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Acidic Seas Emergency Lesson Mark as Favorite (4 Favorites)

LESSON PLAN in Temperature, Establishing Equilibrium, pH, ChemMatters Teaching Resources. Last updated March 05, 2024.


In this lesson, students will learn about the pH scale, weak acids, gases, equilibrium, and climate change through reading the highly rated ChemMatters article, Acidic Seas: How Carbon Dioxide is Changing the Oceans. The lesson includes several activities to help promote literacy in the science classroom related to the reading. This lesson could be easily used as an emergency lesson plan for a substitute teacher, as most of the activities are self-guided.

Grade Level

High School

NGSS Alignment

This lesson will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:

  • HS-PS1-6: Refine the design of a chemical system by specifying a change in conditions that would produce increased amounts of products at equilibrium.
  • HS-ETS1-1: Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.
  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Engaging in Argument from Evidence
    • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information


By the end of this lesson, students should be able to:

  • Explain how carbon dioxide is involved in global warming and ocean acidification.
  • Describe how ocean warming and acidification impacts coral reefs and marine life.
  • Provide an overview of the reactions involved in the ocean acidification sequence.

Chemistry Topics

This lesson supports students’ understanding of:

  • Acids & Bases
  • pH
  • Equilibrium
  • Gases
  • Temperature
  • Climate Change


Teacher Preparation: 5 minutes
Lesson: 60-90 minutes



  • No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this activity.

Teacher Notes

  • This lesson was originally designed by the ChemMatters Teacher Guide team as a meaningful resource for teachers to use as an emergency lesson plan for a substitute teacher.
  • The lesson includes multiple components, as outlined individually below. The ChemMatters article is essential for all of the activities. Teachers can choose to do one or all of the included activities. Student handouts and corresponding answer keys are provided for each item described below:
    • Anticipation Guide: Anticipation guides help engage students by activating prior knowledge and stimulating student interest before reading. Students should read and respond to each statement before reading the article, then, while they read, students should look for evidence supporting or refuting their initial responses and again respond to each statement.
    • Graphic Organizer: This helps students locate and analyze information from the article. Students should use their own words and not copy entire sentences from the article. Encourage the use of bullet points.
    • Reading Comprehension Questions: These questions are designed to help students read the article (and graphics) carefully. They can help the teacher assess how well students understand the content and help direct the need for follow-up discussions and/or activities. You’ll find the questions ordered in increasing difficulty.
  • Teaching Strategies:
    • Conversation Starters for “Acidic Seas: How Carbon Dioxide is Changing the Oceans” Before students dive into reading the article, it may be helpful to engage students with these questions/tasks:
      • Ask students to brainstorm what they know about climate change, and the impacts it is having on the Earth.
      • Ask students to describe the importance of coral reefs around the world, and how we can protect them.
      • Watch this video from Alliance for Climate Education about how climate change is impacting our oceans (~3 minutes)
  • Further Exploration: After completing the provided activities, you can use the following lab, simulations and/or videos with your students to complement the concepts introduced in the article.