway star in the night sky have in common with our own blazing sun? What causes the sun to burn so brightly and with such heat? Explore comets, asteroids, meteorites, and asteroids. There is much to learn about the amazing universe, from a theory called the big bang , which explains how the entire universe was formed, to the reason why days are longer in summer and shorter in winter.

  • Origin of the Solar System
  • Star Qualities
  • Sun Fusion
  • Planets of the Solar System
  • Stars
  • Expanding Universe
  • Laboratory: Earth Seasons, Moon Phases, and Eclipses

Additional Information

Course Length 12 Months
Prerequisites N/A
Course Materials

Many K12 courses utilize physical materials in addition to the online content.  These materials may include the following.

Standard Kits

STANDARD kits contain K12 course materials that are required for completion of the course.  These kits include K12 authored materials and/or difficult to procure materials that a student needs to complete a course. Printed reference guides are not included in Standard kits.


CONSUMABLE kits contain only those materials from the standard kit that are intended for one time use. Families who purchase a Standard kit for Child A could later purchase a Consumable kit for Child B to complete the same course.


Offered for added convenience, ADDITIONAL kits contain easily obtained materials needed for the course which a family may already have in their home. 

Coach and/or Student Reference Guides are available for purchase with some courses.  Electronic versions of these reference guides are also available within digital courses.

Course Start Date

Independent Study Courses

Courses start daily for courses without a teacher.

Teacher Assisted No, this course is only available as independent study.
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To use this course, you'll need a computer with an Internet connection.  Some courses require additional free software programs, which you can download from the Internet.

Hardware and Browsers (Minimum Recommendations)

Windows OS

  • CPU: 1.8 GHz or faster processor (or equivalent)

  • RAM: 1GB of RAM

  • Browser: Microsoft Internet Explorer 9.0 or higher, Mozilla Firefox 10.0 versions or higher, Chrome 17.0 or higher

  • At this time our users are encouraged not to upgrade to Windows 10 or Edge (the new browser)


Mac OS

  • CPU: PowerPC G4 1 GHz or faster processor; Intel Core Duo 1.83 GHz or faster processor

  • RAM: 1GB of RAM

  • Browser: Firefox 10.0 versions or higher, Chrome 17.0 or higher (Safari is not supported!)

Using  Mobile Devices with the Online School

Unfortunately, many portable devices do not support the software products required to run the Online School. These devices may include (but not limited to): Chromebooks, iPads, iPhones, iPods, Kindles, eReaders, and Andriod phones.

Internet Connections

It is highly recommended that a broadband connection be used instead of dial up.