My 6 year old and I have a father-daughter dance this weekend, and she was concerned this morning that daylight savings time might cause us some problems. (She’s been learning about DST at school lately.) We looked up daylight savings time on WikiPedia, and learned a great deal about the history of this time change as well as the new dates for it in the United States starting this year. According to the article:

Start and end dates and times vary with location and year. Starting in 2007, most of the United States and Canada observe DST from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November, with transitions typically at 02:00 local time. The 2007 U.S. change was part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005; previously, from 1987 through 2006, the start and end dates were the first Sunday in April and the last Sunday in October, and Congress retains the right to go back to the previous dates once an energy consumption study is done. Since 1996 the European Union has observed DST from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October, with transitions at 01:00 UTC.

Beginning and ending dates are switched in the southern hemisphere. For example, mainland Chile observes DST from the second Saturday in October to the second Saturday in March, with transitions at 24:00 local time. The time difference between the United Kingdom and mainland Chile may therefore be three, four, or five hours, depending on the time of the year.

The history of daylight savings time is particularly interesting. This map shows areas that currently observe daylight savings time, once did or never have:

daylight savings time map from WikiPedia

I found the history of DST more interesting because I am currently reading Carl Honore’s book “In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed.” According to the DST Wikipedia article:

Critics also suggest that DST is, at its heart, government paternalism. They “detect the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy and wise in spite of themselves.”

Vacations for me are increasingly defined by a complete (or as complete as possible) disconnection from digital technology and the tyranny of the clock. Camping can be a relaxing and rejuvenating experience for many reasons, but prominent among those is the opportunity to rise and rest on a more natural schedule independent of what the arbitrary hands of a watch may indicate.

If you live in a DST-observing country in the world, this is the month to spring forward. The weekend you “spring” may be different, however, depending on where you live! Discussing DST with students and using a map like the one above is a good way to promote global awareness. Clock habits are arbitrary, and they change depending on where you live in the world!

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