The Earth is an Orange
Author: Sylvia Kniest

Time: 1 class period
Copy 2-dimensional world maps for students
Materials: A world map for each student
Oranges (one for each student)
Black felt-tip pens


Maps provide an essential tool to learn about the world. There are many types of maps: two-dimensional, planar, conic, and cylindrical. The type of map that is utilized depends on the objective for the reader. Students will compare two types of world maps: two-dimensional and cylindrical.

Students will be able to:
1. Compare the data that may be acquired from two different types of maps.
2. Identify the continents.
3. Identify the oceans.

National Geography Education Standard
The World in Spatial Terms:
Standard 1: How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information.

Teacher Background
A good source for information on types of maps and projections is: www.nationalgeographic.com/maps/

  • click on site index
  • click on projections: making maps to read about different types of maps and their purposes.

Related and Resource Websites



1. Hand out a 2-dimensional world map to each of the students. To obtain a world map:

2. Ask students the following questions:

  • Who can name the 7 continents?
  • Who can identify the oceans?
  • What continent appears to be at the top of the map?
  • What continent appears to be at the bottom of the map?
  • Where is the North Pole? South Pole?
  • Which continent(s) appear(s) to be in the center of the map?
  • Why do you think the map is drawn this way? Allow students to brainstorm on possible answers. Tell them we will look at the answer to this question later.

* A key for teachers can be obtained by clicking on detailed and country borders (on)

3. Give each student an orange and a black ink felt-tip pen.

  • Instruct students to draw the world on their orange using the 2-dimensional map as a guide.

4. After student have completed this activity discuss the following questions:

  • Compare the map you have drawn with the 2-dimensional map; what are some differences between the two maps?
  • Which continent is at the top of the orange? The bottom? The center?
  • Are the South Pole and North Pole on the same locations on your orange as on the 2-dimensional map? What determines the location of the two poles?
  • If you were to peel your orange so that you could lay the map flat on your desk, how might the shape of the continents change?
  • Instead of starting to peel the orange skin away somewhere in the Pacific try peeling it from another perspective.

Tell students that map makers create maps for different purposes. For what purpose might a flat 2-dimensional map serve as opposed to a globe?

Embedded Assessment
1. Discussion questions allow for assessment of students’ understanding of the need for different types of map and how 2-dimensional and cylindrical maps can provide different information.


PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

1996-2007, The University of Arizona
Last update: November 10, 2009
  Page Content: Rachel Hughes
Web Master: Travis Biazo