NATURE NOTE - Number 16 March 12, 2021
Introduction: Welcome to NATURE NOTES. Remember the purpose of this feature: to provide you, the scout leader, with information you can share with your scouts. Please remember to share!
Our current topic: Daylight
We all can agree that the sun is the source of all energy. If you turn on a light switch, fill up your car, or eat a banana, the energy involved originally came from the sun. The sun is essential to life. Also quite important, but often overlooked, is the amount of sun reaching a particular part of the earth at a particular time. Scouts know that it gets darker earlier each day in the winter, and it stays light longer in the summer. But let’s explore this a little more. In our part of the planet, we gain or lose about 2 minutes of daylight each day. It will vary, but that’s a good average. On December 21st, the shortest day, there’s only about 9 ½ hours of sunlight. (The sun rises at 7:30 am and sets at 5:06 pm in Roanoke) But by June 21st, the longest day of the year, we will have added almost 6 hours more sunlight to each day. That’s a lot of extra sunlight for plants to use in their growth. That’s a lot of photosynthesis. That growth also means a lot more food for many animals. Ever wonder why many animals are born in the spring? It might have something to do with their need to eat.
In the spring, it may be cloudy or rainy, but the sun shows up earlier and stays longer each day. In addition to influencing the growth of plants, that sunlight has other major impacts on plants and animals. It’s not the temperature, which can vary year to year, but that non-variable sunlight that causes birds to migrate, insects to hatch, mammals to mate, bears to wake-up from hibernation, buds to open, and fish to spawn. There are a lot of mysteries involved, but glands and hormones are stimulated by the amount and timing of light that reaches living creatures. The weather can alter some of these activities somewhat, but not for long.
This is a good topic to talk to scouts about. I’m willing to bet no one has ever brought to their attention the impact of the amount of daylight on nature. Let them apply a little math skills and figure out how much time is gained between two dates in the spring assuming the sun rises 1 minute earlier each day and sets 1 minute later. In the fall it goes the other way. If you get all confused because something is not working out quite right, remember day light savings time. Sometimes we mess up Mother Nature. Most cell phones and newspapers (weather page) will show the exact time of sunrise and sunset each day for a specific area. Track it for a month or so. And remember, bears don’t wear a watch or have a calendar on the cave wall. They rely on the sunshine.