Acid Mine Drainage Inquiry Lab


Students are introduced to inquiry based learning. Students will devise investigations for answers to questions presented by labs rather than following a set of instructions. 


  • Students explain how changes in water can contribute to an ecosystem’s stability.
  • Students demonstrate the understanding of scientific investigation by taking the pH level of water samples, recording data and observations, and evaluating the information to devise ways to combat this type of water pollution. 


Curriculum Topics: 
Science, Biology acid.jpg

Grade Level: 

Suggested Time:

One 90 minute lesson 

  1. Explore the basics of proper pH measuring techniques. 
  2. Record information and observations in a scientific data table. 
  3. Devise an outline for remediation of acid mine drainage pollution. 
  4. Compare and contrast students’ plans with real life water treatment procedures. 


Lesson Outline: 

Opening (40 minutes): 

  1. The teacher will have prepared some water samples. The water samples will be extremely diluted acidic mixtures, or taken from any naturally acidic water source for a more realistic experience for the students. 
  2. The students are grouped into groups of four. Each group is given 4 different water samples and a pH meter. These may be on the tables before students arrive to class or be handed out after the first video clip has been shown. 
  3. Show students the proper pH measuring techniques. 
  4. Next show students the video clip, Acid Mine Drainage and Precipitates
  5. Students now measure the pH of their water samples and record their information, including observations. 
  6. Ask students to put one tablespoon of baking soda into each water sample, mix, and measure the pH once again. Record their data. These data tables should be organized in a scientific way, including observation, so that standard N.12.A.2 is being addressed. 


Body of Lesson (45 minutes):

  1. Engage the class in a teacher led discussion. 
  2. Discuss mining in Nevada. This is a great opportunity to expose students to the various types of mining found in the state since mining is so prevalent. (ex. pictures of mine sites). 
  3. Lead the discussion into the acid pollution caused by some mines. Explain that it isn’t feasible to dump baking soda into the water supplies. 
  4. Ask the groups of four to try to devise an outline for a way to remedy the acid mine drainage pollution problem. These plans should be in the form of a diagram with written steps on butcher paper. 
  5. After about 20 minutes ask the groups to give a brief outline of their plans. 
  6. Continue the lesson by showing the video clip Acid Mine Drainage Remediation
  7. The teacher will again engage the class in a discussion. Ask students to compare and contrast their plans with the actual treatment of the water in real life. 


Closure (5 minutes): 

  1. Students are given an exit ticket to leave class. 
  2. How would the second video clip change or improve the plan you developed for the water de-acidification? 
  3. Another question based on standard N.12.C.2 may be given. How can the acidification of water supplies affect the biodiversity of the environment? The answer to this question may be used in a follow-up lesson. 



  1. For ELL or SPED students that may have trouble with vocabulary or concepts, implement a word wall for reoccurring vocabulary. 
  2. During the pH readings and the plan development, write step by step directions on the board (including pictures) for reference. 


LearningMedia Resources: 


  • L.12.C.2: Students know how changes in an ecosystem can affect biodiversity and biodiversity’s contribution to an ecosystem’s stability. 
  • N.12.A.2: Students know how scientists maintain a permanent record of procedures, data, analyses, decisions, and understandings of scientific investigations. 

Lesson contributed by John Metzger 

For a demonstration or more details, contact Karen Karst-Hoskins
at or call 775.682.7805 or 775.544.9061.

Funding provided by NV Energy and the Walmart State Giving Program.