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Summer of Science: Acid Rain


I know I just said this a couple of days ago but it bears repeating…Being aware of your potential to impact the world is an important lesson to learn and one that continues well into adulthood. In this week’s experiments we’re broadening our ecological awareness and exploring how pollution impacts weather in the form of melting polar ice caps and acid rain.  I think it’s important, and necessary, for children to understand and realize that the same things we’re studying in our experiments are happening in the world RIGHT NOW and eventually the end result of the experiment is going to be the end result for Earth if we don’t start changing our ways.

air bubbles coming out of the chalk

Tuesday we melted ice caps and today we’re looking at the effects of acid rain.  I found a few great links to learn more about acid rain so that I could explain it to the kids.  I liked this one from About.com because it mentions the effects of acid rain on architecture and art which is exactly what we’re looking at in this experiment.

So what exactly is acid rain?  It’s precipitation with high levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.  When these two chemicals combine with water, oxygen, you know everything that makes nature and life on Earth awesome and possible, it turns into sulfuric and nitric acids.  Yes they may be mild but they’re still acids and they have a negative effect on our ecosystems.  (Check out National Geographic for a great run down of the damage it causes.)

Supplies

  • two small cups, we used little canning jars
  • two pieces of chalk in similar size
  • vinegar and water

Directions

Fill one cup with water and the other with vinegar then drop in your chalk.  Set aside the cups and come back to them at least 24 hours later.

Summer of Science

At first it was hard to see a difference in the two pieces.  I mean, sure the nicks in the chalk became larger on the vinegar piece but I didn’t notice any real deterioration until I looked at them from another angle.

comparing the chalk

Both ends had been smooth (I knew because I smoothed them trying to get them the same size) but you can clearly see that the piece on the left (vinegar) is rougher and well, more deteriorated.

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Explanation:  Vinegar is an acid so it works perfectly at simulating the effects of acid rain.  It corrodes and deteriorates most stone and metal it comes into contact with.  After years of exposure to the acids in the rain buildings (those made of limestone in particular) will slowly disintegrate just like this chalk.

Kind off the subject but….Knowing the effects of acids are a MUST to me, because they’re just as bad for our bodies as they are for the environment and there’s no better way to warn your children of the evils of soda than showing them what can happen to their teeth and bodies if they drink too much of it.

*Today marks my second day in NYC volunteering with BlogHer!  I’m so excited about the opportunities this experience has given and I’m a strong believer in giving back!  Subscribe now so that you don’t miss any of the new and exciting opportunities, news and GIVEAWAYS I’ve got planned!

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Erin Sipes
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