Human activities create pollution in the air. Human resources such as automobiles, factories and other utilities produce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that react with the moisture in the atmosphere and creates acid rain. Acid rain is more acidic than normal rain and can cause harm to forests and crops by washing away nutrients and poisoning plants. It can also raise the pH of bodies of water resulting in the death of some aquatic life and the growth of others. Architecture can also be affected when the acid slowly eats away the surface and smooths over the corners of buildings or the detailed features of statues.
Prior to this lesson, have the class collect rainwater. On rainy days, place some sort of container outside to collect the rain.

Any of the activities on this website can be used to to teach about acid rain. Putting emphasis on the human activities that causes acid rain & how acid rain affects the environment.

This lesson is taken from and modified from the above website.

Acid Rain and Plants
To demonstrate the effect of acid rain on plants

Students will learn how acid rain is an air pollution problem.

  • 4 Plants
  • pH paper
  • 4 Water bottles or spray bottles
  • Vinegar
  • Ammonia
  • Water
  • Measuring cup/cyclinder
  • 4 Labels
  • Pens

1/2 hour on day 1. Then 5 minutes a day for about 2 weeks.

  1. Explain to the students that human activities have resulted in many forms of pollution.
  2. Discuss how human resources have polluted the water and air.
  3. Discuss how acid rain is formed, and ask the class what they think the consequences of acid rain may be to the environment and our health.
  4. Ask the class: What do you think will happen if we water plants with liquids of different pH's such as acid, base and neutral? What changes do they expect to see? How long do they think it will take for plants to change?
  5. Split students into 4 groups.
  6. Give each group a plant and a water bottle/spray bottle.
  7. Give each group their recipe for their liquid (see below).
  8. Ask the groups to label their water bottle and plant with their group number or allow them to create a group name.
  9. Ask the groups to take responsibility to water their plant each day and take notes on whether they notice any change in color, foliage, and health over the next two weeks.
  10. At the end of the two weeks, lead a discussion about the differences observed in the plants that they took care of.
  11. Ask the students if they should be concerned about acid rain? Why? How can we try and prevent it. How can urbanization & acid rain affect the biomes of the world as we know them? (Remember the sources, factories, automobiles, and utilities). Answers should relate to driving less (carpool, bus, bike, walk), saving energy (turning off lights, lowering a.c.), and buying less stuff (the 3 R's: reduce, reuse, recycle).
  12. Take a sample of the rain that has been collected outside of the classroom on previous days and saved. Have students take a pH of the sample rain, and discuss the rain that falls locally.

Recipe for liquids
Group 1- water
Group 2- 15 parts water, 1 part vinegar
Group 3- 7 parts water, 1 part vinegar
Group 4- 7 parts water, 1 part ammonia

Other resources:

acid-rain-2a.jpg acid-rain-1a.jpg

Photos taken from: