Pollution Experiment

What You Need:

  • 3 1-quart jars with lids
  • Measuring cup
  • 3 small potted green plants
  • Vinegar or lemon juice
  • 6 labels or strips of masking tape
  • Pen or marker
  • Spiral or composition notebook
  • Pencil
  • Crayons

What You Do:

  1. Begin this activity by discussing with your child what some of the different uses of water are. Ask her why she thinks we need clean water. Be sure to remind her that we all need clean water not only for drinking and bathing, but also for growing the crops we use to feed ourselves and the animals that live on earth with us.
  2. Talk to her about the ways in which our air can be polluted. Give some examples of pollution she may have seen in your area, like the exhaust from your car or a factory on the side of the highway. Explain to her how pollution in the air travels up into the raindrops in the clouds in the sky. This means that our rain can become polluted too, which can sometimes lead to what is known as "acid rain." Note: There are many books that explain this concept as well if you would like to do some extra research! Perhaps you can read one these books and have this discussion with her as you read. (A great book to try is What Causes Acid Rain? By Issac Asimov)
  3. Next, explain that you are going to do an experiment that will show what acid rain does to plants. It will also show how important it is to have clean water for plants and animals.
  4. Before you begin the experiment, use your pen and the labels or masking tape to label each jar and each plant. Label the first plant and jar “a little acid”. Label the next plant and jar “a lot of acid”. Finally label the third jar and plant, “plain water.”
  5. Next, you will need to mix the water for the plants. Begin by explaining that the vinegar (or lemon juice) is an acid just like the acid that gets in the raindrops from the pollution in the air caused by the factories, cars, and trucks we have here on earth.
  6. Mix the water for the plant that will get “a little acid” by measuring ¼ cup of vinegar or lemon juice and placing it into the jar labeled “a little acid” and fill the rest of the jar with tap water.
  7. For the plant receiving “a lot of acid”, pour 1 cup of the vinegar or lemon juice into the jar and fill the rest with tap water.
  8. Fill the third jar, labeled “plain water”, just with tap water.
  9. Next, have her create her “Observation Journal" using the spiral or composition notebook. Label the first page with today’s date and have her draw a picture of each plant with each of their corresponding labels. You may want to have her write or dictate a sentence or two describing each plant’s appearance, which at this point should be the same for all three plants: green and healthy.
  10. Water each plant (being sure to use only about a 1/4 of the jar each time at the most) with the water from the corresponding jar containing either a lot of acid, a little acid or plain water.
  11. Every two or three days continue to water the three plants using the water from the original jars. Be sure to make note of and discuss which plant looks best. Which one looks the worst? How do the plants differ in color? Continue to have her record all of her observations in the journal by drawing and writing what she sees after each watering.
  12. Water and observe the plants for at least one week. Throughout the experiment, discuss the changes that have occurred in the three plants and ask her why she thinks the results turned out the way they did.
  13. At the end of the experiment, talk with her about which plant is the healthiest and which plant is the least healthy, working with her to reach a conclusion about what happened to the plants. Have her record all of her conclusions in her journal.
  14. Assist her in making the connection between this experiment and our own environment and the effects of acid rain in our world.

This experiment is not only interesting, but it's a simple way you and your child can explore the sometimes-complicated concepts of pollution and its environmental consequences. Along the way, you might even inspire her to get excited about making some "green" changes in her life!

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