Acid Rain And How It Affects Our Environment
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Iftner, George Schools, various
Demonstrate phenomenologically the effects of acid rain on our
environment and perform long-term "real-time" experiments.
6 Petri dishes, pipette, large bell jar or similar item, sulfuric
acid, two 2-liter soft drink containers, 4 small pieces of marble or
limestone, continuous strip of chart paper approximately 3 ft by 6 ft,
pastel crayons or markers, small growing plant, 4 small pieces of raw
fish, 2 green leaves, small amount of soil.
1. 2 or 3 days in advance, prepare Petri dishes with soil & stone,
leaf, and raw fish. One set is to be watered with distilled water, the
other wetted thoroughly with 50% sulfuric acid. Keep hidden from
2. Prior to the lesson, a) cover an area of chalkboard or wall with the
drawing paper; print OUR ENVIRONMENT at the upper right. b) set out the
Petri dishes prepared in #1 above, but keep covered from view for the
moment. c) make 14 slips of paper, each with one of the following
printed on it:
LAKE FISH CARS FACTORY WIND SUN FISHERMAN
PEOPLE SMOKE TREES RAINCLOUD RIVER HILLS HOUSES
3.Pass out the name slips to 14 students at random. Ask the class if
they like to draw. (The response should be most positive - I've yet to
see a class at any grade level that didn't like "artwork!") Say
something like "Let's make a mural about our environment. This
should be fun!" Have the slip recipients come up and draw that which
is on their slip. Be complimentary and encourage creativity! Guide
each artist as to the approximate location of his/her item...(the
factory, cars, sun and smoke should be toward the left end of the
production and the other items oriented toward the right.)
4. Admire the production! THEN, complete the title by adding "ACID
RAIN AND HOW IT AFFECTS", so that the complete title now reads.
"ACID RAIN AND HOW IT AFFECTS OUR ENVIRONMENT"
5. Display the Petrie dishes and show the class how the acid has
affected soil/stone, plant, and animal materials compared to the items
in plain water. Discuss briefly, then augment the mural with more smoke,
rain, and wind, and describe how acid rain is formed. (Tailor the
scientific descriptive language to the grade level involved, i.e.,
don't get involved with chemical formulas unless the class has had
some exposure to them.)
6. Create 3 or 4 groups and have the groups spend about 5 minutes
listing what effects they think acid rain would have on the various
aspects of their mural. Poll the groups for their ideas and develop a
list on a chalkboard. Augment the list with any facets the class may
not have considered. Be sure to list all ideas even though not
specific to acid rain...indicate that these items "fit better" in
different topics and will be covered in future lessons.
7. Set up the following long-term experiment:
a - Place the potted plant under the bell jar;
Add a Petri dish or other small vessel of 10% sulfuric acid;
(Maintain plant normally including acid solution).
b - Put about one inch of 10-15% sulfuric acid solution into one of the
soft drink containers. Suspend a marble or limestone chip
above the solution. Cap tightly.
c - Duplicate (a) and (b) with water only as controls.
d - Put a piece of raw fish in each of two Petri dishes; immerse
one in water and cover, immerse the other in weak acid
solution and cover. (Note: these pieces of fish will
deteriorate but the effect of the acid solution will become
evident over a period of time.)
8. Secure articles dealing with acid rain as available and distribute
to the class for their further interest and edification.
NOTE: SAVE THE MURAL!