Science project

Rain Damage


In conducting this project, the student acquires basic information on acid rain and the impact of this rain on our environment be it buildings, bridges,  monuments, statues, metal structures  and vehicles having metal components. Unfortunately, the earth's total freshwater supply is limited. When sulfur and nitrogen oxides are released by burning fossil fuels, they combine with water in the atmosphere to form nitric and sulfuric acids. If enough of this combination is present to lower the ph of the water to below 5.7, acid rain is the result. Acid rain has an impact on many of the materials we use to build homes, bridges and monuments. Acid rain also weakens the exposed metal in bridges, trains and automobiles. In addition acid rain prevents the process of photosynthesis from going on. The result is that many trees and plants die. Lest we forget, our lives are dependent on green plants and the process of photosynthesis.

On a process level, the student has the opportunity to use the scientific method. To formulate a hypothesis, and conduct an experiment to test for that hypothesis. In addition, the student becomes acquainted with the need for a control as well as becoming adept at identifying the dependent and independent variables in the experiment. On the whole, the student simulates what a scientist does and how he/she thinks s and starts to understand the process at a working level.

Research Questions

  • What is acid rain?
  • What are some of the causes of acid rain?
  • What has high sulfur coal have to do with acid rain?
  • What are some of the toxic ingredients in acid rain?
  • How acidic is acid rain? What is its ph?
  • What is being done to reduce the amount of acid rain in our environment?
  • How does acid rain affect plant and animal life?
  • Where would we find the greatest concentration of acid rain on the globe?
  • What measures should we be taking to remedy this situation?
  • What are scientists doing with lime and with photochemical bacteria to reduce acid rain?


  • Large bucket (to collect rain water)
  • Graduated cylinder
  • Watch
  • 12 plastic containers with covers (or 12 jars with covers)
  • Paramecium culture
  • Microscope
  • Slide
  • Medicine dropper
  • Large bottle of distilled water
  • Few marble chips
  • Package of litmus (pH) paper and color chart
  • Calcium carbonate
  • Small strip of magnesium ribbon
  • Piece of skin from an apple
  • Camera (optional)

The materials may be purchased from Carolina Biological and the microscope may be borrowed from the science lab at your school.

Terms to Know

  • Acid rain
  • Ph
  • Acid
  • Base
  • Alkaline
  • Industrial pollution
  • Marble
  • Limestone
  • Rust formation

Experimental Procedure

  1. Gather all the materials you will need for this project. These include  a large bucket (to collect rain water),a graduated cylinder , a watch, 12 plastic containers with covers or 12 jars with covers, , a paramecium culture, a microscope, a slide, a medicine dropper, a large bottle of  distilled water, a few  marble chips, a pkg. of litmus (pH) paper and color chart, calcium carbonate, a small strip of magnesium ribbon, a watch and a piece of skin from an apple. You may wish to take photos so include a camera.
  2. Copy the Data Chart provided below so that you may readily record your observations.
  3. Start by collecting a large bucket of rain water. Using the ph paper and the chart determine the ph of the rain water. Note: To be considered acid rain the pH must be 4-4.5 or lower. If your water is too alkaline, substitute vinegar for the water. Again check the pH and record in your data chart.
  4. Using your jars or plastic containers, label two sets of 6 containers. One set of 6 labels will be labeled with a D for distilled water and the second set will be with an AR for Acid Rain water. The sets will be labeled as apple skin (plant), paramecium (animal), marble, mg ribbon, iron, and chalk (limestone). In short you have a set of animal, plant, stone and metal in acid rain and one set in distilled water.
  5. Half fill each set of the 5 jars, one set with distilled water as labeled and one set with acid rain water. Into each one of the jars as labeled place a piece of apple skin , a piece of marble,  a strip of mg ribbon, an iron nail, and a piece of chalk. You now have a total of 10 jars with specimens in each one .Allow for 3 minutes. Then observe the contents of each jar and record your observations in the Data Chart. If you see not changes, allow for an addition 2 minutes and then record your observations.
  6. Now, place a drop of the paramecium culture on the slide and examine it under the microscope. Search for living paramecia. Record what you see. Now, take three drops of acid rain water from the jar marked paramecia, place these on top of the living paramecia. Wait three minutes. View the paramecia once more and record your new observations.
  7. You may wish to take photos of the before and after acid rain stage. Use the photos in your display and in your final report.
  8. Now examine the contents of the five jars which contained the distilled water. Record your observations in your data chart. Compare the results of all sets of specimens, those in acid rain and those in distilled water. What do you conclude? How did the acid rain affect the apple skin (Plant), the paramecia (the animal), the marble, the chalk and the metals (mg and.
  9. Write up your report. Include the arm chair research as well as photos. 

The Data Chart


Distilled Water  pH ____

Acid Rain  pH_____

Apple Skin












Mg ribbon



Iron (Fe) Nail




  • ChemCom, Chemistry in the Community, Kendall Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1988.
Author: Muriel Gerhard
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Warning is hereby given that not all Project Ideas are appropriate for all individuals or in all circumstances. Implementation of any Science Project Idea should be undertaken only in appropriate settings and with appropriate parental or other supervision. Reading and following the safety precautions of all materials used in a project is the sole responsibility of each individual. For further information, consult your state's handbook of Science Safety.

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