Earth: The Apple of our Eye

Charlotte Freeman
1991 Woodrow Wilson Biology Institute


Hands-on activity to emphasize the need for protecting our land resources. For any student level.

Materials needed:

  • Apples, plastic picnic knives

Consider the earth an apple. Carry out the following sequence:

  • Slice an apple into quarters. Set aside three of the quarters. What do these represent? They represent the oceans of the world.

  • What fraction do you have left? (1/4) Slice this land into half. Set aside one of the pieces.

    The portion set aside represents the land area that is inhospitable to people: the polar areas, deserts, swamps, very high or rocky mountains.

  • What fraction do you have left? (1/8)

    This piece is the land area where people live, but do not necessarily grow the food needed for life.

  • Slice the 1/8 piece into four sections. Set aside three of these. What fraction do you have left? (1/32)

    The 3/32 set aside represent the areas too rocky, too wet, too cold, too steep, or with too poor soil to actually produce food. They also contain the cities, suburban sprawl, highways, shopping centers, schools, parks, factories, parking lots, and other places where people live but do not necessarily grow food.

  • Carefully peel the 1/32 slice of the earth.

    This tiny bit of peeling represents the surface, the very thin skin of the earth's crust upon which humankind depends. It is less than five feet deep and is a quite fixed amount of food-producing land.

Protecting our land resources is very important. Advanced agricultural technology has enabled the world to feed many of its people. But, with a fixed land resource base and an ever-increasing number of people to feed from that fixed base, each person's portion becomes smaller and smaller. It is essential to protect the environmental quality of our air, water, and land.


I suggest plastic picnic knives to reduce risk of cuts. If you allow students to eat apples, be sure to wash them and furnish paper plates or towels. They should not put apples on surfaces such as lab tables which may have chemical contaminants.

Adapted and reprinted with permission from the kit:

For Earth's Sake: Lessons in Population and the Environment
Published by Zero Population Growth, Inc.
1400 Sixteenth Street, NW Suite 32
Washington, DC 20036

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