6th Grade at Cambridge: Freedom Comes with Responsibility

By: Michael Bealefeld, 6th Grade Unit Teacher

Sixth grade marks a transition from elementary school to middle school. Students begin to take more personal responsibility for their lives and choices while under the loving care of their parents.

All of our grades start the year with a unit on Creation, and 6th grade focuses on the idea that we are created in the image of God, imago dei.

But while being created in God’s image is a short and seemingly simple story, its outworking throughout history is complex and hopeful.

Because God made human beings in His image, we are born with human dignity and other unique traits given to us by our Creator. Among these traits is the concept of free will. 6th grade students explore and question the results of free will, for good and for evil, throughout history and in their own lives.

The trait of free will must be guided by the foremost virtue - love.

It is through love, motivated by the gospel, that we come to our yearly theme that “Freedom Comes with Responsibility.”

Humanity has a responsibility to exercise free will to form loving relationships that treat neighbors, brothers, and sisters with care and dignity. In caring for our brothers and sisters, we are challenged to use our free will to take direct action to right the wrongs of the world.

By the end of the year, we acknowledge that it is not enough to correct the injustices of the earth, we also have the responsibility to make the law just. It is through law that a society can check the sinful misuse of free will and in doing so protect the less fortunate. Law also allows civilization to recognize that all men and women are created equal in God’s image.

As we explore the meaning of imago dei we will study the formation of the United States from the early period of European Colonization and end with the construction of the U.S. Constitution and Federal Government.

6th grade students in DC visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

6th grade students in DC visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Unfortunately, human beings have not used their free will responsibly and have often committed horrible atrocities against their fellow men. Students will study the various conflicts which raged over religion, the cruelties of the international slave trade, as well as American slavery, and the whole scale destruction of Native American tribes.

By God’s grace, history works both ways, and while human beings have erred grievously during the period of European Colonization, they also took steps to redefine human value. English Colonists united together to form the United States with the concept that all men are created equal under God. While this new nation did not fully reach this lofty aim for full equality, they nevertheless set a goal of equal rights which became a bedrock of the American understanding of government and continues to be something for which U.S. citizens strive.

In order for students to fully understand this period of history, they take a deep dive into primary source studies of a diverse set of historical actors who made an impact on history.

While primary sources are critical for the study of history, it is through story that history takes hold of us and instructs us. We explore the five elements of story - plot, setting, themes, characterization, and point of view - in books like The Hobbit, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Johnny Tremain, and The Slave Dancer.

We end the year with a return to fantasy by reading C.S. Lewis’ engaging work The Silver Chair. Through this work we move inward, examining the ways what we’ve learned applies to the imago dei in each of us.    

If the “why” is imago dei and the “what” is Colonization through the construction of American government, the “how” makes 6th grade at Cambridge equal parts challenging and fun.

As they are created beings, they create art themselves, from sculpture to runic tablets. They present their thoughts and considerations orally and through the writing of a 5-paragraph essay. They debate, formally and informally. They travel to Williamsburg

They will be pushed and prodded to recognize what it means to be made in God’s image and how they will use their God-given free will responsibly.

The culminating trip of the year is an overnight trip to Williamsburg, VA.

The culminating trip of the year is an overnight trip to Williamsburg, VA.

Lisa Bond