How Apples Can Teach the Devastating Effects of Bullying to Kids

June 26th 2016

Aron Macarow

A British teacher has answered a complex question — How do you show kids how harmful bullying actually is? — with an unexpectedly simple tool: apples.

Rosie Dutton is a children's relaxation and mindfulness instructor in Birmingham, England. Last week, she posted a recent lesson plan on Facebook that she had used to teach kids about bullying. It used two apples to demonstrate how someone that is bullied can be impacted in unseen ways. The post has been shared over 230,000 times since Tuesday, and there's a reason.

What do apples have to do with bullying?

Dutton started out with two identical looking apples, one of which she had dropped on the floor repeatedly before the lesson (unbeknownst to the class), while the other was untouched. She then had the kids describe both apples, which they concluded looked the same.

At that point, Dutton revealed on Facebook that she started to tell the classroom how much she really disliked one of the apples, encouraging the children to call it names:

"I picked up the apple I'd dropped on the floor and started to tell the children how I disliked this apple, that I thought it was disgusting, it was a horrible colour and the stem was just too short. I told them that because I didn't like it, I didn't want them to like it either, so they should call it names too.

Some children looked at me like I was insane, but we passed the apple around the circle calling it names, 'you're a smelly apple', 'I don't even know why you exist', 'you've probably got worms inside you' etc."

After this, she passed the other apple around the room, instead suggesting that the kids say kind words to this apple. According to her post, they gave it compliments like "[y]ou're a lovely apple," "[y]our skin is beautiful," and "[w]hat a beautiful colour you are."

Once both apples had made a circuit of the classroom and received either praise or criticism, Dutton held up the apples again and she talked with the class about how they still looked the same on the outside.

But inside was another matter. As Dutton described it, she cut the apples open and the apple that "we'd said unkind words to was bruised and all mushy inside." Meanwhile, the apple that had been praised was still "clear, fresh and juicy inside" like an apple should be.

Dutton's unique exercise showed the invisible bruises of bullying.

In her post, she writes:

"[W]hat we saw inside that apple, the bruises, the mush and the broken bits is what is happening inside every one of us when someone mistreats us with their words or actions. When people are bullied, especially children, they feel horrible inside and sometimes don't show or tell others how they are feeling. If we hadn't have cut that apple open, we would never have known how much pain we had caused it."

We know that bullying can increase the risk of suicide in young people, and self-inflicted injury is already the third leading cause of death among school age kids the United States. Since nearly 30 percent of U.S. young people have admitted to bullying others, teaching kids why being a bully themselves is so harmful may be just as important as teaching bullied children how to respond to their tormentors.

It seems that the Internet gets this, too. The response to Dutton's post was so overwhelmingly positive that she elaborated twice on her original post: once to give more information about her lesson plan to those interested in replicating it, and a second time to thank everyone for their supportive responses.

RELATED: I Was Bullied as a Kid. Here's Why it Matters.