Can you dissolve a seashell? What happens when you put a seashell in vinegar? What are the effects of ocean acidification? So many great questions for a simple ocean science experiment you can set up in the corner of the kitchen or classroom and check on periodically. Do you have an abundance of seashells collected from various vacations? Let’s use them for simple science activities for kids. This would also make a great science fair project.
SEASHELLS IN VINEGAR EXPERIMENT FOR OCEAN CHEMISTRY
Get ready to add this seashell ocean chemistry activity to your ocean lesson plans this season. If you want to learn about why seashells dissolve in vinegar and why that’s important for the future of the ocean, let’s dig in. While you’re at it, make sure to check out these other fun ocean activities.
Our science activities and experiments are designed with you, the parent or teacher, in mind! Easy to set up, quick to do, most activities will take only 15 to 30 minutes to complete and are heaps of fun! Plus, our supplies lists usually contain only free or cheap materials you can source from home!
SEASHELLS WITH VINEGAR EXPERIMENT
What happens to seashells in vinegar? Let’s check out how to quickly set up this simple ocean science activity. Head to the kitchen, grab the jug of vinegar, and raid your shell collection for this simple ocean chemistry experiment.
This ocean chemistry experiment asks the question: What happens when you add seashells to vinegar?
YOU WILL NEED:
- White vinegar
- Sea Water (approx 1 1/2 teaspoons salt per 1 cup water)
- Clear glass or plastic jars
HOW TO SET UP SEASHELL OCEAN EXPERIMENT:
This is a super simple science activity that requires just about zero prep other than collecting the supplies!
STEP 1: Set out several containers. Add a seashell to each container.
You could have multiple containers with different types of shells to investigate whether the type of shell affects how fast the shell dissolves.
STEP 2: Pour your seawater into one container and cover the shell completely. This will act as your control. Make sure to note which container is seawater and label accordingly.
You can read more about using the scientific method with kids here.
STEP 3: Pour vinegar over the remaining seashells to cover each completely.
STEP 4: Set the jar aside and observe what happens. You will want to check on your seashells periodically and observe what is happening.
THE SCIENCE OF SEASHELLS WITH VINEGAR
The science behind this seashells experiment is the chemical reaction between the shell’s material and the acetic acid in the white vinegar! This vinegar experiment is very similar to our favorite classic naked egg experiment.
HOW ARE SEASHELLS FORMED?
Seashells are the exoskeletons of mollusks. A mollusk can be a gastropod like a snail or a bivalve such as a scallop or an oyster.
Their shells are composed primarily of calcium carbonate which is also what eggshells are made of.
The animals use the shells as a home until they outgrow them, and then they find themselves a new home. Their old home may wash ashore for you to find, or a new sea creature (like a crab) could claim it as their home.
VINEGAR WITH SEASHELLS
When you add the seashells to vinegar, carbon dioxide bubbles start to form! Did you notice all the bubbling action? This a result of the chemical reaction between the calcium carbonate which is a base and the vinegar which is an acid. Together they produce a gas called carbon dioxide. Check out the three states of matter present!
Over time, the shells will become more and more fragile and will start to break apart if you touch them. This scallop shell below sat for 24 hours.
If you just want to give your seashells a good cleaning, vinegar will do the trick. Just don’t let them sit in the vinegar for too long!
OCEAN CHEMISTRY IN THE CLASSROOM
Here are some thoughts to keep in mind. As the shells react with the vinegar they will become more and more fragile until they fall apart.
After 24-30 hours our thicker shell had changed just a little bit, so I carefully poured out the vinegar and added fresh vinegar. 48 hours later, there was more action on the thicker shell.
- Thinner shells will react quicker. The scallop shell had the most change overnight (though I wished I had checked it sooner). Which shells take the longest?
- You can set up regular intervals to observe your seashells and note any changes.
- Would lemon juice produce the same reaction? It’s also an acidic liquid!
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE OCEAN BECOMES MORE ACIDIC?
This experiment is a great opportunity to talk about the effects of ocean acidification with your students or kids. It starts with applying the carbon cycle.
As the levels of carbon dioxide in the air rises so does the acidity of the ocean! The burning of fossil fuels contributes mostly to this increased air pollution, but it also affects our seawater and may cause global warming.
The ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide reacts with seawater to form carbonic acid which causes the ocean to decrease in carbonate ions which keeps the seawater in balance. This causes the acidity of seawater to increase. Over time this ocean acidification will harm the shells of our favorite mollusks, among other things.
We have to take care of our planet! Our oceans play an essential role in keeping the Earth’s carbon cycle in equilibrium.
CHECK OUT MORE FUN OCEAN ACTIVITIES
SEASHELLS WITH VINEGAR FOR OCEAN CHEMISTRY FOR KIDS!
Discover more fun and easy science & STEM activities right here. Click on the link or on the image below.