Grade: Elementary
Subject: Science

#349. Acid Rain - Go Away

Science, level: Elementary
Posted Tue Mar 17 06:48:55 PST 1998 by Janel Ballew Patterson (
Recycling Education Programs
Director of Recycling Education, City of St. Louis , St. Louis, MO
Materials Required: see below
Activity Time: one 20 minute class; 2-3 weeks of plant care
Concepts Taught: pollution, ecology

Grades: 3-8

two containers (with lids) for water
one tablespoon vinegar
2 plants
spray bottle or plant mister
pen or pencil
paper for labels


Acid rain has been in the news lately, but exactly what is it? Acid rain occurs when pollutants mix with the moisture in our atmosphere. This is then redirected at the
earth in the form of rain - acid rain. Several pollutants can cause this effect but it occurs most often when factories burn fossils fuels to create their products
(another reason to buy recycled!)

Acid rain is harmful to plant life because it can burn the leaves and the roots. Green plants are important not only for the beauty they bring us, but also for their
ability to create oxygen.

Fill the two containers with water. Label one plain water, label the other acid water. To the acid water, add the tablespoon of vinegar. Mix this well. This water will be used to maintain the plants for the duration of the experiment.

Have students label the plants as "control" or "acid". Explain to students that this is a controlled experiment, and this means that one of the parts of the experiment stays the same. In this case, the control plant will have the same living conditions as the acid plant, except that it will not have acidic water. This control is important because it lets us know that any changes to the acid plant are caused by the acidic water and not by the room being too cold or not having enough sun or anything else.

Have students water the plants as they normally would for a few weeks, making sure that the acid plant receives only acid water and that the control plant receives only plain water. Have them observe the changes
that happen to the plants.

What happened to the plants? What could have caused this? How can we
help to prevent acid rain? (Through recycling and buying recycled