In this activity, students explore chemical processes that occur within the nitrogen cycle. In a simple experiment, students use a jar of sand to follow the transformation of ammonium to nitrate and its reduction to nitrogen gases.

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

  • give a simple explanation of the nitrogen cycle
  • talk about nitrification
  • talk about denitrification
  • use a nitrate test kit and some simple materials to demonstrate the processes of nitrification and denitrification
  • demonstrate the effects of temperature on microbial activity (extension idea)
  • demonstrate the energy needs of microbes (extension idea).

Download the Word file for:

  • introduction/background notes
  • what you need
  • what to do
  • extension ideas
  • student handout.

Activity idea

This activity requires students to use a nitrate test kit that measures nitrate in parts per million (ppm). If you’d like your students to explore this concept further, this student activity about toxins, Exploring small doses, helps students to understand what parts per million really means.

    Published 30 July 2013