science, art, and technology > lesson plans > THE EFFECTS OF ACID RAIN ON STONE SCULPTURE

The Effects of Acid Rain on Stone Sculpture

This is a unit plan that outlines three weeks worth of outline activities. The weekly plans are not specific and do not provide materials, discussion, or assessment breakdowns. However, the broader instructions do fulfill the State Goals and Chicago Academic Standards.

Teacher: Stella Muir
School: Washington High School
Suggested Grade Level: High School
Title: The Effects of Acid Rain on Stone Sculpture
Subject: Earth Science


Week One
Week Two
Week Three

State Goals and Chicago Academic Standards

1. Identify the types of rocks used in the sculptures assigned
2. Compare and contrast the properties of rocks used
3. Describe and draw conclusions based on gathered evidence
4. Develop models of sculptures or landmarks
5. Simulate conservation of outdoor sculpture by using different protective coatings
6. Investigate the effects of acid rain on outdoor sculptures and concrete buildings


Week One
1. Discuss rock classification, the rock cycle, and the properties of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rock. For the purpose of this project, emphasis is given to the rocks that are used as media for sculpture, such as volcanic rocks, granite, sandstone, and schist.
2. Research and discuss how stones were used during the Stone Age, medieval times, and other historic periods. Make models of cairns, inukshuit, stone scarecrow, Stonehenge, and other monuments.

Week Two
1. Prepare for a field trip to the Art Institute. Watch videotape (sent out by museum when teachers request a docent-led tour) to familiarize students with museum rules and expectations. Review the museum rules again.
2. Field trip to the Art Institute. Use a self-guide and follow the rules of the museum.

Week Three
1. Research for more information on the properties of rocks and how sculptures are conserved and reconstructed.
2. Carve some soft medium (such as soapstone) to create a work of art.
3. Lab Activity: Simulate acid rain and its effects in sculpture and concrete buildings.
4. Lab Activity: Simulate conservation of sculptures by using preservative coatings on stones or sculptures made by students. The coated sculptures should then be exposed to acid-rain simulation. Students observe and record what happens.

Evaluate students on their class participation, the completeness of their self-guide questions, and their in-class oral presentations of the results of their lab activities. Power point presentations may be used to enrich their demonstrations.

Conservation of Historic Stone Buildings and Monuments. Washington: National Academy Press, 1982. Full text available online: http://www.ulib.org/webRoot/books/National_Academy_Press_Books/conservat…/000000.1.html




Alsdorf, J. and M. A Collecting Odyssey: Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian Art from the James and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection. Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1997.

Snyder, F. Earth Science. Peoria, IL: Glencoe McGraw-Hill, 1997.

State Goals and Chicago Academic Standards

Earth Science
State Goal 11/Chicago Academic Standard A
Chicago Framework Statement 1
State Goal 11/Chicago Academic Standard B
Chicago Framework Statement 1, 3, 5, 8
State Goal 12/Chicago Academic Standard E
Chicago Framework Statement 1
State Goal 13/Chicago Academic Standard B
Chicago Framework Statement 1

Conceptual Statement—Chicago Program of Study
Elements bond together according to their atomic structure to create minerals that are the fundamental building blocks of earth’s lithosphere. Igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks form from these minerals and contain many of the renewable and nonrenewable natural resources used by humans. The change of one rock type into another is summarized in the rock cycle.

Supporting Ideas
A mineral is a naturally occurring inorganic solid substance with a fixed chemical composition and crystal structure.

The particular types and internal arrangements of atoms or ions determine the properties of minerals: crystal shape, color, luster, streak, hardness, cleavage, and specific gravity. Students use these properties to identify minerals.

Rocks are mixtures or aggregates of minerals and may be classified as igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic based on their methods and environments of formation. Earth solid materials are constantly being transformed from one type to another through the processes of the rock cycle.

Igneous rocks are formed by the cooling of molten material and may be identified by their texture and kinds of minerals they contain. Texture refers to the size, shape, and arrangement of a rock’s mineral crystals. Igneous rocks that cooled slowly have large mineral crystals and are generally intrusive, while igneous rocks that cool quickly have small mineral crystals and are generally extrusive.

Igneous intrusions form when magma cools and solidifies below the earth’s surface. Intrusions are exposed as erosion removes the overlying rock layers. Igneous extrusions form as lava flows onto the surface and solidifies. These exposed rock materials are easily accessible and are used in construction of buildings and as decorative materials.

Sediments form when rocks exposed at the earth’s surface undergo weathering, decompose into fragments, or dissolve. Sedimentary rocks from when fragments are cemented or pressed together or when dissolved substances settle out of solution. Clastic sedimentary rocks form when fragments of other rocks are cemented or compacted together. Organic sedimentary rocks form from the remains of plants and animals. Chemical sedimentary rocks form when minerals settle out of solution.

Sedimentary rocks also contain features, which aid in determining the environment in which they were formed. Stratification, cross-bedding, fossils, ripple marks, and mud cracks provide information about conditions at the time of the formation of the rock.

Metamorphic rocks form from other rocks by the action of heat, pressure, and chemicals without melting. Many metamorphic rocks are formed during the process of mountain building.

Water pollution, acid rain, toxic waste, and nuclear waste disposal are some of the environmental problems associated with our use of lithospheric resources. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, United States Environmental Protection Agency, and other government and private organizations are looking into ways of many career opportunities for students.