By Teachers, For Teachers
Each year on Feb. 2, we anxiously await the sighting of a groundhog as it comes out of its burrow to look for its shadow. This popular tradition has been going on for decades, as young children anxiously wait to see if there will be six more week of winter, or if spring will arrive early. Each year, schools all across the country and Canada partake in fun Groundhog Day classroom activities to help celebrate this wonderful event. If you’re tired of doing the same old activities year after year, here are a few new classroom activities to try, as well as a few twists on some old ones.
Groundhog Day is the perfect time to learn about shadows, since Punxsutawney Phil may or may not be seeing his. Turn your overhead projector on and have students take turns making shadows on the screen. Once they have learned what shadows are all about, then you can have students perform a shadow play. Divide students into small groups, and give them a flashlight and a piece of white paper. Then instruct them to come up with their own creative shadow play and share it with the class.
An easy way to teach students about how to predict something is to start by having students practice predicting the weather. For a week before Groundhog Day, have students predict what they weather will be like the next day. Each morning, have students predict the following day’s weather on a secret ballot. Each day, read students’ predictions aloud and see who predicted correctly and who did not. By the time Groundhog Day arrives, they will be ready to make their real predictions.
As Feb. 2 approaches, more and more people wonder if Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow. Have students get in on the fun and cast their vote to see if this furry friend will predict more winter or a quicker spring. Have students prepare a ballot by folding an 8 x 11 piece of paper in half and drawing a spring picture on one half of the paper, and a wintery picture on the other. Next, ask students to color the picture that they think represents their prediction. Once they have colored their prediction, they must cut the side that they colored off, and hand in their ballot to you. Once the ballots are in, as a class, create a graph of the results. Then when Feb. 2 arrives and Punxsutawney Phil has made his prediction, announce his findings and compare what he said with your class graph of student predications.
Groundhogs aren’t the only animals who hibernate, there are many animals like to take a long winter nap too. For this activity, discuss with students some other animals that like to hibernate, or take a long winter nap. Once they have learned about other animals, then ask them to choose two animals besides the groundhog to research. Students may pick a bear, frog, turtle, or any other creature that they learned about. Once students have chosen their two animals, have them compare their choices with their classmates and pair up the students who have a match. Once students are grouped, tell them they must create a small booklet on the animals they chose. On the front page, the title will be “Who’s Hibernating?” and in the inside of the first page will be a picture of a groundhog along with a few facts. The other two pages are for the two animals that they chose to research. Once their research is complete, create a different station in the classroom with students’ research booklets so they can learn about the other animals that hibernate.
The legend of the groundhog has been around since the 1880s, and is celebrated in the United States and Canada. While it’s celebrated all across the country, the largest celebration is help in Punxsutawney, Pa. According to this folklore, every year on Feb. 2, the groundhog’s behavior will predict the weather for the next six weeks. If he pops his head out of the hole and sees his shadow, then that means six more weeks of winter weather, but if comes up from his burrow and doesn’t see his shadow then it means will Spring will be earlier. Print out the full legend of the groundhog and have students read it. Then, challenge students to create their own legend. They can either add to or change the legend of the groundhog or they come up with a completely new legend of their own.
How do you celebrate Groundhog Day in your classroom? Do you have any classroom activities that you would like to share with us? Please leave your ideas in the comment section below, we would love to hear your ideas.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.