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Class Projects   Acid Rain


Normal, ecologically "healthy" rain should have a pH of about 5.6 according to most scientists. But due to harmful air pollution from factories and cars, rain in some areas of the U.S. has a much lower pH. Called acid rain, it can cause environmental devastation.

This project allows your students to get a hands-on look at possible sources of acid rain in their area. They will explore where it comes from, what effect it has, and how weather patterns impact the phenomenon. They'll also take a look at nearby sources of pollution to see if local factories are contributing to acid rain. Students will then develop campaigns urging factories to adopt cleaner smokestack technology.

This project incorporates elements of the scientific method.

Grade level
Middle school, but can be adapted to suit other grades

Time allotment
Up to 1 semester

Subject matter
Main focus on environmental science, with language arts and social studies connections

Learning objectives
Students will:
  • Gain an understanding of the scientific method and use elements of it to conduct the project.

  • Learn about the causes and effects of acid rain.

  • Investigate acid rain on a local level by researching pollution sources, tracking storms, and measuring the pH of rainfall.

  • Devise a campaign urging local community industries to adopt technology to prevent sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide from leaking into the air and causing acid rain.

  • Identify and reflect on what worked or didn't work in their project.

  • Use technology to research and synthesize new information.

  • North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE)
    Excellence in Environmental Education: Guidelines for Learning
    Strand 1-Questioning and Analysis Skills (Guidelines A, C, D, E, F, G); Strand 2.1-The Earth as a Physical System (A, B); Strand 2.2-The Living Environment (A); Strand 2.3-Humans and Their Societies (C, D, E); Strand 2.4-Environment and Society (A, B, C, D, E); Strand 3.1-Skills for Analyzing and Investigating Environmental Issues (A, B, C); Strand 3.2-Decision-Making and Citizenship Skills (A, C, D); Strand 4-Personal and Civic Responsibility (A, C, D).

  • National Education Technology Standards
    Standard 1: Basic operations and concepts; Standard 2: Social, ethical, and human issues; Standard 3: Technology productivity tools; Standard 4: Technology communications tools; Standard 5: Technology research tools; Standard 6: Technology problem-solving and decision-making tools.

After researching and gathering data about the possible presence of acid rain and causes of acid rain in their area, students will create a Web page, written report, or PowerPoint presentation summarizing what they have found. Students also raise environmental awareness by visiting factories, contacting local newspapers and officials, and spreading word of their project and cause via listservs on the Internet.

Computer resources
  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above
  • Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM
  • IBM-compatible computer: (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows® 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM
  • RealPlayer plug-in. Download for free at
Materials needed
  • Access to the Internet on at least one computer (optional)
  • WHAT'S UP IN THE ENVIRONMENT video (optional)
  • Excel (optional)
  • PowerPoint (optional)
  • Water testing kit to test pH levels
Online resources

Teacher tool Web sites

Bookmark these Web sites for student research

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