The pH scale and the chemistry of ocean acidification

Ocean acidification provides a useful and engaging context to explore your learners’ understanding of the pH scale

This resource explores the concept of changing pH linked to ocean acidification and can be used as a worksheet to aid understanding during the lesson or as homework. Extension questions provide more challenge and delve into other aspects of chemistry linked to ocean acidification. They lead to a research task where learners can present what they have learnt to explain some of the consequences of ocean acidification on marine organisms.

Sustainability in chemistry

The Sustainable Development Goals logo

This resource accompanies the Education in Chemistry article Tie ocean acidification into your chemistry topics where you will find more support and suggestions for how to connect your current chemistry teaching with UN sustainable development goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources. Use the goal to add further context to this resource.

Teacher notes

The download includes answers to all of the questions in the worksheet. 

Question 4 gives learners an opportunity to apply their knowledge and practise a longer-answer question. A structure strip to support this question is provided. Structure strips give scaffolded prompts and help overcome ‘fear of the blank page’. Learners stick the strip into the margin of their exercise book, or a sheet of A4 paper, and write alongside it. Read more in Improve students’ understanding through writing.

A student sheet and teacher notes available as PDFs or MS Word docs. Download All

The extension questions provide further challenge for learners within the topic. Question 7c asks learners to consider equilibrium and they may need a prompt to think about Le Chatelier’s principle if attempting this question.

Question 9 asks learners to undertake further research and present their findings as a poster or infographic, you could suggest alternative formats for this. You could also give learners more of a scaffold with prompts, eg:

  • Choose a sea creature that will be affected by ocean acidification.
  • State why that creature is affected.
  • Identify what might happen to other creatures, either who eat this organism or who are eaten by it.
  • Use the information on carbonic acid in this worksheet to help you include the chemistry behind your points.

The references below contain a wealth of information, in an accessible form for learners and you may wish to give these, either as a starting point or for sole use in this piece of work.

Link carbon-neutral alternatives to your lessons on ocean acidification and enhance your teaching in this topic area with the articles in this series on Goals 7 (sustainable energy) and 8 (biofuels).

Niki Kaiser, Royal Society of Chemistry, 23 November 2021. Full article.

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