The first concept children must grasp is that the Earth spins on its axis, which runs from the North to South Poles. A good way to demonstrate this is by using a globe of the world, which can also show the tilt of the axis and aid in explaining seasons. An easy way to model night and day is demonstrated in this PALMS video.
By shining a torch on one side of a ball you can demonstrate the difference between night and day.
Once you have demonstrated the concept of night and day, you can introduce the idea of time zones. You may have friends or family that live in other countries on the opposite side of the world. Using the model to assist you can ask,” if it is daytime at home, is it day or night on the other side of the world?” You can discuss if it would be a good time to call someone that lived there or not.
Where the light rays reach the Earth those countries experience daytime, the side of the Earth facing away from the Sun experiences nighttime (https://www.flickr.com/photos/121935927@N06/13581877483)
Depending on the current length of a day where you are, it could also be a nice idea to watch the sunrise in the morning and track its movement through the day. The Sun rises in the east and sinks below the horizon in the west. If you have a compass, you can introduce the cardinal directions. Using the globe model, you can slowly spin it and point out where the Sun is setting and where it is rising. If you have a group of children, you can also have a go at this fun PALMS activity: Midday Around the World
The world is divided into different time zones (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:World_Time_Zones_Map.png, accessed 19/05/2020)
As you can see from the World Time Zone Map, the time zones are not completely straight. This takes into consideration borders of countries. Some large countries, like Greenland, span over multiple time zones. However, to not confuse the inhabitants of Greenland, it was decided to have just one time (take note Australia!). Some other countries, such as Samoa, have changed time zones to be in line with neighbouring countries as this makes doing business easier. Many of the Pacific Islands are in the +13-hour time zone, meaning they are the first to welcome in the New Year (and the start of every new day). Those locations in the -12-hour time zone, including some islands of America, are the last to celebrate New Year.
- An interesting article explaining why time zones were
created: Why Do We Have Time Zones?
(Time and Date.com)
You can become a time traveller by flying into a different time zone. Imagine if you lived on the east coast of Russia and had such a fun celebration for the New Year you wanted to do it all again. Well, you could hop on a plane across the Bering Strait to Alaska and have enough time for a nap before partying all over again!
- There are lots of different Aboriginal stories explaining how we got the Sun and Moon, and night and day. We particularly like this one: How the Sun was made.
- Here are some other really interesting stories about night and day: 10 Mythological Origins of Day and Night
- This news article explains more about Samoa’s change of time zone: Samoa jumps forward in time
- More great activities can be found on the PALMS website