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Acid Rain Science Fair Projects

Instructor: Joanne Abramson

Joanne has taught middle school and high school science for more than ten years and has a master's degree in education.

Do you have students who are interested in ecology, chemistry, or materials science? These four acid rain science fair ideas, ranging in ability from elementary to high school, may be perfect for them.

Science Fair Season

The science fair is around the corner! Are your students having trouble deciding on a topic? Science fairs shouldn't be stressful; they should be exciting opportunities for students to explore a topic that interests them. If you have students who are curious about ecology, botany, pollution, or materials science, these acid rain project ideas may be right up their alley! Each of these experiments are geared toward a particular grade level (elementary, middle, or high school), but they all can be easily adapted to the needs of any student.

Creating Samples of 'Acid Rain'

For each of these projects, students will need to create mockups of acid rain at various pH levels. The following procedure is one way that this can be accomplished. Some of the projects will require this process to be completed more than once, and others will only need a single sample.

Materials:

  • 6 mason jars, or other clear containers with lids, that can hold at least 1 L of water
  • Measuring cup
  • Medicine dropper
  • pH test strips
  • Permanent marker
  • Clean spoon
  • 3 gallons of bottled, distilled water
  • White vinegar
  • Lab book

Procedure:

  • Rinse the mason jars, measuring cup, and spoon with distilled water.
  • Label the jars 1-6 with a permanent marker.
  • Add 1 L of distilled water (pH of approximately 6.5) to each jar.
  • Add drops of vinegar, one drop at a time, to each jar. After each drop, stir the water with a spoon and check the pH. The goal is to create water samples of increasing acidity, each one with a pH 0.5 lower than the one before. Ideally, you will have a range in pH of 4 to 6.5, though if your actual samples are off by a little bit, that is fine.
  • Seal the jars.
  • Record the pH of each sample in a chart like the one below:

Jar Water Drops of Vinegar pH
1 1 L 0 drops 6.5
2 1 L
3 1 L
4 1 L
5 1 L
6 1 L

What are the Effects of Acid Rain on Water Ecosystems?

The first project is a simple one, suitable for elementary students. In this experiment, students study the effects of acid rain on aquatic plants.

Materials:

  • 6 mason jars, each filled with a different acid rain sample
  • Duckweed (at least 30 healthy plants, each with at least 2 fronds)
  • Lab book

Procedure:

  • Be sure that each duckweed plant has a root and at least 2 fronds.
  • Add 5 plants to each jar.
  • Seal the jars.
  • Observe the jars for 10 days. Each day, record the number of fronds on the duckweed plants. Also record the number of duckweed plants that die (these will generally turn a whitish color).
  • Graph and analyze the results, then draw your conclusions.

What are the Effects of Acid Rain on Poppy Plants?

The second experiment is a more difficult project aimed at middle school students. This one compares the growth of plants exposed to acid rain of various pH levels.

Materials:

  • 6 mason jars filled with various samples of acid rain
  • 24 poppy plants of similar height and with similar numbers of flowers
  • 6 pots large enough to hold 4 poppy plants each
  • Potting soil
  • Shovel
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Permanent marker
  • Ruler
  • Lab book

Procedure:

  • Replant the poppy plants into the pots, 4 plants per pot. Label each pot with the pH of acid rain that it will be receiving; each pot should receive a different pH. Using the popsicle sticks and the permanent marker, number the plants in each pot 1-4.
  • Measure and record the initial heights for each plant, as well as the number of flowers on each plant.
  • Place the pots near each other so that they all receive the same amount of sunlight.
  • Water the plants with the appropriate acid rain samples for 10 days.
  • Each day, measure and record the height of the plants and the number of flowers. Make note of any other differences that you see.
  • At the end of the 10 days, calculate the percent change in growth for the plants and for the number of flowers.
  • Graph and analyze your results, then draw your conclusions.

Can Antacid Tablets Undo Damage from Acid Rain?

The next experiment is an example of a problem-solving project aimed at high school students. This study focuses on the use of antacid tablet to neutralize the effects of acid rain on plant growth.

Materials:

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