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Comparison of the Effects of Increased CO2 in the Air to Seawater and Distilled Water

S. Soria-Dengg, Annika Sabrowski, Patrick Silva, CarboSchools.org

This well-designed experiment compares CO2 impacts on salt water and fresh water. In a short demonstration, students examine how distilled water (i.e., pure water without any dissolved ions or compounds) and seawater are affected differently by increasing carbon dioxide in the air.

Experiment takes 1.5 hours (30 minutes of preparation, 30 minutes for manipulation, 30 minutes for data analysis and discussion). Additional materials required.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Short Demonstration/Experiment supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 7 Cross Cutting Concepts, 6 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 6 Cross Cutting Concepts, 5 Science and Engineering Practices

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • This resource is part of a larger collection of indoor activities (see http://www.carboeurope.org/education/indoorhands.php) that explores the relationship of the chemistry, physics, and biology of carbon dioxide to climate change. Some of these activities could be combined for a unit on carbon dioxide and climate change.
  • If seawater is not available, mix it yourself by adding 35 grams of salt per liter of water. Extensions and variations are described in the text.

About the Science

  • The focus of this resource is on the impact of salinity in seawater on the water chemistry when CO2 levels increase in the air above it.
  • There is no attempt to link this to the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide but this activity is a natural complement to CLEAN selected resources on ocean acidification.
  • Comments from expert scientist: This demonstration clearly shows relative effects of CO2 on the pH of seawater and fresh water, and the exercise can be undertaken by middle school (and above) classrooms with relative ease. From an observational standpoint, the children should be able to grasp concepts of importance.

About the Pedagogy

  • This is a simple experiment that makes its point directly without clutter.
  • Well-described activity with a good experimental set-up and graphs of previous runs of this experiment for guidance.
  • Assembling the equipment may prove more interesting to the students than the collecting and plotting of the actual data.
  • The teacher notes provide answers to the student questions and alternatives ways of presenting the data. There are suggestions for further experiments.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Well-described experimental set-up with plenty of sketches and photos that help with using this activity in the classroom.
  • Description includes photos and diagrams of the setup and charts of possible datasets.
  • Instructor would have to provide a lot of the context of the activity. This is listed as a demonstration so may have to borrow equipment, but some pieces can be shared between groups (i.e. pH meter and aerator)

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Short Demonstration/Experiment supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 3

MS-PS1.A3:Gases and liquids are made of molecules or inert atoms that are moving about relative to each other.

MS-PS1.B1:Substances react chemically in characteristic ways. In a chemical process, the atoms that make up the original substances are regrouped into different molecules, and these new substances have different properties from those of the reactants.

MS-ESS3.D1:Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 7

Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Stability and Change, Patterns, Cause and effect

MS-C4.1: Systems may interact with other systems; they may have sub-systems and be a part of larger complex systems.

MS-C5.1:Matter is conserved because atoms are conserved in physical and chemical processes.

MS-C7.1: Explanations of stability and change in natural or designed systems can be constructed by examining the changes over time and forces at different scales, including the atomic scale.

MS-C1.1:Macroscopic patterns are related to the nature of microscopic and atomic-level structure.

MS-C1.3: Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships.

MS-C1.4:Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

MS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

Science and Engineering Practices: 6

Developing and Using Models, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Asking Questions and Defining Problems

MS-P2.7:Develop and/or use a model to generate data to test ideas about phenomena in natural or designed systems, including those representing inputs and outputs, and those at unobservable scales.

MS-P3.2:Conduct an investigation and/or evaluate and/or revise the experimental design to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence that meet the goals of the investigation

MS-P4.1:Construct, analyze, and/or interpret graphical displays of data and/or large data sets to identify linear and nonlinear relationships.

MS-P4.7:Analyze and interpret data to determine similarities and differences in findings.

MS-P6.3:Construct a scientific explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from sources (including the students’ own experiments) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

MS-P1.6:Ask questions that can be investigated within the scope of the classroom, outdoor environment, and museums and other public facilities with available resources and, when appropriate, frame a hypothesis based on observations and scientific principles.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

HS-ESS2.D4:Current models predict that, although future regional climate changes will be complex and varied, average global temperatures will continue to rise. The outcomes predicted by global climate models strongly depend on the amounts of human-generated greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere each year and by the ways in which these gases are absorbed by the ocean and biosphere.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 6

Patterns, Cause and effect, Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Stability and Change

HS-C1.1:Different patterns may be observed at each of the scales at which a system is studied and can provide evidence for causality in explanations of phenomena

HS-C1.4: Mathematical representations are needed to identify some patterns.

HS-C2.1:Empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and make claims about specific causes and effects.

HS-C4.3:Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales.

HS-C5.2:Changes of energy and matter in a system can be described in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system.

HS-C7.1:Much of science deals with constructing explanations of how things change and how they remain stable.

Science and Engineering Practices: 5

Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Developing and Using Models, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

HS-P1.6:Ask questions that can be investigated within the scope of the school laboratory, research facilities, or field (e.g., outdoor environment) with available resources and, when appropriate, frame a hypothesis based on a model or theory.

HS-P2.3:Develop, revise, and/or use a model based on evidence to illustrate and/or predict the relationships between systems or between components of a system

HS-P3.1:Plan an investigation or test a design individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence as part of building and revising models, supporting explanations for phenomena, or testing solutions to problems. Consider possible confounding variables or effects and evaluate the investigation’s design to ensure variables are controlled.

HS-P5.2:Use mathematical, computational, and/or algorithmic representations of phenomena or design solutions to describe and/or support claims and/or explanations.

HS-P6.2:Construct and revise an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students’ own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

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