The Nitrogen Cycle Game

February 29, 2012 | 3:02 pm

The Nitrogen Cycle Game

Although 78 percent of the air we breathe is nitrogen (N) and although there is much nitrogen tied up in the organic fraction of the soil, plants are unable to use this nitrogen for their growth.  A process known as nitrogen fixation – biological and synthetic industrial fixation – must occur for nitrogen in the air to be converted to forms plants can use.  Use the following game after a discussion on nitrogen fixation, ammonium, volatilization, nitrate and denitrification.


Read the rules as a class and distribute the envelopes containing the game.  Give the students a designated amount of time to play.  If students in their individual group have a winner prior to the end of the designated time, let them play the game again.  At the end of the allotted time for the game, have students return the game components to the envelope and review Nitrogen Cycle terms, which are found on the Student Fact page.  Finally, distribute Nitrogen Cycle Assessment questions to assess learning.

Game Directions

Number of players per group: 2 to 6


  1. Players will decide who will play first, second, third…sixth.
  2. Players will place their markers in the space labeled Atmospheric Fixation, Biological Fixation or Industrial Fixation.  Up to two markers may be placed on each of the labeled spaces for entry into the given pathways.
  3. Players will take turns spinning the spinner and moving their markers according to the directions designated by where the pointer of the spinner stops. Players must move their markers in the direction indicated by the arrows on the game board.
  4. If a player lands on a labeled Kickstart space, he or she will advance his or her marker 10 spaces.  Kickstart spaces help equalize distances of pathways comprised of a greater number of spaces.

Winning the Game

The first player who returns his marker to Atmospheric Nitrogen will explain his or her point of entry (meaning of atmospheric fixation, industrial fixation, or biological fixation) and will describe the pathway followed.  Once the player has successfully completed the explanation, that student is declared the winner.

An alternate version of the game can be extended over several days or played when students have ample time for playing: The player who progresses through the cycle the greatest number of times following different pathways is the winner.  Each player must explain points of entry (meaning of atmospheric fixation, industrial fixation, or biological fixation) and describe pathway each time he or she completes the cycle.  Completed cycles are counted.  To prevent confusion, one student needs to be responsible for recording on paper the name of each student and a brief description of each student’s completed cycles.  If playing the game will continue on another day, students should attach their markers to the game board with removable-magic™ tape.


Students should be able to answer the following questions:

  1.  What is nitrogen fixation?
  2. Why is nitrogen fixation necessary?
  3. What are the two major ways that nitrogen fixation occurs?
  4. What are legumes and what do they have to do with nitrogen fixation?
  5. Why is industrial fixation of nitrogen necessary?
  6. Draw the nitrogen cycle.  Include atmospheric, biological, and industrial fixation.

Do you know any great soil science games?  We would love to hear about them!  Tell us all about it at

For this learning activity and more, request It’s All about the Food or fill out our order form. This middle school teacher’s resource manual focuses on problem solving and critical thinking in relation to food.  It’s All about the Food is divided into three sections to teach students about food production, plant nutrients and fertilizer.

Download the Nitrogen Cycle

Download the Nitrogen Cycle Board

Download the Nitrogen Cycle Wheel and Player Pieces

Download the Student Fact Page