Melting snow makes way for visible grass and soil! Soil is one of our most useful natural resources. From the soil we get food, clothes and materials for the houses we live in. Plants rely on the soil to provide moisture and nutrients for growth. The many fruits and vegetables that we eat on a daily basis require fertile soil to grow. Our animal food also comes from the soil. Cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens, turkeys and many other animals eat grass and grain to gain muscle and remain healthy. Without these plants, which depend on soil for survival, we would not have meat to eat. The animals also supply us with other products that we need for survival or make our lives much easier.
A very small fraction of the planet contains soil available for growing food. This activity helps children and adults visualize the components of earth and the environmental elements that limit land use.
** An adult must be responsible for using these materials!!
- Cutting board
- One large apple
- Cut (An adult must do all of the cutting!) the apple in half lengthwise and then in half again so you have four quarters. Set three of these slices to the side. These slices represent the 75% of our planet that is covered with water – oceans, seas, lakes and rivers. Food cannot grow in these water covered areas.
- Cut the remaining ¼ piece of apple in half so you have 2, 1/8 sections. 1/8 of the earth or 12.5% is not suitable for humans to live. It represents Antarctica, deserts, swamps, and very high mountainous areas. The remaining 1/8 or 12.5% represents land that is suitable for human life.
- Slice the remaining 1/8 into four equal slices. This should give you four pieces that represent 1/32 or 3% of the earth.
- One, 1/32 slice represents areas of earth where the soil is too rocky or poor quality to grow any food.
- The second 1/32 slice represents areas of earth where the soil is too wet or flooded to grow food.
- The third 1/32 slice represents areas that have been developed by humans into cities, roads, parking lots, etc. So this land can no longer be used to produce food.
- You should be left with 1/32 (3%) of the original apple. Carefully cut the peel off of this sliver. This thin peel represents all of the soil available to feed the world population of 7 billion people.
- Read through the soil facts and discuss which fact(s) are most surprising. Also, which facts have the largest impact on your life and family?
- Most life on earth depends on soil as a direct or indirect source of food.
- Plants get nutrients from soil and animals get nutrients from plants or from animals that eat plants.
- Soils form very slowly – about one inch in 100 years.
- Soil erosion is caused by the wind or water moving soil.
- Soil needs to be conserved to continue to support life.
- From 2002-2007 4,080,300 acres of agricultural land were converted to areas for homes, shopping centers, cities, etc.
- What can you do to protect and conserve soil?
- What are farmers doing to protect and conserve soil?
- View an animated version of this demonstration at
- Research actions you can do to help protect our soil.
- Research and demonstrate a soil conservation method used by agriculturalists.
- Review soil centered video clips and companion resources at: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/kids/videostories/soils.aspx
For a complete Earth as an Apple lesson plan and background information click here.
For further information about the Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom program visit www.mda.state.mn.us/maitc or contact Al Withers, Program Director at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sue Knott, Education Specialist at email@example.com.