Grade 6



Layers of Atmosphere
The Dr. Binocs Show: Model of the Earth’s atmosphere.


PBS Understanding Natural Climate Cycles
This short video explains how the Earth’s climate has changed in the past due to its orientation, as well as how human activity has disrupted the natural climate cycle by generating excess carbon dioxide.

PBS Ancient Ice and Future Climate
Interactive and lesson plan
Self-paced lesson on fluctuations in the Earth’s climate due to changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide due to natural and human activities.Analyze and compare graphs to draw conclusions.


COOL water cycle song
Covers the processes involved in the cycling of water through Earth’s systems.

Study Jams: The Water Cycle
Video and quiz
Covers the processes involved in the cycling of water through Earth’s systems.

NASA: Earth’s Water Cycle
Animation uses Earth science sensor data as well as cartoons to describe Earth’s water cycle.

Clouds & Precipitation
Slideshow and quiz
Cloud formation and precipitation.


Earth – A global map of wind, weather, and ocean conditions
Interactive visualizations of global weather conditions, including wind patterns, areas of high and low pressure, ocean currents, temperature anomalies, etc. Different features are updated from every 30 minutes to every 5 days.

NOVA Cloud Lab
Use a key to identify cloud types and the weather conditions they are associated with, follow the course of Hurricane Sandy, and analyze NASA weather imagery to study past storms.


Air Pressure & Wind
Video and quiz
Explains how air pressure causes wind.

Air Masses & Fronts
Video and quiz
Air masses cause fronts and fronts are responsible for all kinds of weather.

BrainPOP Wind Simulator
Interactive simulator shows how areas of high and low pressure affect wind speed and direction, as well as the formation of cyclones.


Our World: What is Weather
This NASA video segment focuses on the relationship between weather and climate. Learn more about the interconnectedness of heat, air pressure, winds, and moisture to produce local weather.


Weather & Climate
Video and quiz
Difference between weather and climate.

The Ocean: A Driving Force for Weather and Climate
This animation uses Earth science data from a variety of sensors on NASA Earth observing satellites to measure physical oceanography parameters such as ocean currents, ocean winds, sea surface height and sea surface temperature. These measurements, in combination with atmospheric measurements such as surface air temperature, precipitation and clouds can help scientists understand the ocean's impact on weather and climate and what this means for life here on Earth.




Forms and Changes of Energy
Images, vocabulary, reading material, and review questions
Identify different forms of energy and describe how energy changes form.


Energy in a Roller Coaster Ride
Interactive, discussion questions, and background reading
Interactive roller coaster ride illustrates the relationship between potential and kinetic energy.

Wind Energy
Video, images, reading material, and review questions
Moving air has kinetic energy. When wind hits the blades of the turbine, the kinetic energy makes the blades move. The turbine spins and creates electricity.



Faraday’s Electromagnetic Lab
Interactive simulation
Electromagnet and Generator: Use models to exemplify how magnetic fields produced by electrical energy flow in a circuit is interrelated in electromagnets and generators.


Transfer of Thermal Energy
Images, reading material, and review questions
Describe the conduction of thermal energy, explain how convection transfers thermal energy, and give an example of the radiation of thermal energy.


Too Hot to Handle
Interactive simulation
Design a handle using a variety of materials for Hot Stuff’s new skillet.



Wind Energy
Interactive virtual activity
Design, build and test a wind turbine that will supply 400 homes with electricity for a year at the highest efficiency.




Kingdoms of Life Explained, Sort of
Scientists have a system to group all the living things so they can study them.

Introduction to the Characteristics of Life
This visually stunning trailer choreographed to powerful music introduces the viewer to the characteristics that all life on Earth shares.Can be a helpful introduction to the science unit.


The Kingdoms of Life
Video, song, and quiz
Grouping organisms into the 5 kingdoms helps scientists understand similarities among living things.

Kingdom Animalia
Reading, images, organizers, questions
This lesson explores the classification system used to identify animals. Most children are fascinated by animals and often have an animal that is a particular favorite, possibly even an animal the child has never seen before. Children also like to order and sort things, and this lesson melds both of these interests.

Classification Booklet
Workbook and images
A basic workbook that students can use to develop a model of scientific taxonomy. Students can use this workbook to obtain and evaluate scientific information to help the development of their model.

The Best Classification Rap—with lyrics
Mr. Simons' 5th grade class raps about how to classify an organism.


Slideshow and quiz
Definitions and examples of invertebrates.

Slideshow and quiz
Definitions and examples of the 5 main groups of vertebrates.

NOVA Evolution Lab
For each level of this game, students must build phylogenetic trees by identifying common characteristics of organisms. By clicking on the magnifying glass, students can pull up organism profiles to find similarities and differences. Short video clips introduce each “mission”. Note: Level (or “mission”) 3 and above deal with DNA base pair mutations and may not be suitable for a 6th grade audience.

Invertebrate vs Vertebrate
Information, charts, and images
Charts, diagrams, facts and descriptions classifying animals into two main groups: vertebrates and invertebrates.


NatureWorks: Structural and Behavioral Adaptations
Webpage, video, images, reading material, and additional links
All organisms have adaptations that help them survive and thrive. Some adaptations are structural. Structural adaptations are physical features of an organism like the bill on a bird or the fur on a bear. Other adaptations are behavioral. Behavioral adaptations are the things organisms do to survive. For example, bird calls and migration are behavioral adaptations.

Animal Adaptations: Zebra, External Structures, and Optical Illusions
Video, discussion questions, teacher notes, teaching tips, and student handouts
Learn how zebra stripes create an optical illusion that tricks predators in this video from NATURE/ Natural Born Hustlers Part 1: Staying Alive. The black and white striped external structure of zebras has long baffled scientists as they try to understand the evolutionary benefits of the bold pattern. Using a computer-generated model, scientists now believe the pattern creates an optical illusion called “motion dazzle,” similar to the wagon wheel effect. It confuses predators and makes it difficult for them to track the zebras’ movement.

Animal Adaptations: Countershading, Camouflage, and Great White Sharks
Video, teacher notes, teaching tips, and discussion questions
In this video and supporting materials from NATURE: Natural Born Hustlers Part 2: The Hunger Hustle, learn about how some animals, like great white sharks, have adaptations like countershading to help them survive. Students learn about animal adaptation through observations and modeling of the countershading phenomenon.

Masters of Disguise
Video, background reading, and discussion questions
The natural world is filled with animals trying to eat other animals and trying to avoid being eaten. The pressure to find food or to keep from becoming someone else's dinner has, over millions of years, produced an incredibly effective way to escape detection by predators or prey: camouflage. This video segment from NOVA: Animal Impostors explores the world of camouflage, including some of the methods and benefits of this important evolutionary strategy.

Camouflaging Cuttlefish
Video, discussion questions, teacher notes, student handouts, and teaching tips
Learn how a cuttlefish uses colored pigments in its skin to blend perfectly with its surroundings in this video from NATURE: Natural Born Hustlers. Cuttlefish can not only expand and contract the muscles that contain these pigments on their skin to match surroundings (just like the octopus); they can also morph the texture of their skin to match the plants or objects they are hiding in—despite being colorblind.

Adaptations of Arctic Animals
Video, discussion questions, teaching tips, and student handouts
Learn what animals live in the arctic region and how they have adapted to this inhospitable environment, in this excerpt from NATURE: Invasion of the Killer Whales. Students use video, text-dependent questions, teaching tips, and handouts to gain a thorough understanding of arctic animal adaptations.

Evolution of Camouflage
Video, background reading, and discussion questions
The effectiveness of the praying mantis's disguise is all relative. As seen in this video segment from Evolution: "Darwin's Dangerous Idea," the camouflage that works so well atop a green leaf would render the mantis easy prey in a different setting. Biologist Chris Schneider describes this example of finely tuned adaptation.

Pygmy Seahorses: Masters of Camouflage
Tiny and delicate, pygmy seahorses survive by attaching to vibrant corals where they become nearly invisible to both predators and researchers. Now, biologists at the California Academy of Sciences have successfully bred them in captivity for the first time. Finally, they're able to study the seahorses' amazing act of camouflage up close.

Animal Adaptations: Jaguar Jaws
Video, student handouts, activity, teaching tips, and discussion questions
Learn how jaguars have refined on the jaw adaptations of ancestral cats to the extent that they can take down giant caiman reptiles in this video from NATURE: The Story of Cats. In the accompanying classroom activity, students compare cat and dog adaptations.

Peregrine Falcon Adaptations - World’s Fastest Animal
Media, background reading, and teaching tips
Learn about the adaptations that make the peregrine falcon a highly effective aerial predator in these videos from NOVA: World’s Fastest Animal. Use this resource to provide detailed observations of peregrine falcons and to exemplify how adaptive traits and behaviors increase an organism’s chances to survive and thrive in their environment.

Nocturnal Animal Adaptations
Video, discussion questions, teaching tips, and vocabulary handout
Nocturnal animals have special adaptations that help them survive in the dark. This clip from the Nature mini-series Okavango: River of Dreams shows how the Southern Lesser Galago, also known as a Bushbaby, is well-suited for life in the night.

Big Feet and Buoyancy
Video, discussion questions, activity, and vocabulary handout
The Okavango River in Southern Africa is home to a very unusual bird, the African Jacana. African Jacanas appear to walk on water by treading lightly across floating lilies on their oversized feet. This video from the Nature miniseries Okavango: River of Dreams shows how African Jacanas’ unique feet help them search for food and hide from predators. Support materials allow children to explore how weight distribution and surface area affect buoyancy and how these birds’ special adaptations help them survive.

Cat Adaptations: Super Senses
Video, discussion questions, vocabulary handout, student handout, and activity
Rusty spotted cats are the smallest felines in the world, but these little cats have some extremely powerful senses! In this video from Super Cats: A NATURE Miniseries, students will learn how one tiny cat uses his senses to navigate the world around him. Support materials include discussion questions, vocabulary, and a hands-on activity where students use their sense of touch to help a rusty spotted cat find its way home.

Anti-Predator Adaptations
Video, background reading, discussion questions, and teaching tips
In this video from the PBS series NATURE, two honey badgers fight off a series of competitors at a garbage dump in the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in South Africa. The honey badgers' anti-predator adaptations allow them to successfully retain control of their food source for the night.

Animal Adaptations: Polar Bear Paws
Media, discussion questions, and vocabulary handout
Polar bear cubs learn how to walk through snow and over ice in this video from NATURE “Snow Bears.” In the accompanying classroom activity, students use the engineering design process to design a slip stopper, mimicking the adult polar bear adaptation of footpads that prevent sliding on ice.


Skinks in the Desert: Behavior as an Adaptation for Survival
Video, discussion questions, and teaching tips
See how great desert skinks work together to survive in the Australian desert in this video. Most reptiles live alone, but skinks live in colonies and make burrows. This unique behavior adaptation enable them to escape the hot desert temperatures.

Behavioral Adaptations: The Gray Jay
Video, handouts, discussion questions, and teaching tips
This video from NATURE: Animal Homes examines the behavioral adaptations of the gray jay. Using video, text-dependent discussion questions and teaching tips, students learn about how the gray jay survives—and thrives in the dead of winter.

Animal Adaptations: Brush Turkey Mounds
Video, discussion questions, and activity
In this video from NATURE: Animal Homes, explore the brush turkeys’ unique nest building practices on the forest floor.

Birds: Designers, Engineers, and Builders of Nests
Video, student handouts, and activity
With this lesson plan and accompanying media from NATURE, students explore the nest-building practices of various bird species. Using video, discussion questions, hands-on exploration, and writing assignments, students will gain an understanding of how and why birds design, engineer and build their nests to meet their needs and how their nesting is influenced by both biological and environmental factors.

Animal Adaptations: Make Way for Rare Ducklings
Video, discussion questions, and activity
In this video from NATURE: Animal Homes, learn about a unique species of ducks, the Hooded Mergansers. Explore how these water fowl lay their eggs high up in the trees and the dramatic trip their ducklings make to find their permanent home on the water.

Hummingbird: Surveyor, Architect and Builder
Video, discussion questions, and activity
Watch the busy hummingbird craft the perfect nest in this video from NATURE: Animal Homes. The female hummingbird plays the role of surveyor, architect and builder in her effort to create a suitable home for her eggs and future chicks.

Animal Structures: A Nest Made Out of Mud
Video, discussion questions, student handouts, and activity
Learn how male and female red ovenbirds work together to build nests made out of mud and clay in this video from NATURE: Animal Homes. Their jobs are not finished once the nest is constructed, as they spend just as much time building it as they do defending it!

Beavers: Nature’s Architects
Media, discussion questions, and teaching tips
This video from NATURE: Animal Homes examines beaver habitats—specifically how and why they build beaver dams and lodges. Using video, text-dependent questions, teaching tips and handouts, students learn how beavers have adapted to survive.

Animal Adaptations: Intelligence and Social Behavior
Video, student handouts, vocabulary handout, discussion questions, and activity
Dr. Natalia Borrego, a biologist who researches African mammal behavior, discovers that lions are the smartest cats in this video from Super Cats: A NATURE Miniseries. Social animals are more intelligent, but until now, no one has demonstrated that lions follow that trend. In the accompanying classroom activity, students analyze data from Dr. Borrego’s experiments comparing lions to other social animals and to solitary cats.

Animal Structures: Nest Real Estate
Video and discussion questions
Visit Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History alongside NATURE’s host and ecologist Chris Morgan to view a sampling of birds’ nests from around the world. Each nest creation is the product of birds’ hard work and tells its own story.

Gopher Tortoises: Burrowing to Escape Forest Fires
Video, discussion questions, student handouts, and teaching tips
See how gopher tortoises burrow to escape the dangers of forest fires and provide refuge for other animals in the video from NATURE: Animal Homes. Gopher tortoises live in longleaf pine forests in the Southeastern United States. The tortoises dig burrows that allow them to escape the frequent forest fires that occur in the forest. Many other animals benefit, too. More than 350 different species spend time in the burrows.


Learned Behavior in Capuchin Monkeys
Video, activity, discussion questions, teaching tips, and handouts
Learn how capuchin monkeys in Brazil have developed a cultural tradition of cracking nuts. This video shows monkeys learning to use an anvil and stone to access their primary food source. Teaching tips ask students to explore learned behavior, their understandings of culture, and more generally how scientists observe animals in the wild.

The Herding Dogs of the United Kingdom
Video, activity, teaching tips, and further information
Joe Ralf uses his Border collie herding dogs in the Lake District of the United Kingdom to herd his flock of sheep. The dogs can follow the shepherd's command to herd in sheep from over a half mile away. Because they spend so much time together, shepherds and dogs form a close social bond. Part of the herding dogs skill is innate (under genetic control or instinctive) and part is learned behavior (what you teach the dog to do). People have used herding dogs for over 9,000 years.

Dolphin Tricks and Behaviors
Dolphins are incredibly smart animals. With just a simple wave of the hand, trained dolphins can do a number of impressive tricks. Sharon Collins visits the Georgia Aquarium's Marineland to learn about the biology of dolphins and see some of their incredible tricks.

Turkeys' Basic Instincts
Video, background reading, and discussion questions
This video segment from Nature: My Life as a Turkey highlights the innate knowledge wild turkeys have about the world around them. In this segment, wildlife artist and naturalist Joe Hutto reflects upon the depth of knowledge wild turkeys have about the world around them. He states they are born with a "blueprint" of animals and the natural environment and are able to easily distinguish harmful animals from friendly ones. Hutto conducted an experiment, where he became a parent to 16 wild turkeys, by having them imprint onto him. (Imprinting is a biological phenomenon that occurs when animals form attachments and develop a sense of identity in the first few hours and days of their lives.) Hutto mentions the one thing he needed to teach them was where to find water and the specific lay of the land.

An Imprinting Experiment
Video, background reading, and discussion questions
This video segment from Nature: "My Life as a Turkey" details the steps wildlife artist and naturalist Joe Hutto took to become a parent to 16 wild turkeys. (Note: The segment features interviews and voiced narration by Joe Hutto and a recreation of Hutto's experiment by Jeff Palmer.) Joe describes his experience with imprinting, the process of becoming a mother to young animals, and his desire to have turkeys imprint on him in order for him to gain more insight into their world. The segment shows the steps Joe took to have wild turkeys imprint on him as their mother, including turning the eggs twice a day, talking to them regularly and making sure he was the first thing the poults saw and heard when they emerged from the eggs. Through this process, Joe Hutto became a parent to 16 wild turkeys.

Ravens: Raven Adaptability
Video, teacher notes, background reading, and discussion questions
The innate intelligence of ravens has allowed them to survive in harsh environments. Ravens achieve mastery and possess manipulative powers over other creatures in their domain, often letting others do work for them. In this video segment from Nature, ravens call on coyotes to help them with a prospective meal. After the coyotes expose the carcass, the meat is made accessible to the birds.


Video, discussion questions, and further information
This video segment explores the life and anatomy of a frog, an amphibian. It explains what it means to be cold-blooded, why frogs hibernate, and why they croak. You can follow their life cycle and see some amazing videos of frogs eating with their specially adapted tongue. Learn how biologists use frogs to study problems in the environment.

Video, discussion questions, and further information
Snakes have long, scaly bodies with no arms or legs. They live almost everywhere on earth and very few are poisonous. Joan Cartan-Hansen and her guests, Charles Peterson, and Frank Lundburg, answer students’ questions about snakes.

Video, lesson plan, teacher, and student files
How are all the structures in your body affected by cold weather and why do our fingers, toes, and nose end up with frostbite first? When we start getting cold, the tissue and organs in our extremities do not get as much warm blood as our more important internal organs. Next, ice crystals start to form in our cells causing them to die. Finally, rewarming the tissue can cause damage resulting in problems with muscles, tendons, and bone.

Video, lesson plan, teacher, and student files
How can mammals survive hibernation? We may not know as much as we think. There are several myths about hibernation that are corrected in this video. To survive, mammals lower their metabolism including respiration, heart rate, and temperature in order to conserve energy. This is a form of maintaining homeostasis. This video and lesson draws connections between hibernation and homeostasis to integrate essential vocabulary. The resolution of common hibernation myths creates an engaging way to introduce students to metabolism, respiration, heart rate and homeostasis in humans.

Raptor Migration
Video, lesson plan, teacher, and student files
Why do some birds, like raptors, move from one region to another at certain times of the year? It is all about their interactions with their environment. The primary factor is scarcity in a food source. Another factor includes changes in the weather. This video and lesson integrate essential vocabulary. The explanation of this seasonal event includes an engaging way to introduce students to the abiotic and biotic factors that affect the raptor’s migration and provides a platform to investigate the types of relationships found in their ecosystem.




Video, discussion questions, and further information
Watch the animation to find out how protists, which are single-cell organisms that are neither animal nor plant, function.



Mosses & Ferns
Video and quiz
Reproduction through spores and vascular and non-vascular plants.


Chloroplasts and Food from Open Science Ed
Shows the relationship between the inputs and outputs in the chloroplasts of plants, that can help explain how they convert water and carbon dioxide to glucose and water with the help of energy absorbed from light.


The Amazing Ways Plants Defend Themselves – Valentin Hammoudi
Unique adaptations that help plants survive insect and animal attacks. Includes introduction of plant immune systems and cell structures. Fully animated with narration. Could be used to introduce students to diversity of natural defenses prior to a related project, such as researching a particular plant’s defense strategies and creating a poster or model explaining the involved structures.


Documenting Change in Plants
Video, activity, further information, and teaching tips
Learn how plants can be used to help us learn about climate changes over time. For example, a warming trend can be determined by looking at samples that flower earlier and earlier each year. Scientists also conduct research on plants to find genes that are important for agriculture, food and medicine.

Plants Get Sick
Video and discussion questions
If conditions are right a plant can get sick just like people. This video describes the steps used to determine what can cause plants to get sick, and profiles four main types of pathogens that affect plants: fungi, bacteria, viruses and nematodes. The cause of a plant’s illness can be based on the environmental conditions and various pathogens that might be present. A pathogen is a type of organism that can cause a disease. It is up to a Plant Diagnostician to determine the cause of a plant’s illness.

Harvesting Plants in Space
Video, student handout, discussion materials, teaching tips, and answer key
Find out how researchers and astronauts teamed up to study the growth of an ordinary plant in space and why that impacts farming back on Earth. Students will explore two contrasting ideas about how plants and their roots grow in the absence of gravity, discover new factors that influence plant growth and design their own space farming experiment.


Plants and Shadows
Video, discussion questions, and further information
Clouds and shadows mean plants live in a constantly changing world of light. Researchers identify how plants detect shadows and maximize efficiency for capturing sunlight for photosynthesis.