Map courtesy of NOAA
Is it really tomorrow in Tokyo? Understanding time zones is an important, but challenging concept for many students.
The need for standard time zones emerged with the spread of high speed transportation systems – first trains and later airplanes. In 1884, delegates from twenty seven countries met in Washington, DC at the Meridian Conference and agreed on a system of time zones that is essentially the one we still use today.
Time zones are based on the fact that Earth moves through 15 degrees of longitude each hour. Therefore, there are 24 standard time zones (24 hours x 15º=360º). Time zones are counted from the Prime Meridian (0º longitude), which runs through Greenwich, England. Each time zone is based on a central meridian, counted at 15º intervals from the Prime Meridian, and extends 7½º to either side of the central meridian. For example, New York City lies in the zone of the 75ºW central meridian, and the time zone includes all locations between 67½ºW and 82½ºW.
Constructing a Time Zone Model
Distribute copies of the Activity #10 Handout to each student and instruct, as follows:
a) Turn the paper sideways so that the “holes” are at the top.
b) Use a colored pencil to trace over the line at the center of the paper and label this line “Prime Meridian.
c) Label the lines to the right (East) at 15º intervals up to 180º. Repeat to the left (West). Point out that each line represents one hour. Students should count hours plus to the east and minus to the west on their charts.
d) Assume that it is currently 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday in Boston.
e) Use the chart (i.e., count the lines) to determine the time in each location labeled on the chart. Remind students that the new day begins when they pass midnight.
f) What is the time in Tokyo? (4:00 a.m., Wednesday) So it really is tomorrow in Tokyo!
Extending the Activity
a) Use an atlas to determine the longitude of your town and have students place a dot in the correct time zone on the chart. Note the current time and repeat the activity using your location and time as a reference point.
b) Explain that some countries adjust time zones for political reasons. Have students research actual time zones that vary from the model they have made (e.g., Australia, China, India).
c) Have students research “daylight saving time.”
Bring the exciting competition of the National Geographic Bee to your school! Take advantage of the early-bird registration; the $100 fee includes contest materials and prizes. Schools with financial need can apply for discounts here.
Key National Geographic Bee Dates
August 18, 2015 - December 18, 2015
Early bird registration ($100)
Check or credit card payment accepted
December 19, 2015 - January 18, 2016
Credit card payment accepted
February 5, 2016
Deadline for School Bee Champs to take online qualifying test by 11:59 pm EST.
March 4, 2016
State Bees qualifiers are announced.
April 1, 2016
State Bees are held in every state and Washington, D.C.
May 22-25, 2016
National Championship held in Washington, D.C.
Test Your Geography IQ
Can you answer these video questions from the 2015 National Geographic Bee Championship? Questions from Pharrell Williams, Wynton Marsalis, and National Geographic Explorer Fredrik Hiebert will test your knowledge of the world.
How to Help
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Teachers can use these activities in the classroom to prepare students for the bee!
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