Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Monumental Disappearance

Warren Bell


The students are to compare the emissions listed on the EPA isopleths over the past five-year period for ten key states. They will use this information to rank each region according to the degree of acid rain problem in those parts of the United States.


The student knows that the world ecosystems are shaped by physical factors that limit their productivity.

The student knows the ways in which humans today are placing their environmental support systems at risk (e.g., rapid human population growth, environmental degradation, and resource depletion).

The student knows that investigations are conducted to explore new phenomena, to check on previous results, to test how well a theory predicts, and to compare different theories.


-Buchner funnel
-Buret tube
-500 mL beaker
-Ring stand
-Buret clamp
-Three-prong clamp
-Marble chips or preferably, a large piece of marble
-0.01M solution Sulfuric Acid
-Introductory video(s) on Acid rain, e.g.,
a. Acid rain & Atmospheric Deposition – Karol Media
b. Acid rain – Environmental Aspects – Studio City
c. Acid rain – Physiological Effects – Studio City
d. Problems of Conservation & Acid rain – Britannica
-Nine (9) class sets of each of the following isopleths maps from the website
a. Precipitation amounts for 1996 – 2000
b. SO2 emissions for 1996 – 2000
c. NOX emissions for 1996 – 2000
d. H+ ion concentration for 1996 – 2000
-Computer, minimum 1 per group, with the following capabilities:
a. Word processor
b. Internet access
c. Excell – graphics package
-Emission data table from attached file, 1 per
-Ten (10) line charts per student or have them make their own from example in attached file


1. Assemble all equipment necessary for demonstration:
a. Attach the buret tube to the top of the ring stand with a buret clamp.
b. Attach the Buchner funnel upside down, with the tip of the buret tube inside funnel neck, to the ring stand with a three prong clamp.
c. Put the piece(s) of marble in the beaker and place the beaker six inches below the mouth of the Buchner funnel.
d. With the stop cock closed, fill the buret tube with 0.01M Sulfuric acid.
2. Download 9 sets of isopleth maps for the years 1996 – 2000 (utilize latest 5 year data available) from the website:
3. Prepare copies of data tables and line graphs for each student.
4. Review acid rain videos, choosing which one(s) are the most appropriate for introducing the unit.
5. Make sure that all hyperlinks given in the text are accessible and work properly.



1.Open the stop cock of the buret tube on the acid rain demonstrator and have the students observe what is occurring; especially the dissolving action of the acid on the marble.

2. Ask the students what marble is used for in the everyday world in which they live. Encourage student response by mentioning cities such as Rome or Washington, D.C.

3. Emphasize the destructive effects of acid rain on the world’s monuments and buildings, then ask: “If acid can dissolve stone, then what effects do you believe it can have on plant and animal life?”

4. Ask the students what chief elements make up sulfuric, nitric, and carbonic acids. Allow them to hypothesize on the sources from which these elements may come from naturally and/or through the actions of man.

5. Show the introductory video(s) on acid rain having the students take notes on the information given in the film(s).

6. Introduce the class project on acid rain and assign the students to groups of four. Pass out to each group the responsibilities for each of its members as given in the attached files.


7. Have the students go to the school’s media center or computer lab to research their topics and gather the required information from the web sites on acid rain given in the weblinks area. Emphasize they are to answer all questions posed for their researcher # in detail.


8. Hand out class sets of isopleth maps to each group along with data tables and graphs (previously downloaded from asociated files). Have the students fill in the data tables for their particular research factor on acid rain and make a line graph for each of the ten states. The graphs should have factor amount or concentration versus year.

9. Have the students determine the average/mean level of each factor for each state in the study group for the five year period.

MEAN = Sum of all concentrations for an individual state / 5

10. Have the students determine the percent amount of reduction or increase for each factor for each of the ten states studied in comparison to the year 2000 values obtained.

% = [( mean – 2000 value ) / mean] X 100

11. Have the students list the ten states from the highest mean amounts to the lowest mean results for each factor studied; then report the listings according to the lowest percent of change to the highest percent of change for each factor studied.


12. Have the students list the ten states in order from West to East according to their location on the map of the United States. Then have them relate the location of the states to the mean amount of rainfall they received during the study period.

13. Have the students discuss and list the relationships between the mean amount of SO2 and mean amount of NOx emissions produced.

14. Have the students discuss and list the relationships between the mean amounts of NOx and SO2 emissions to the mean pH values obtained in the study.

15. Have the students list the ten states in order of the highest acid rain problem to the lowest. Have the students summarize their reasons for ranking the states in that order utilizing both their research data and computations.


16. Have the students form into new groups according to their researcher #. There should be four large groupings at this point. Have them compare their data from procedures 7 – 11 and after a short discussion period have each group present a consensus of their results to the class as a whole.

17. Have the class regroup back into their original four-member groups and then recombine with one or two other groups to discuss their data from procedures 12 – 15; then lead an entire class discussion on which states/region of the United States have or has the worst acid rain problem and why.


The teacher will assess each student by the following criteria:

1. The student knows that the amount of moisture a region receives is based on a number of physical factors; as evidenced by the student's ability to recognize and discuss in writing the major weather patterns affecting the United States based on prevailing wind patterns, maritime and continental formations, geographical features and solar variations due to lattitude and seasons. The written discussion is to be submitted to the teacher for grading purposes.

2. The student knows that normal rainfall is slightly acidic due to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere interacting with water vapor as evidenced by the student's illustration of the formation of carbonic acid through chemical equations and listing the primary natural sources of carbon in the atmosphere utilizing the carbon cycle; and, man-made combustion sources / uses of hydrocarbon fuels. The teacher will determine these points by inclusion of specific questions directed at the students during discussions concerning this lesson.

3. The student knows that the primary cause of acid rain is due to the issuance of pollutants from industrial processes as evidenced by the listing of the primary sources of gaseous nitrogen and sulfur oxides by industrial processes and the student illustrates, by chemical equations, the formations of nitric and sulfuric acids as these gases interact with atmospheric moisture. The illustrations of chemical equations to show understanding by the students will be accomplished during class discussions or by specific questions included on related tests.

4. The student will recognize which region of the United States has the worst acid rain problem by analyzing the isopleth data provided for the most recent five year period of time and then ranking each region by use of the mean pollutant concentration values. The analyzation and ranking of each region may be accomplished by students using written responses from students or class discussions.

5. The student will determine the amount of reduction of acid rain pollutants by calculating the mean values for the study period and comparing the mean values to the latest data available, as well as, citing the means by which these reductions have occured. The students may be questioned orally or tested by questions on related tests.

6. The student will recognize that scientific investigation may result in a number of different theories about cause and effect as evidenced through their coming to a consensus as to the results of the data provided. The students interaction in their groups and in the overall class discussion will be the basis of their evaluation.


This lesson can be accomplished for dry deposition utilizing another set of isopleth maps from the Isopleth Maps website.

Web Links

Web supplement for Monumental Disappearance
Isopleth Maps

Web supplement for Monumental Disappearance
Encyclopedia of the Atmospheric Environment

Web supplement for Monumental Disappearance
Environment Canada

Web supplement for Monumental Disappearance
Acid Rain

Web supplement for Monumental Disappearance
Acid Rain

Web supplement for Monumental Disappearance
Clean Air Markets - Environmental Issues

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