MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > Investigating Acid Rain: The Affect of Acid on Seed Germination

Investigating Acid Rain: The Affect of Acid on Seed Germination

Barb Tvinnereim
Jackson County Central High School
Jackson, MN
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In this biology lab, students will investigate whether acid affects the germination of seeds. Upon discussion of acid rain and its affects, students will design an experiment to be tested over a one week period. Seed type, germination method, time and the amount of light and water will be controlled. Students will record the results each day and give an oral report of their findings at the culmination of the week. Students will also write a lab report in their science journal describing their results.

Learning Goals

This activity is designed for students to understand the affect of acid/ acid rain on seed germination through the use of observation, experimentation, data analysis, oral presentations, and scientific writing.

Key Concepts:
Affects of acid on seed germination;
Proper lab techniques


Context for Use

This activity is appropriate for high school students when studying the environment, plants, or the process of inquiry. This lab activity will last approximately 1 ½ weeks. The first 2 days and last 2 days will be full days, with results gathering taking just 5 minutes at the beginning of the period for the rest of the time. You will need to have various seeds and acid types available for the students as they are preparing their experiments. Students should know how to create a lab and compile the results and lab report. This can easily be adapted for middle school or upper elementary students.

Subject: Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Meteorology:Air quality, Environmental Science:Air Quality, Water Quality and Quantity
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity
Grade Level: High School (9-12)
Theme: Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Weather, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Atmospheric Science, Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Water, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Environmental Science

Description and Teaching Materials

Show the investigation question on the board upon completing background information on Acid Rain. Have students write it in their journal and have them put all information in their journal.

Investigation Question: What is the affect of acid on seed germination?


Working with a partner:
1. Create a procedure to answer the investigation question using the classroom consensus discussed.

- Seed type
- Acidic parameters
- Way of germination
- Time
- Light and water

2. Determine how to set up a data table using the parameters set up by the class

- Dates
- Acid used with pH
- Number of seeds germinated
- Other observations

3. Get your procedure and data table OK'd by the teacher

4. Each day, use the beginning of the period to observe and record data in your notebook.

5. Upon collecting all data, look carefully at your data table; determine how you will present your findings to the class.
- Table
- Graph
- ???
- Include final conclusions

Each group will take a few minutes to report their findings to the class in the form of an oral report

Discuss differences in results among groups.

Grade the student journals and brief presentation

Teaching Notes and Tips

2. Discuss with the class what materials will be needed to answer the question; guide set-up
- Acid: Orange juice, cola, tonic water, vinegar
- Pinto bean seeds, soy beans
- Ways to create germination: baggies and paper towel
- Time to allow the germination: Length of approximately one week
- Control light and water

3. Discuss what will be needed on a data table
- Dates
- Acid used with pH
- Number of seeds germinated
- Other observations?

4. Allow the students to get into groups and determine a procedure knowing that they will have 1 week to collect data

5. By the end of the first day they need to have a procedure and data table set up completed and OK'd by you

6. At the beginning of the next day, allow the students to set up their experiments using the procedure they created the previous day

7. Allow the students a few minutes at the beginning of the period each day for one week to collect and record data

8. On the final day, allow the students to collect their data and determine how they will present it to the class the following day

This is different from what I have done in the past because I had everything set for them. It was a typical "cookbook" lab. The seeds, pH of acids, data tables, concusion questions, etc. were all predetermined by me. I feel that allowing students to investigate the question will help them understand the concept better.


I created rubric to assess the student work. It was created using the following site.

I focused on the procedure, science journal, data, analysis, materials, conclusions, and spelling/punctuation/grammar

No student work can be submitted due to this being a new activity done in my classroom.


The student will identify and research an environmental issue and evaluate its impact.

References and Resources