Understanding Time Zones Lesson for Kids

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Josh Corbat

Josh has taught Earth Science and Physical Science at the High School level and holds a Master of Education degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Have you tried to call or send a message to someone across the country or around the world? Calling a place far away from you can be difficult because the time of day might be different. In this lesson, we will explore time zones and why we have them.

‚Äč!!!What Is a Time Zone?

David is texting with his friend Risa, who just moved across the country. After a little while, Risa texts David that it's time for her to go to bed. David looks outside to see the sun shining and is confused why Risa would go to bed when it's so early! 'What time is it?' David texts back. 'It's 9:00PM!' Risa responds. What's going on here? Did David go back in time somehow?

Although it would be great if this lesson was about time travel, it's not. We haven't quite figured out time travel yet. What's happening to David and Risa is actually just a natural event that happens every day to our planet. Since Risa moved across the country, she's now in a different time zone.

A time zone is an area on Earth that has a specific time that all citizens can set their clocks to. Different time zones exist as you move from east to west (or west to east) on the surface of the earth. The farther you travel, the more time zones you'll pass through.

Time zones are not something that naturally occurs. Humans came up with time zones and decided which parts of the earth are in which time zones. We'll talk more about that later, though!

Why Do We Have Time Zones?

Time zones make it so that everyone has the same pattern of sunrise in the early morning and sunset at night. We need time zones because the earth is curved, like a ball. As the sun shines on the earth, not all places get the same amount of sunlight. The sun shines on one side of the earth and makes it light out (daytime), while the other side is dark (nighttime). If time zones didn't exist, many people around the world would have very weird patterns of sunlight during the day.

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  • 0:00 What is a Time Zone?
  • 1:11 Why Do We Have Time Zones?
  • 1:40 How Time Zones Change
  • 2:34 Lesson Summary
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