Groundhog Day Classroom Activities January 22 2010
Groundhog Day provides opportunities to teach or review skills in a fun way. Included in this post are two math activities, an art activity and a weather prediction poem for your kids to try to celebrate this whimsical holiday.
What’s the Story?
The tradition of Groundhog Day came from German settlers in the 1800s. They brought to their new homes in Pennsylvania a tradition called Candlemas. The weather on Candlemas day would be a prediction for whether or not there would be a long winter. The Candlemas poem goes like this:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, winter, have another flight.
If Candlemas brings cold and rain,
Go, winter, and come not again.
Instead of Candlemas day, we celebrate Groundhog Day. Punxsutawney Phil is the resident groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. He has been predicting the weather since 1886.
Punxsutawney Phil lives in Gobbler's Knob, and he comes out of his den each February 2nd. After he sees his shadow (or not), Punxsutawney Phil speaks in "Groundhogese" to the President of his Inner Circle, who then translates Phil's prediction for the rest of us. If Phil sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. If he doesn't see his shadow, we get to have spring weather!
Groundhog Day Activities
The Groundhog Day tradition is decades old, and a lot of fun. Bring some of the thrill of Groundhog Day into your classroom with a variety of activities.
Graphing the Groundhog’s Predictions
Use the Groundhog Day Prediction Record to help your class identify any patterns regarding Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow. If you have younger children, use a large piece of butcher paper and a shorter amount of time to analyze - for example, the last ten years. Make a class bar graph with "Shadow" and "No Shadow" along the bottom, and put an x in the appropriate column for each year. That way, it will be easy to see if Phil has seen his shadow more over the years or not!
If you have older kids, print out the Groundhog Day Prediction Record for partners or small groups of students. Have them highlight any patterns they see and write their observations on the back of the page or another sheet of paper. Then, using graph paper or butcher paper, have them create a graph that depicts some or all of their observations.
After the analysis and graphs have been done, have students make their own predictions about whether or not Puxatawny Phil will see his shadow. After Phil peeks out on Groundhog Day, you'll be able to see who was correct!
Will the Groundhog See His Shadow?
This is a simple probability game that will help your students learn or review the concept of the ratio 1:2. You can use a spinner, a coin or a cube for this game. Before beginning any of the versions, discuss with your kids the 1:2 ratio, and what they think the results will be at the end of the activity - will there be more Shadows? More No Shadows?
The Spinner - use the Shadow-No Shadow Spinner and teach kids how to use a pencil and paper clip to make a spinner. Have them keep track of how many times the spinner lands on Shadow and No Shadow. Stop kids after a few minutes to share - how many spins? How many Shadow and No Shadow? Have them spin 20 times and share, then 50 times and share, and finally 100 times.
A Coin - Label one side S for Shadow and the other NS for No Shadow using stickers or labels (Or, if your kids can keep track, the head of the coin is Shadow and the tail is No Shadow). They need to keep track of the result each time they toss the coin. Stop them after 10 tosses - what are the results? Then stop them after 20 tosses and share - do they change their predictions of more Shadow or No Shadow results? Have them toss the coin 100 times, keeping track of each result.
Cubes - This would be good for older kids, since it's essentially a 1:2 ratio in the form of 3:6. Use wooden cubes and label each side with S for Shadow and NS for No Shadow, 3 for each category. Have students work in pairs, keeping track of how many Shadows and No Shadows they roll. Have them share after 10 times, 20 times, 50 times, and finally 100 times.
Bring your students back together and discuss the results. What patterns do they see? What are other observations? Were the predictions correct?
Since Punxsutawney Phil is all about shadows, it would be fun to use this opportunity to create silhouettes. Against a whiteboard or bulletin board, hang black construction paper and trace around each student's profile in white chalk. It would probably be good to do this during a center time or while students are involved in independent work. Another good idea is to enlist parent or other volunteer help.
When cut out, these can be mounted on construction paper and given to parents as a Valentine's gift!
Weather Prediction Poems
Use the Candlemas poem above to talk about weather prediction poems. Explore with your students what the poem means, explaining some of the more difficult language and concepts - what other ways could we, or do we, predict the weather? If they need a specific subject, have students focus their poems on the Groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, or Shadows.
Groundhog Day is a great opportunity to teach new skills or review concepts in fun ways. Happy Groundhog Day!