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Curriculum Resources

Supplement for Classroom Teachers - Understanding Acid Rain

Acid Precipitation Remains an Environmental Issue

In 1984, landmark legislation addressing the problem of acid rain from in-state sources of air pollution was passed in New York State. The State Acid Deposition Control Act identified the Adirondacks, Catskills and Hudson Highlands as susceptible to acid rain. A multi-year study of hundreds of Adirondack lakes and ponds was conducted to measure the effects of acid rain on chemistry and fish. Now, almost 30 years later, we continue to study the effects of acid rain in New York. We recognize that many lakes are recovering, but there is still a long way to go.

Acid precipitation is an important environmental issue to address with students. Its causes are directly linked to human activity-the burning of fossil fuels. Significant progress has been made in combating acid precipitation through establishing and enforcing regulations, monitoring and remediation. But much work remains to be done to repair damage from decades of acid precipitation.

Lessons about acid precipitation afford an opportunity to remind students there is a clear link between air quality and water quality. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere-byproducts of our demands for energy-affect the health of fish and other aquatic wildlife, not to mention forests and the creatures that rely upon them. Students may feel that acid rain is a problem only adults can address. In fact, there are things young people can do to make a difference. Being mindful of how our energy-use choices affect the environment is a huge start. Cutting back on our electricity consumption is achievable for many of us. It's as simple as turning off the lights when we leave a room or opening a window instead of turning on the air conditioner. For short trips, families may choose to walk or ride bikes instead of driving, further reducing their use of fossil fuels.

This Issue's "Outside Page"

The activities suggested on the Outside Page offer a range of possibilities. USEPA experiments illustrate the effects of acid rain using inexpensive, easily obtained materials. Pairing them with a walk in your community to look for real-world effects of acid rain will demonstrate to your students the large- and small-scale lasting influence of this problem.

Teacher Workshops

For teachers who have participated in an Aquatic WILD, Project Learning Tree or Project WET workshop, the activities listed below complement this issue of C4K. Visit the DEC's Workshops for Educators page for information about workshops and about how to obtain curriculum and activity guides.

Aquatic WILD:

What's in the Air?
What's in the Water?

Project Learning Tree:

Pollution Search
In the Driver's Seat

Project WET:

Where are the Frogs? (Parts II & III)