administration student task rubric student work technical quality
Water Pollution
Administration Procedures
Grades 5-8 Performance Task
Contributed by: Kentucky Department of Education (KDE)


Students study four samples of "rain water." The students are asked to determine the pH of the samples and then to neutralize them. They are asked to predict any negative effects which might be associated with rain water having a low pH and to propose steps that might be taken to deal with an environmental problem of this sort.

This task is designed to take students approximately 45 minutes to complete.

Overall Task Content Area:

Earth/space science

Specific Knowledge Areas:

The Earth system

Performance Expectations:

  • conducting investigations
  • using equipment
  • gathering, organizing, and representing data
  • formulating conclusions from investigational data
  • applying scientific principles to develop explanations and solve new problems

National Science Education Standards:

8 D ESS 1: Structure of the Earth system: Grades 5-8
1.6 Water, which covers the majority of the earth’s surface, circulates through the crust, oceans, and atmosphere in what is known as the "water cycle." Water evaporates from the earth’s surface, rises and cools as it moves to higher elevations, condenses as rain or snow, and falls to the surface where it collects in lakes, oceans, soil, and in rocks underground.

1.7 Water is a solvent. As it passes through the water cycle it dissolves minerals and gases and carries them to the oceans.

8 A SI 1: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry: Grades 5-8

1.4 Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence. Students should base their explanation on what they observed, and as they develop cognitive skills, they should be able to differentiate explanation from description — providing causes for effects and establishing relationships based on evidence and logical argument. This standards requires a subject knowledge base so the students can effectively conduct investigations, because developing explanations establishes connections between the content of science and the contexts within which students develop new knowledge.

8 F SPSP 2: Populations, resources, and environments: Grades 5-8
2.2 Causes of environmental degradation and resource depletion vary from region to region and from country to country.

(Use the "hot" link on the PALS home page to check the full text of related National Science Education Standards, if desired.)

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:

AL1: Understand patterns, relations and functions:
Grades 6-8 f. represent, analyze, and generalize a variety of patterns with tables, graphs, words, and, when possible, symbolic rules

PS2: Solve problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts:
Grades 6-8

General Instructions to the Teacher:

This task is designed to take students approximately 45 minutes to complete.

Students work in groups of 4 (3-5) for the experiment/activity part of this exercise. Students work together for up to 25 minutes. They are instructed to notify you when finished with the group work, and then to go on to the individual work. If students are still working together 25 minutes after the testing begins, instruct them to cease their group work and begin individual work. At this point, they no longer talk. Whether or not they are just beginning their individual work, remind students that they now have about 20 minutes to complete the individual activity.

Students should be ready to work as soon as the period begins. Group assignments should be made in advance. The materials should be set out at each lab station, if possible. A central supply area, if needed, should be easily accessible. All supplies should be clearly labeled.

Materials for "Water Pollution":

At this station students should have:
  • dropping bottles with solutions (samples 1-4) -see description below
  • Universal indicator
  • pH paper
  • mixing tray
  • map of Kentucky
  • acid solution neutralization
  • basic solution for neutralization
  • stirring sticks
  • safety glasses
  • paper towels

The four samples or solutions for this activity should simulate varying degrees of acidity as might be found in "acid rain." At least one water samples should be mildly basic.

Advance Preparation:

Water samples should be prepared in advance of the testing period.


  • Be careful.
  • Teachers and students should always exercise appropriate safety precautions and utilize appropriate laboratory safety procedures and equipment when working on science performance tasks.

Kentucky Department of Education
Performance Events 1992-93


©1997-2005 SRI International. All rights reserved. Terms of Use