I’m a Nitrogen Molecule – Get Me Out of here! Adam House.
By our family reviewers – the McNaughtons
What do travelling, food and cow poo have in common? This was the theme for our research at the Edinburgh International Science Festival on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
We were a bit worried about the mention of poo in the programme as we’re still traumatised by one of the shows we saw at this venue during the Fringe Festival last year. But at least this time, poo was only being mentioned, rather than dancing in front of us!
The workshop was billed as being suitable for 8+ and we do agree that this was the right age range as it was important to understand a bit about science and be able to read well for the activities. However the upper age range was probably about 11 as our 12-year old (almost 13) found the activities were geared to the younger participants.
The first activity was a game of tig to demonstrate how greenhouse gases act. Then everyone was split into different groups and moved round a series of 4 different activities, each aimed at demonstrating a different use or issue relating to nitrogen.
First of all, our junior reviewers got to work fishing from a gloopy green pool to show the effects of too much nitrogen in water. Algae love nitrogen, so multiply quickly in polluted water – using up all oxygen & killing fish and other plants.
The next demo was about the use of nitrogen as a fertiliser. As it is not all used up when plants grow, some gets left in soil and it becomes pollution. We got to burst some balloons to show how nitrogen escapes into air. We were then given some balloons and decorated tags with our names. As the activity didn’t take very long, we were given a word search. Our younger reviewer wandered off and didn’t do the wordsearch, but played with his balloon. Our older reviewer worked diligently, but only found 3 words before it was time to move on.
Our third activity was about biodiversity – showing how some areas are more sensitive to changes in Nitrogen levels than others. eg heathlands where heather doesn’t like nitrogen as much as grass. We participated by playing a card game.
The final activity was a skittles game to demonstrate Climate Change. After an explanation of the purpose of anti-oxidants our younger reviewer enjoyed knocking down the anti-oxidants (skittles) with the balls (nitrogen oxides) to bombard the lungs (represented by a bucket).
We then gathered to review what we’d learned and get prizes. There was chocolate for everyone, and Percy Pigs for those with nut allergies.
This was an enjoyable activity for 8 – 11 year olds and the helpers from Edinburgh University were fun.