Classroom Activities for the Time Change

By Scott Sterling

You can be excused for still not being quite used to the time change. Although you gained an hour of sleep, you’re probably not used to the sun coming up or going down so early. Most people don’t know why we invented Daylight Saving Time, so it seems arbitrary.

That doesn’t mean that the occasion doesn’t lend itself to learning. It’s a perfect time to get students more familiar with the concept of time, where it came from and how it’s evolved with technology and our understanding of astronomy.

There are things to cover with every level of student. Here are some ideas for going deeper in time.

Why Daylight Saving Time?

Daylight Saving Time is only the latest example of how humans have tried to manipulate time and try to make more of it. First, take students through the history and justifications for why we turn our clocks back and forward through this great WebExhibit. Then have them look for the places that don’t participate and what effects that may have.

Time zones and the world clock

Younger students can understand that we recently moved from one hour to another overnight, but they are not well acquainted with the idea that it is different times in different places. Bring up this world clock and ask them to name some other locations they know. Then talk about how and why it’s a different time (or even day) there. For extra points, try to connect with a class or person in a different time zone via video conferencing so they can show the students the difference.

The history of time

Time has been a concept forever, and measured since the sundial, but not precisely until the mechanical clock was invented. After that, humans became obsessed with time and making the most of it. The National Museum of American History has a great timeline of how humans “invented” time and how it’s evolved.

Other ways to tell time

Some students don’t know how to read an analog clock, so the concept of telling time using the sun is completely foreign to them. There’s obviously the simple sundials that use common household items like paper plates and straws. Then there is this list of geometrically complicated sundials, some with names that are very hard to pronounce and meant for advanced students..

An exploration of clocks

In many cases, clocks are works of art that deserve study. From the famous (Big Ben) to the impressive, clocks are our gateways to time itself. The Franklin Institute keeps some striking clocks in its collection. There are many others available throughout the Internet.

Time in pop culture

Naturally, time has often appeared as a character (or obstacle) in popular culture – usually through travel. Humans have wanted to manipulate time from the beginning. From Dali’s melting clocks to H.G. Wells’ works to Doctor Who and beyond, it’s worth looking at what we’ve thought of time through the years by way of our art.