Snapshots in Time


Lisa Schafer

Felicia Douglis

| Instructional Objective | Learners & Context | Object of Game | Game Materials |

| Time Required | Setup | Rules | Design Process | References |

Instructional Objective

Learners will be able to identify time zones on a global map and determine the difference in time between two locations. Learners will be able to solve problems which involve time zones. Learners will see the effect of time zones on travel and communication. Learners will distinguish between day and night in various locations at specific times. Advanced learners will be able to apply concepts related to the International Dateline and Daylight Savings Time to global travel and communication. 

This content complements the current California state standards for 5th grade. The standards require that students develop map and globe skills to identify and interpret location information. This game also complements the standards for using strategies and concepts in finding solutions and using models to explain mathematical reasoning.

Learners & Context of Use

The game is designed for learners, ages 10 and up. In today's global society, both children and adults require the ability to understand the concept of world time zones and their impact on travel and communication. A child may need to determine if he or she can call Grandma who lives in a different time zone. Children are often intrigued with the change in time when they travel and, perhaps, get to stay up an extra hour or two. 

Snapshots in Time is designed to be used in school or home settings. 

Alternative: An alternate set of cards could be developed for business use. The context would revolve around global business travel and communication and the level of difficulty could be higher.

Object of the Game

The object of the game is to be the first international photographer to successfully take 4 pictures at various locations around the world and return to the photographer's home location.

Game Materials

  • Game board
  • 4 photographer playing pieces
  • 16 Photo Destination cards
  • 1 stack of Switch Time cards
  • 1 stack of Phone cards
  • 1 stack of Travel cards
  • 1 spinner
  • Game directions

Game Board

Sample Photo Destination Cards

Sample Playing Cards



Time Required

The game is for 2-4 players. The game will require 40-50 minutes to play. The game is over when the first player returns to his or her home location with 4 photographs. If players must end the game early, the photographer with the most photos wins.

  1. Shuffle the Phone and Travel cards and place them face down in the designated place on the board.
  2. Shuffle the Switch Time cards, place them face down on the designated place on the board. Turn over the top card to set the current Greenwich time (GMT) for the start of the game.
  3. Each player selects a photographer playing piece and places it on the home location of the same color. 
  4. Each player draws 4 Photo Destination cards from the deck and places them in front of the player with the black and white side facing up. (Players will flip the cards to the color side when a photo has been taken at the city.)
  5. The Phone Cards include two different levels of play. Level 1 is for beginners or children not very familiar with map or time zone concepts. Players can move up to Level 2 as they become more familiar with time zones and calculating time differences. Each player should decide their own level of play prior to starting the game. 

The Rules
  1. Based on the current time shown on the Switch Time card, each player determines his or her local time (see Hints below for help). The player closest to 12PM plays first.

  2. The first player spins the spinner to determine his or her play. One of the following types of plays will occur:

  • Phone:  The player takes the top card off the Phone Card stack. The player reads the card aloud and attempts to answer the question on the card for his or her level. If the player responds to the card correctly, the player will move forward the number of spaces indicated on the card. Included in the Phone Cards are some conference calls. These cards require more than one player to respond and may result in multiple players moving on the board. When the play is finished, return the card to the bottom of the stack.

  • Travel:  The player takes the top card off the Travel Card stack. The player reads the card aloud and follows the directions on the card. When the play is finished, return the card to the bottom of the deck.

  • Switch Time:  The player takes the current time card and returns it to the bottom of the stack. The player then turns over the top card of the Switch Time stack. Based on this new time, the player determines his or her local time. If the player is correct, the player advances two spaces and spins again for another play.  

  • Go to Next City:  The player moves forward on the game board to the next city. If the city is one of the player's Photo Destinations, the player determines if he or she can take the photo (see #3 below). 

  1. When a player reaches one of his or her Photo Destination cities, the player stops at the city. Players do not need to land on the city by exact count. The player must determine if a photo can be taken. It must be daytime in order to take a photo. Daytime for the game is 7AM to 9PM (including 7AM and 9PM exactly). If the local time at the photo destination is between 7AM and 9PM , the player turns over the Photo Destination card for that city so the color side appears. If it is not daytime, the player must remain at the city until it becomes daytime at the city. This can occur during any player's turn with any play that includes a Switch Time. If a change in time has not allowed the player to take a photo by his or her next turn, the player may spin to try to switch the time. The player can not play on any phone, travel, or move plays until the photo has been taken.

  2. When a player completes a turn, play passes to the next player in a clockwise fashion. 


  • Current Greenwich Time: The time on the current Switch Time card. This is the time in Greenwich, England from which all time is referenced. The +/- numbers on the board indicate the +/- hours for the time zone as it relates to Greenwich time.

  • Current Local Time: The time at the player's location. This time is determined by sliding up/down the vertical time zone on the map to find the +/- hours from Greenwich time. This number of hours is then added or subtracted from the time on the Switch Time card to determine the local time. Players may use the clock faces on the board to help them determine current times and time differences.

    Example: The player is in Bangkok. Using the time zones on the board, the player slides down the board from Bangkok to the +/- for the time zone and determines this city is + 7 hours. This is GMT +7 or Bangkok is 7 hours later than Greenwich. The player adds 7 hours to the Greenwich time. If the current Greenwich time on the Switch Time card is 11:00AM, the current local time in Bangkok is 6:00PM. 

  • Daytime and Photographer Awake Time: 7AM to 9PM in the player's local time.

  • Time Zone: As the earth spins slowly, there is a constant series of dawns, noons and sunsets around the world. When people in the UK are eating lunch, it will be the middle of the night in California, and people in Japan will be getting ready to go to bed. Wherever people live, they use their own 'local time' .The world is divided into time zones and each has its own local time. The time zones are based on meridians, or lines of longitude. The world measures its time from the 0 meridian which runs through Greenwich, England.


Design Process

The design process was much like the resulting game - filled with wandering paths, obstacles, and setbacks! The original idea for the topic of the game intrigued the authors because little time is spent on the concept of time zones yet it is an important concept for communication and travel in today's world. The game started out as a U.S. only game for children with a global "flip-side" for adults. The initial research efforts quickly revealed that a global map and board would be essential to properly introduce the concepts due to the importance of Greenwich, England as the reference for all time zones.

The California state curriculum standards were referenced to determine the appropriate age and capabilities of the learners for the game. The National Geographic™ game in the EdTec 670 classroom and the States Game were reviewed to gather ideas and critique different aspects of game plan on a map.

The authors worked through the First Steps in Board Game Design to identify the content, patterns, elements, and structures for the game. After many iterations of objectives, types of plays, cards, rules, and themes, the authors started honing in on a general design for the board and game play. A very rough board was sketched and playing cards were drafted. The details were overwhelming. Playing squares on the path couldn't overlap two time zones or the player wouldn't be able to answer the question. The proportions of different plays on the spinner were tweaked several times in hopes of just the right mix of fun and learning while keeping the movement going on the board. 

Instrumental in the development of the game was frequent feedback from the learners, primarily children 10-12. As they played the prototype game, the kinks in the game became obvious and the children had valuable advice for improvements. It was also a great relief to see those moments when they were fully engaged in the game and beginning to master the content!



  • National Geographic World Atlas for Young Explorers. (1998). Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society.



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Last updated October 19, 2002