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6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Chemistry, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences, Mathematics

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Ocean Acidification

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  • In this experiment, students will learn about the pH scale, use pH paper in the experiment, and learn about the role of atmospheric CO2 in ocean acidification.
  • Students will also predict the effects of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems and use the data collected from the experiment to determine the CO2 content of their "seawater".
  • There is a poster, student materials, and a teacher's guide provided for the experiment.
Teaching Tips


  • It allows students to actively add carbon dioxide to water using their breath, offering a link to other class topics such as cellular respiration.
  • Through this exercise, students practice the steps of the scientific method.

Additional Prerequisites

  • The teacher should prepare the materials for the experiment ahead of time, but note that a water pump is not required to mix the salt into the water.


  • Students work in pairs to complete the experiment.
  • This lab exercise could easily be incorporated into chemistry, biology, Earth science, or environmental science classes. 
  • Biology students could further explore organisms that are sensitive to pH changes and create a poster or presentation about it.
  • You could extend the activity and have students write a short essay about how we can curb ocean acidification and protect marine life.
  • Other resources about ocean acidification include this video about saving coral reefs and this brief video from Rutgers Climate Institute.
Scientist Notes
The resource provides a practical guide to simulate ocean acidification in relation to rising levels of atmospheric CO2. This procedure can be replicated. Hence, the resource is valid and recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-4 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems.
      • HS-ESS3-6 Use a computational representation to illustrate the relationships among Earth systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity.
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • MS-LS2-2 Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
      • HS-LS2-5 Develop a model to illustrate the role of photosynthesis and cellular respiration in the cycling of carbon among the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Reading: Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.7 Translate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text into visual form (e.g., a table or chart) and translate information expressed visually or mathematically (e.g., in an equation) into words.
  • Common Core Math Standards (CCSS.MATH)
    • Statistics & Probability: Interpreting Categorical & Quantitative Data (9-12)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.HSS.ID.A.3 Interpret differences in shape, center, and spread in the context of the data sets, accounting for possible effects of extreme data points (outliers).
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