Christmas lecture invites South Yorkshire pupils to explore the cycle of nutrients

The schoolchildren during the lecture

More than 1,000 South Yorkshire schoolchildren were given the unique opportunity to learn the truth behind food and the cycle of nutrients as part of the annual Christmastime lecture hosted by the University of Sheffield.

'Everyone’s a Fertiliser Factory', which was held in the Octagon auditorium, gave the children an insight into the cycle of nutrients from food through animals (including humans), into soil, up through plants and back into food.

The budding scientists of the future saw a mixture of stunning images and awe-inspiring science demonstrations, including a visit from two alpacas, a tank of creepy crawlies and a carnivorous plant.

They also were able to see the lightning bolts of nitrogen fixation and the spitting white flames of burning potassium - just a couple of the science experiments that were demonstrated on stage.

Professor Duncan Cameron from the University’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, who presented this year’s lecture, said: “Plants and soil are often not seen as exciting topics in science so this was a fantastic opportunity to showcase some of the amazing things about them.

"Hearing over a thousand school kids cheering when I took the stage was one of the most exhilarating experiences I've ever had!"

One of our aims is to sow seeds of possibility that lead some of the children that attend the lecture to come to University to study science when they're older.

Dr Fiona Hunter, Department of animal and plant sciences

After the lecture, which was the eighth annual lecture hosted by the University of Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, the schoolchildren were able to explore a number of science experiments run by University students.

Charlotte, 10, from Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School, said: “I thought the lecture was very interesting and loved watching all the different experiments.”

Sydney, 10, and Lulyana, 10, also from Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School, said: “We loved the lecture, it was so fascinating to watch all the experiments.

“Our favourite part was the experiment that made the lightening bolts - that was really fun to watch.”

'Everyone’s a Fertiliser Factory' is the latest in a series of unique annual events organised by Dr Fiona Hunter from Animal and Plant Sciences.

The event forms part of the University’s commitment to bring its world-class research to life to inspire the next generation of scholars by introducing them to scientific research and demonstrating how much fun learning can be.

Dr Hunter said: “One of our aims is to sow seeds of possibility that lead some of the children that attend the lecture to come to University to study science when they're older.”

The Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield is one of the biggest communities of whole-organism biologists in the UK. Its research covers animals, plants, humans, microbes, evolution and ecosystems, in habitats ranging from the polar regions to the tropics.

The department’s work aims to shed new light on the fundamental processes that drive biological systems and help solve pressing environmental problems. Researchers work closely with organisations ranging from the UK Environmental Agency and the Royal Horticultural Society, to Heineken and Shell.

Department of Animal and Plant Sciences

A schoolgirl with a llama

Professor Duncan Cameron

An experiment on stage

A schoolgirl taking part in a science experiment

Additional Information

The University of Sheffield
With almost 27,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2017 and was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education in 2014. In the last decade it has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.


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Maddy Wainwright
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The University of Sheffield
0114 222 1047