Josh has taught Earth Science and Physical Science at the High School level and holds a Master of Education degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.
!!!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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How Time Zones Change
One important skill that everyone should have is being able to figure out if somewhere on Earth is in a later time zone or an earlier time zone than them. Here is the general rule:
If your friend lives somewhere that is west of you, they are in an earlier time zone. If they live somewhere east of you, they live in a later time zone.
west = earlier
east = later
See this map of the United States?
If you look closely, you can see that when it is 3 P.M. in California on the west coast, it is 6 P.M. in Florida on the east coast. There are two other time zones in between the two coasts, too - they show 4 P.M. in Colorado and 5 P.M. in Missouri! Time zones like these go all around the world. In fact, when it is 3 P.M. in California, it is 6 A.M. in Beijing, China (the next day)!
A time zone is an area on Earth that has a specific time that all citizens can set their clocks to. Different places on Earth have different time zones. They exist because the earth is round and they allow everyone to have sunrise in the early morning and sunset at night. You can figure out if another time zone is earlier or later than yours by seeing if it is west or east of you on a map.
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Understanding Time Zones Lesson for Kids
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