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man fighting clock daylight saving time

Should we still follow daylight saving time? Photo: iStock

November 4, 2022

Understanding the History of Daylight Saving Time

Explore the history of daylight saving time with students and discuss where it started, why we still have it, and the effects it might have on our health.


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What Is Daylight Saving Time?

Daylight saving time has been around for over 100 years, but many of us often ask: Why? An Economist/YouGov poll from 2021 estimates that 63 percent of U.S. adults want the sun to set on daylight saving time, and that many would prefer to institute it permanently rather than using the alternative standard time. 

Check out the videos, podcast and extension activities below and learn about the origins of daylight saving time, its effects on our health, why we still use it, busting old myths, and why some countries only have one time zone.

Remote video URL

Discussion: So Why Do We Have Daylight Saving Time?

  • What is one of the common myths about people who initially supported daylight saving time, and why does this group no longer find it useful?
  • Who originally came up with the concept of daylight savings? Why?
  • Where was this concept first adopted, and when did the United States start using it?
  • What are some of the reasons people say daylight saving time isn’t useful now?
  • Which states don't observe daylight saving time?
  • Although the Sunshine Protection act passed the Senate in March 2022, it now seems doomed in the House as the end of the current session nears. Why do you think legislators decided not to make it law?

American Voices

Read Benjamin Franklin's original essay addressing his theory on how daylight saving time would benefit Parisians. 

Fast Facts: Frustrated Farmers and Happy Retailers

Did you know that the agricultural industry vehemently lobbied against daylight saving time when it was first implemented. Here are some reasons why farmers opposed it:

  • Farmers tend to argue that they would prefer to use the sun and seasons to determine the schedule of their work, including things like planning milking times, when to plant and when to harvest.
  • Many crops are wet in the morning when farm hands first arrive, and grain is best harvested after morning dew evaporates. So when laborers arrive and leave earlier in the summer months, their labor holds less value.
  • Dairy farmers noted that their cows are sensitive to the timing of milking, so milking them earlier disrupts their natural schedule.

So who actually benefits from daylight saving time?

Retailers and restaurants have been known to benefit more from DST because having more hours of light after the workday allows workers to shop and go out to eat. This behavior also leads to increased gasoline consumption, which disrupts the argument that DST saves energy.

Listen: Daylight Saving Time and Health Effects

Discussion Questions

  • Which version of time do the scientific and medical communities think is better for overall health?
  • What symptoms can appear in humans when their body clocks are more misaligned?
  • What are some of the serious health conditions that can occur?

What Does Your State Think About Daylight Saving Time?

At least 18 states have passed legislation to permanently switch to daylight saving time. Refer to the map below and see if your state has passed legislation. Read more about states passing legislation for daylight saving time from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

states with enacted legislation for daylight saving time

Map Credit: National Conference of State Legislatures

In Pursuit of Unity: China’s One Time Zone Policy

Many countries have one time zone, but did you know one of the world's largest has only one? Check out the video below from National Geographic, and discuss what you think about China’s one time zone policy with the rest of the classroom.

Remote video URL

Discussion Questions

  • According to the video, what are some of the reasons China instituted a one time zone policy after the Chinese Revolution of 1949?
  • Use this population density map and take a look at the concentrations of people in China and the United States. The majority of China’s population lives on the eastern coast of the country. What are some pros and cons to having a single time zone?
  • If it is noon in China’s capital city of Beijing, it would also be noon in one of its westernmost cities, Kashgar, which is almost 3,000 miles away. How does this compare to the U.S.?

Political Terms

Nation building: Nation building aims at the unification of the people within the nation so that it remains politically stable and viable in the long run.

Andy Kratochvil

Andy Kratochvil is an SML team member who loves hiking, scary books, Mexican food, and finding great content for the Share My Lesson community.He studied political science and French at California State University, Fullerton and received his Master’s in International Affairs from American University

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