By Karen S. Shenk

| Introduction | Task | Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion



Population growth in Pennsylvania has been staggering over the last few years. The population has grown so rapidly, that the existing power plants cannot meet the current demands for electricity. Blackouts and brownouts have been common occurrences in many Pennsylvania communities recently. The Mega Watt Power Company is considering a site 5 miles west of Landisville as a possible location for a coal burning power plant. This plant will provide over 250 badly needed jobs to local residents. In addition, the plant will increase the local tax base significantly.

Along with all of the positive benefits a new industry would bring to the area, are some possible negative effects. Emissions from power plants can lead to an increase in air pollution, which in turn, can cause acid rain. In this activity, teams of students will become scientific experts and do research on the effects of acid rain on both living organisms and non-living objects. The team of experts will then approach the township commissioners with their findings and their decision as to whether or not the plant should be built.

Back to top


Your task is to thoroughly research the topic of acid rain. You, along with the other experts on your team, are responsible for providing information to the township commissioners so that they can make an informed decision as to whether or not to build the electric utility plant. While conducting your research, keep in mind the positive benefits a large industry would bring to a community. (jobs and money)

Through your research, you will identify what acid rain is, and how and why it forms. You will also determine the effects of acid rain on a variety of living organisms, as well as man-made materials. In addition, you will identify methods that are effective in reducing acid rain, and costs involved in doing so.

Finally, you will organize your data and make a group decision as to whether or not to build the plant. This decision, along with your findings, will be presented to the township commissioners at their next meeting. Remember, you and your team of experts, alone, are responsible for providing clear, and concise information that will lead the township commissioners to the best decision for the community.

Each scientific expert will take part in the presentation and will be responsible for:

One poster board which will contain:

Back to top


Your team will consist of four experts; an ecologist, an environmental engineer, a pollution control engineer, and an environmental lawyer. Each person on your team should choose one of these occupations. Once the roles have been established, begin research using the links provided in the resources section. Each expert is responsible for answering all questions listed for that particular area of study.



Questions to be Answered



Will determine the effects of acid rain on:

  • forests
  • agriculture
  • lakes and aquatic systems
  • humans
  • man-made materials


Environmental Engineer



  • What is acid rain?
  • What causes acid rain?
  • How does acid rain form?
  • What is the history of acid rain?
  • What are the major problem areas in the US?


Pollution Control




  • What are natural and man-made sources of acid rain?
  • What steps can be taken to reduce acid rain?
  • What costs are involved in the reduction of acid rain?
  • What are some alternative energy sources?



Environmental Lawyer




  • What current legislation exists to reduce acid rain?
  • What new laws or amendments have been recently proposed?
  • What are some benefits that an electric utility company will bring to the community? (in addition to jobs and taxes)
  • What are the economic losses due to acid rain?


Back to top


Internet Resources

  Ecologist Resources

  Environmental Engineer Resources

  Pollution Control Engineer Resources

  Environmental Lawyer Resources


General Resources


"Polluted air and acid rain: a missing link." Newsweek 2 Sept. 1985:25.

"This popcorn can stop acid rain before it starts." Business Week 18 July


Cullen, Robert. "The true cost of coal." The Atlantic Monthly Dec. 1993:38-43.

Munton, Don. Dispelling the myths of the acid rain story."  Environment  

July – August.1998:4-15.


Nikiforuk, Andrew. "Acid rain’s constant menace." Globe and Mail 24 May


Kaiser, Jocelyn. "Acid rain’s dirty business: stealing minerals from soil."

Science 12 April 1996:198.

Buso, D. C. "Long term effects of acid rain: response & recovery of a forest

ecosystem." Science 12 April 1996: 244-246.

Berlau, John. "does acid rain hurt your car?" Consumers Research Magazine

Jan. 1996:35.

Cantalano, Salvatore. "The human cost of acid rain." Audubon July 1988:16-23.

Friedrich, Otto. "Scrubbing the skies:after 13 years of frustration, the

senate finally strikes a deal to clean the air- but business lobbies and

environmentalists are still fighting. Time 16 April 1990:20-22.

"Compromise on clean air." Time 12 March 1990:25. Kerr, Richard. "Acid rain

control: Success on the cheap." Science 6 Nov. 1998:1024.

"New additive scrubs away nox-ious gases." Science News 27 Jan. 1990: 63.

Likens, Gene. "Atmospheric dust and acid rain." Scientific American Dec.


Kowalok, Michael E. "Common Threads: research lessons from acid rain, ozone

depletion, and global warming." Environment July – August 1993:12-24.

"Pouring forth in acid rain." Environment March 1990:23-25.

Begley, Sharon. "Acid rain’s fingerprints; tracing the culprits." Newsweek

    1. Aug. 1986:53.

Lowenthal, Douglas H. "The acid rain whodunit." Natural History July



Tyson, Peter. Acid Rain. New York: Chelsea House, 1992.

Patten, J. M. Acid Rain. Vero Beach FL:Rourke Book co., 1995.

Neal, Phillip. The Acid Rain Effect. London:BT Batsford, 1992.

Acid Rain: Its Causes and Effects on Inland Waters. New York: Oxford University Press,


Stewart, Gail. Acid Rain. San Diego CA:Lucent Books, 1994.

Turck, Mary. Acid Rain. New York: Collier Macmillian, 1990.


Back to top





Each student expert will prepare a poster for the presentation and will receive a grade based on:

Click here to see the evaluation rubric.


Back to top


At the completion of this project, you will have a much better understanding of the acid rain problem. You will understand the basic causes of acid rain, and why some areas of the country have a high incidence of acid rain, and other areas have little or no problem. Your team will have already worked through the project and you will be aware of the controversial issues surrounding the acid rain problem. You will understand the effects of acid rain on living and non-living things and why, even though we benefit tremendously from the electricity generated by power companies, there is a downside to this luxury that is called acid rain, and it cannot be ignored. Lastly, at the completion of this project, you will be able to list steps that can be taken to reduce the amount of acid rain, and identify some alternative energy sources.



 Back to Top