Saturday, October 29, 2016

Schools : It's Fall Back Time ! Oh no !

credits: Sandor Ujvari/EPA

Here comes the dark! After 'here comes the sun' there it is fall back timeToday October 29, time changes in Europa clocks. And other countries clocks in the world. No so many countries.

Fall back time - put clocks back - after the  autumn equinox, the length of day and night are equal, but day light starts decreasing. The autumn equinox arrived on September 22, officially marking the beginning of fall in the Northern Hemisphere and the start of spring in the Southern Hemisphere.

The autumn equinox fell in Libra - the sign of balance. Astrologically this represents the balancing of ones' ego and temper as one matures of age.

Solstices are opposite on either side of the equator, so the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere is the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere and vice versa.

The winter solstice occurs when the sun appears to stand still at the southernmost point of the equator (the Tropic of Capricorn) and then slowly begins to trek north again. 

The Winter solstice occurs on December 21 and marks the shortest day of the year. The Winter Solstice is about celebrating the rebirth of life in all forms. From here on out, the days will get longer and the Sun will shine brighter.

The term 'solstice' comes from the Latin word solstitium, meaning 'the Sun stands still'. This is because on this day, the Sun reaches its southern-most position as seen from the Earth. The Sun seems to stand still at the Tropic of Capricorn and then reverses its direction. It's also common to call it the day the Sun turns around.

Winter will start on the day of the winter equinox, which occurs on the night of 21-23 December 2016. December 21 or 22 solstices happen more often than December 20 and 23 solstices. The last December 23 solstice was in 1903 and will not happen again until 2303. A December 20 solstice has occurred very rarely, with the next one in the year 2080.

The December solstice occurs when the sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.4 degrees. In other words, when the North Pole is tilted furthest – 23.4 degrees – away from the Sun.

credits: Tintin

The winter solstice marks the first day of Winter. However, the official date for the first day of winter varies depending on the country's climate, and whether they follow astronomical or meteorological seasons.

As with the June solstice, the December solstice’s varying dates are mainly due to the calendar system. The Gregorian calendar, which is used in most western countries, has 365 days in a common year and 366 days in a leap year.

Gregorian calendar
via Britannica

The introduction of the Gregorian calendar, depicted in relief on the tomb of Pope Gregory XIII in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City.

However, the tropical year, which is the length of time the sun takes to return to the same position in the seasons cycle (as seen from Earth), is different to the calendar year. 

The solstices can also be observed by noting the point of time when the sun rises or sets as far south as it does during the course of the year (winter in the Northern Hemisphere) or maximally north (summer in the Northern Hemisphere).

The December solstice has played an important role in cultures worldwide from ancient times until our day. Even Christmas celebrations are closely linked to the observance of the December solstice.

There are also customs linked to the June solstice along with traditions linked to the Spring (vernal) equinox and the Fall (autumnal) equinox.

Autumn festival/ Primrose Hill, London
credits: Getty Images

A number of Autumn equinox festivals has been celebrated as it will be at the winter equinox.

Modern-day Druids - who, like their ancient forebears put great store in solar milestones - marked autumnal equinox on Primrose Hill in London. 
Robed in white, members of the Druid Order gather on Primrose Hill to restate their allegiance to the universal principles on which their world view is based and accept life's harvest through symbolic actions and words. 

The ancient Maya - whose empire thrived between A.D. 250 and 900 in what are now Mexico and Central America - built observatories and, via astronomy and mathematics, learned to accurately predict equinoxes and other celestial phenomena. 


An interesting subject to discuss with our students: ancient traditions in different civilizations linked to seasons, autumn equinox and fall back time. Don't you think? 

I really do it! Students love to learn about different rituals and civilazations. Some are fascinated on cultural subjects.

Benjamin Franklin

Yet, the implementation of DLS (spring forward and fall back time) has been fraught with controversy since Benjamin Franklin conceived of the idea.  But the idea has 100 years at least if we don't think about ancient civilizations.

Less than 40% of the countries in the world use DST. Some countries use it to make better use of the natural daylight in the evenings. The difference in light is most noticeable in the areas close to the Poles, i.e. furthest away from the Earth's Equator.

US inventor and politician Benjamin Franklin first proposed the concept of DST in 1784, but modern Daylight Saving Time first saw the light of day in 1895. 

credits: Shipov
DST was first introduced in 1895 by George Vernon Hudson, a New Zealand entomologist. 

William Willett independently came up with the idea of DST in 1905. As an avid golfer, Willett disliked how his afternoon golf round was cut short by early days. 

During 1916, Germany and its allies in WW1 were the first countries to adopt daylight savings time to ensure consistent railroad times and limit coal usage.

Interestingly, not all countries participate in the fall back time. About 80 countries worldwide follow fall back time, while some major countries like China don't participate in fall back time.

"Most areas of North America and Europe observe daylight saving time (DST), while most areas of Africa and Asia do not. South America is mixed, with most countries in the warmer north of the continent near the Equator not observing DST, while ChileParaguay, Uruguay and southern parts of Brazil do. Oceania is also mixed, with New Zealand and parts of southern Australia observing DST, while most other areas do not". 
Most of the United States begins Daylight Saving Time starts Monday 6 November 2016, 2:00:00 clocks are turned backward 1 hour to, 1:00:00 local standard time instead.
In the European Union, fall back time begins at 1:00 a.m. Universal Time (Greenwich Mean Time). It starts the last Sunday in October. In the EU, all time zones change at the same moment.

Well, this year, fall back time comes near Halloween. So teachers can talk about Halloween, ancient traditions, modern traditions and science. Not bad as a subject to one or two lessons.

  • Some thoughts:

Teachers know that DST (spring forwards an fall back time) can be disruptive for us, and to students as wellStudents feel tired in the morning during the first week or two. We feel a bit stressed too. 

The rationale behind changing the times on the clock makes little (or more likely, no) sense to them. But let us explain the process using the video below:

Some years ago I presented another video by Mitch Butler and Josh Landis of "The Fast Draw" team providing an animated explanation for moving our clocks forward and backward in the spring and fall (not available now).

You can include one or two videos of this post into your curriculum to provide a good explanation of the rationale for DST. Students will understand better the reasons of it.


Some links to complete DST theme

Students might learn when DST happens in the different countries around the world - Geography curriculum 

But don't be fooled by the old rumor that on the autumn equinox the length of day is exactly equal to the length of night. (...)

Halloween, derived from Samhain, a festival of the ancient Celts and Druids, is a cross-quarter day – midway between the autumn equinox and winter solstice.

An interesting article that presents us 6 reasons against TSD in USA that you can argue in the classroom with your students if you live in the United States

Similar to the previous link but students might learn about DST in Portuguese, English and Spanish - Languages curricula

Students are always very curious about why 'things' happen! Here a good way to let them learn about DST fall back time, Autumn equinox, solstices, seasons and some traditions in different civilizations.

Well, some people don't like DST fall back. I do love DST Spring but I hate DST fall back time.

credits: Signe Baumane

It's DST fall back time. Don't forget 'to turn clocks backward' today 1.00AM (GMT).

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