When I was 11, my Dad was ecstatic that the Army was sending him to balmy Fairbanks, Alaska. My family drove up the Alcan highway from Ft. Bliss in El Paso, Texas to Ft. Wainwright in the merry month of December. It took some time for my brothers and sisters and me to adjust to getting up in the dark, walking to school in the dark and coming home in the dark.
Changes in sunlight can affect the body in mysterious ways. We actually came to enjoy the weirdness of Winter Dark and Summer Sun.
Here in the Lower 48, we’ve enjoyed that extra hour of evening daylight. But just like those Alaska kids, it’s time to get ready to a new routine, and adjust we must. As of this Sunday, November 6, Daylight Saving Time is over and we “fall back” to Standard Time until next March.
DST begins annually on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November. At this time of year, it means we’ll gain an hour of sleep, plus enjoy more light in the early morning. But it comes at a cost: We will daylight in the evening.
The end of Daylight Saving Time (yes, it’s actually “Saving”) may not cause as much trouble as the start of it; we’re not losing an hour of rest. But our bodies still have to adjust.There’s an added safety hazard because some students won’t be getting home until dusk, and that can be a particularly risky time of day for drivers.
“This change can cause disturbed sleep patterns, and when combined with the earlier dusk and darkness during the evening community, become a formula for drowsy driving—a condition many drivers may be unaware of during the time change,” says the Automobile Club of Southern California.
Early-morning glare can be problematic as bright sun glances off car hoods and mirrors, making it hard to see pedestrians and oncoming traffic, according to the National Highway Safety Administration. Sunlight can also make it difficult to see traffic lights.
Our school bus drivers are well-trained to manage the time shift, but we’ll need to help our students adjust and be more cautious.
As motorists, we should be on high-alert ourselves to prevent accidents. Because we’re educators, we appreciate the time change’s value for teaching and learning. NEA’s website provides plenty of ideas on theWinter-Themed Classroom Resources page
Benjamin Franklin is credited (or blamed, depending on your perspective) with coming up with the idea for Daylight Saving Time. But Germany was the first to officially adopt it in 1915, as a fuel-saving measure during World War I. The United States followed three years later. We repealed DST after a couple of years but then reinstated it during World War II.
A lively debate is taking place about whether we need Daylight Saving Time at all, and your students might be eager to pick a side. If you are one of the people who doesn’t particularly care for having your body clock messed with twice a year, you’re in luck: There’s an online petition to end DST for good.