Classroom Activity: Acid Rain Simulation

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Classroom Activity: Acid Rain Simulation

 

The following activity can be found in the Weather module from NICERC’s STEAM Fundamentals third grade curriculum.


Time is not always our friend in the classroom. This is certainly true when talking about things that take years to develop. In the third grade STEAM Fundamentals Weather module, we look at air pollution and the effects of acid rain. This process of weathering can take years or decades to visually effect stone or concrete objects. Sometimes dramatic examples can be difficult to find in your community and, for students, not knowing the original appearance of the object can lead to difficulty visualizing these changes. How can we demonstrate the before and after effects with more than just pictures and abstract scenarios? The following activity is a simple way to model the effects of acid rain rapidly and have a little fun in the process.

      Take note, this activity can get messy!


Acid Rain Simulation

Materials:

  • 4 tablespoons of baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons of school glue
  • Bowl
  • Measuring spoons
  • Vinegar
  • Water

 

  1. Create your homemade rock. Mix baking soda and glue in a bowl. Use your hands to form the mixture into a rock-like shape. Carefully add more baking soda or glue until the mixture forms easily in your hands and holds its shape (see pictures below).
             
  1. Place the homemade rock back into the bowl and allow to dry for 24 hours.
  2. Once the mixture is dry, take a moment to study the rock and memorize details. (Helpful Tip: if you have access to a camera, before and after photos would be helpful for students to visualize changes and make detailed observations.)
  3. Slowly drip vinegar (which acts like acid rain) onto your rock. Allow several moments for the reaction to continue. Repeat at least 3-5 more times.
  4. After a few minutes, carefully drip water onto the rock to clean it. (notice the rock changed shape over 24 hours. This is normal and does not affect the results.
           

 

  1. How did the acid affect the rock?
  2. Repeat step 4 as often as you like.

Protective gloves for students are optional but recommended. The changes may be minor at first but this is important. This is very similar to the subtle changes to objects over time. The more students expose their rock to the vinegar, the more noticeable the changes will become.

Adding food coloring while mixing the glue and baking soda can create some fun colors. What students create will simulate many years of continuous exposure and erosion. This activity could also be used to generate discussions about the erosion of softer materials, such as soil, and how erosion changes landforms. Have fun creating and eroding your homemade rocks!

Need access to NICERC’s STEAM Fundamentals curriculum? Request it here.


This post comes from NICERC Curriculum Development Specialist Jon Ownby.