5 Creative Ways to Teach Nitrogen Cycle Without Lecturing

Akanksha Saxena

The biogeochemical cycles are fascinating natural processes that allow for the rotation of essential nutrients and elements between living and non-living components of the ecosystem. The Nitrogen cycle, in particular, is a critical element of this cycle. 

The fact that nitrogen makes up 78% of our atmosphere and plays a crucial role in DNA and protein structures comes as an inspiration for students to learn more about this wonderful element. 

While we understand that the topic is a data-rich one, we can’t underestimate its importance and ignore it. Hence, as an initiative to make lectures seamless and more interactive, we list 5 creative ways that educators can use to teach the nitrogen cycle in their next sessions.

1. Use Interactive Models and Simulations

Interactive physical and virtual models are effective tools for teaching the nitrogen cycle as they provide a visual reference that students can refer back to throughout their learning. Barbara Lachenbruch reports in her study that the use of such instructor-made models can facilitate and motivate other instructors to develop their appropriate models and student-engaging activities for teaching the essence of any topic.

Built on the same idea, Labster provides an interactive virtual model where students can assume the role of a food producer and manage the various parameters of food production while linking it to the nitrogen cycle. 

Preview of CYN Screenshot 3 simulation.
Discover Labster's Nitrogen Cycle virtual lab today!

3. Learning with Games and Activities

Games and activities can be an engaging and effective way to teach about the nitrogen cycle. Educators can include different types of lab activities and hands-on experiments that can help deliver the ideas and concepts of the nitrogen cycle.

  1. Nitrogen Fixation Experiment (students can grow legumes in different soil types and see for themselves how the process of nitrogen fixation happens)
  2. Nitrogen Cycle Water Quality Test (students use testing kits to analyze the quality of water in a local pond or stream for nitrogen content)  

These lab activities can help to reinforce key concepts related to the nitrogen cycle. To further simplify the organization of these activities, Labster has designed an activity room where all of these hands-on experiments can be readily tried by your students.

3. Infusing Technology into Study Plans

With technology at our fingertips, educators can create a dynamic and immersive learning experience that will captivate students and inspire a love for science and the natural world.  Interactive multimedia options can be integrated into lesson plans to bring the nitrogen cycle to life for students. 

Labster’s Nitrogen Cycle Simulation allows students to differentiate between different stages of the cycle while also exploring the impact of various human activities on the cycle. 

As students can work at their own pace and explore the simulation in ways that are meaningful to them, it becomes a favorable choice for most learners.

4. Inspiring Learners by Connecting to Career Prospects

Linking a scientific concept to its importance in the job market makes it lucrative for students to master. You can engage your students with a unique perspective on the nitrogen cycle by introducing them to its prospects in agronomy, soil science, biogeochemistry, and microbiology. 

Inviting experts from different domains to share and discuss how different aspects of the nitrogen cycle are important for their work can be another big motivator. Taking your students on field trips to local farms, research institutions, or water treatment facilities to observe how nitrogen management impacts these industries can also be a great way to initiate them into learning this topic.  

Alternatively, you can take your students on a virtual field trip where they can witness for themselves the impact of the overexploitation of synthetic fertilizers, their link to the nitrogen cycle, and the menace of subsequent aquatic pollution.

5. Connecting the Topic to Real-World Applications

Highlighting the importance of the nitrogen cycle in sustaining life by connecting it to real-world issues like food production, water quality, and climate change can be a great way to gather students’ interests. Some of the ideas to do so are:

  • Discuss the role of human activities in disrupting the nitrogen cycle and the potential consequences for ecosystems and the planet. 
  • Encourage students to brainstorm solutions to mitigate these problems and participate in local environmental initiatives that promote a balanced nitrogen cycle.

Final thoughts

Making the nitrogen cycle an interesting topic for students might be a task but with current technological advancements and crisp Labster’s Nitrogen Cycle Simulation, educators can inspire the next generation of scientists and environmentalists to work towards creating a sustainable future for our planet.

Living in these times where Earth’s health is constantly degrading, the next generation should be sensitized more towards critical geochemical processes like the nitrogen cycle.  

Try our free 30-day All Access Educator's Pass today and play the Nitrogen Cycle simulation alongside 300+ other virtual labs!


  1. Lachenbruch, B. (2011). Physical models as an aid for teaching wood anatomy. IAWA journal, 32(3), 301-312.
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