Understanding Ocean Acidification

Hands-On Activities

These hands-on activities will help you demonstrate and explore the effects of increasing carbon dioxide on the acidity of the ocean and learn about impacts an acidic ocean has on marine organisms, the ocean food web, and humans. You will also investigate the causes for increased ocean acidity and learn about ways to minimize your impact.

Channel Islands National Park and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Acidification Curriculum

This eight lesson middle school science curriculum was developed by Sarah Raskin and Doug DuBois with Oxnard School District working with Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Park. All lessons are aligned with Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Education Standards and Ocean and Climate Literacy Principles.
Lesson 6 and 7 in the curriculum are based on the following publication.

Kapsenberg, L, AL Kelley, LA Francis, and SB Raskin (2015) Exploring the complexity of ocean acidification: an ecosystem comparison of coastal pH variability. Science Scope39(3): 51-60.

Additional resources and materials related to this lesson can be found here.

Teacher Handbook

Student Workbook

Video of Ocean Acidification Combustion Model Demostration

Instructions for building Ocean Acidification Combustion Model

Impacts of Carbonated Sea Water on Mussel and Oyster Shells

This lesson focuses on understanding the impacts of acidified seawater on mussel and oyster shells. Students will run experiments exposing shells with seawater at different levels of acidity representing current and potential future ocean conditions.

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Help Nemo Find His Home

This lesson focuses on understanding the impacts of ocean acidification on the olfactory senses of clownfish.

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Marine Osteoporosis

Two 45-minute lessons for teachers

These two lessons are designed for 5th through 8th graders and are correlated with National Science Education Standards. Students use the scientific method to conduct an experiment to understand the effects of increased acidity on certain marine species.

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See Presentation

Ocean Acidification Dry Ice Demonstration

Ocean acidification experiment

This demonstration uses cabbage juice as a pH indicator and shows how dry ice can change the acidity of seawater. Watch how dropping dry ice, which is solid CO2, into water makes the water more acidic in front of your eyes as the cabbage juice changes color from blue to red.

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Whale Jenga

Food web game

Using the popular wood block game Jenga, explore the relationship between predators and prey in an ocean food web and how it's affected by ocean acidification. This game makes the interconnection of the food web very concrete. As the bottom of the food web is impacted, the whole web becomes more fragile and eventually collapses.

Whale Jenga A Food Game

Earths' Acid Test, Nature 2011

Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Shells

Ocean acidification experiment

In this activity you will test the effects of acid on eggshells to see firsthand the effects ocean acidification can have on calcifying organisms.

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Oceans Recipe for Success: Ocean Acidification Demonstration

In this lesson developed by the Aquarium of the Bay, this 20 minute demonstration can be used for small groups of guests or students. The demonstration and accompanying presentation allow participants to understand the value and importance of how human activities influence the health of the ocean and how changes in the ocean ecosystem affect marine and human life. Additionally, participants will learn that we can work together as stewards of our planet’s oceans and make changes to leave the world a better place for our children.

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NOAA Ocean Acidification Lessons

Ocean acidification: PH and the Ocean's Balance
In this activity for grades 5-8, learn how a small shift in the ocean's PH can impact marine organisms.

Ocean acidification: Building Blocks of the Sea
In this activity for grades 4-8, students learn how ocean acidification can impact shelss of marine organisms.

Ocean acidification: Rugose Reef Tag
In this activity for grades 4-8, students learn how a healthy reef provides protection for small fish.

Acidification: What does it mean for oysters?
In this activity for grades 5-8, students learn how ocean acidification affects marine animals that we depend on for healthy coastal waters food and a sustainable coastal economy.

Ocean Acidification Toy Car Activity

This activity visually demonstrates how CO2 gas (from sources like internal combustion engines) can change seawater chemistry and make it more acidic.

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Firsthand Learning

Ocean acidification is a fairly complex concept, but the hands-on activities on this page can help simplify the concepts.

The photos below depict participants trying out these activities at a community workshop.

Exploring pH Variability

Ocean Acidification Dry Ice Demonstration

Whale Jenga

Impact of Ocean Acidification on Shells