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The Mystique, Mystery, Magic, or Marvel of Models


The NITROGEN Cycle - An Experiment with CLASS!

Are you looking for an experiment that will help your students grasp by observation and experimentation some of the processes involved in the Nitrogen cycle (pages 41-42 in Soil Science Simplified)? Well, here=s a reference and brief overview of one experiment that provides a lot of different options to show students the processes of nitrification - conversion of nitrogen to nitrate, and denitrification - the biological conversion of nitrate to nitrogen gas. Remember that in the nitrogen cycle, nitrogen gas is the stable end-product of nitrogen cycling - 78% of the earth=s atmosphere.

Reference: The NITROGEN Cycle, by Angela Schipper, Louis Schipper, and Art Hornsby. The Science Teacher Magazine, April 1996, pages 34-37.

The article begins with a brief review of the nitrogen cycle and in particular these two processes: nitrification and denitrificaiton. The activity brings these two processes of the nitrogen cycle out into the open. Students who conduct this experiment will visualize the transformation of ammonium to nitrate and its reduction to nitrogen gases. In the process, they can learn analytical thinking skills, use of nitrate test kits, deductive reasoning, graphic presentation, and scientific method.

Terms and processes explained include: nitrification, denitrification, organic matter decomposition, mineralization. All that is needed is a student nitrate test kit, some soil, a small amount of ammonium chloride, some water, and some sugar. Students can venture beyond the traditional and investigate the effects of temperature (heat), energy source, moisture, and time on the nitrification and denitrification processes.

If you are heavy into biological sciences and want to engage your students in an interesting, rewarding, revealing, and fun experiment - recommended for grades 8 and above - here is a good experiment to try for class participation.

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