Every February 2, we celebrate Groundhog Day…but do you know why we celebrate on this specific date, or why a groundhog? Learn these facts and more in this fun Groundhog Day mini-unit study! (PreK-5th grades)
Books to Read:
- Groundhog Day! by Gail Gibbons (non-fiction)
- The Night Before Groundhog Day by Natasha Wing
- Groundhog’s Runaway Shadow by David Biedrzycki
- Groundhog’s Day Off by Robb Pearlman
- Groundhog’s Dilemma by Kristen Remenar
- Groundhog Day is celebrated on February 2nd because that is the date of the midpoint of winter, exactly halfway between the winter solstice and spring equinox.
- The origins of Groundhog Day trace back to Candlemas Day in Europe. The tradition was that if the weather was cloudy on that day (Feb. 2), spring would come early, but if the sun shone and the day was fair, cold weather would extend for the remainder of winter. If it were sunny, an animal would see its shadow and return to its home, thus predicting the extension of winter weather. In Germany, their “weather predictor” was a hedgehog. When Germans came to the colonies and settled in Pennsylvania in the 1700s, there were no hedgehogs to be found…but there were groundhogs. They came to the conclusion that groundhogs were intelligent creatures who also carried the “forecasting gene,” and Groundhog Day was born. The first official Groundhog Day was celebrated on February 2, 1887.
- While many states have their own groundhog forecaster, the most famous fellow is Punxsutawney Phil. He lives in Gobbler’s Knob, just outside Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. His name may seem like a mouth full, but in reality, “Punxsutawney Phil” is actually a nickname! His full name is “Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinary.” Wow.
Groundhog Day Activities:
- Make a Shadow Drawing: If it’s a sunny day, head outside with your kids and some butcher paper, and make drawings of their shadows! They can pose in different ways and take turns tracing the shadows onto the paper. If you have some pavement nearby, use sidewalk chalk instead!
- Make a Weather Chart: There are several ways to do this, but a simple way is to use a paper plate, markers, and a paper fastener (brad). Use a marker to divide the paper plate into pie slice-like sections. One slice will represent sunny, one cloudy, one rainy, and one windy…and if you want to include a section for snowy, add that as well. Use markers to decorate the different weather slices. Cut an arrow out of cardstock, and attach the end of the arrow to the middle of the plate with the brad. Use the arrow to point to the day’s weather.
- Choose a Fun Writing Prompt: Choose one of these holiday-themed writing prompts to get your child’s creative juices flowing!
- Write a story about your shadow coming to life. What happens?
- Write a story about how the other woodland animals get jealous of Punxsutawney Phil.
- Do you think Phil checks the weather leading up to his prediction on Groundhog Day? Write a story about the week before his prediction.
- Do you think that a groundhog actually predicts the seasons? Why or why not?
- Write about Groundhog Day from the groundhog’s perspective.
Groundhog Day Snacks:
- Groundhog in the Dirt: Your kids will love this fun and yummy dessert! Crush up a pack of Oreo cookies to look like dirt and add half of the cookies to the bottom of a 9×13 dish (or individual cups). Mix half a stick of softened butter, 1 cup of powdered sugar, and one 8 oz. package of cream cheese together until smooth. In a separate bowl, mix 2 boxes of instant vanilla pudding, 3 and a half cups of milk, and a 12 oz. container of Cool Whip together. Once the pudding is set, carefully mix the pudding and cream cheese mixtures together until smooth. Add the cream cheese pudding mixture to the top of the Oreo cookie crumbs, and add the remaining cookie crumbs to the top. Stick a vanilla wafer into the “dirt” and add almond slices (using cookie icing for the glue) for the groundhog’s ears.
- Groundhog Toast: Spread peanut butter or Nutella on a slice of toast. Using a small glass, cut 2 circles from another piece of bread, and add them to the toast for the groundhog’s cheeks. Add 2 banana slices and 2 brown M&Ms or raisins for the eyes. Add half a grape for the nose, and 2 peanuts for the teeth.
- Watch this video to learn facts about the groundhog and why we celebrate Groundhog Day.
- This video will read the book, Wake Up, Groundhog! by Susanna Leonard Hill. It’s the story of a young groundhog named Phyllis and her uncle, Punxsutawney Phil, who wouldn’t wake up for Groundhog Day. What will they do?!
- Visit this Art for Kids Hub video to learn how to draw a cartoon groundhog!
Naomi White graduated with her B.S. in Christian Elementary Education and went on to earn her Early Childhood Education certification. She has taught preschool and elementary school in both Christian and public schools. She loves to read and write, is a pastor’s wife and stay-at-home mom, and is eagerly awaiting the day her son is old enough for them to start their own homeschool journey. Originally a Georgia girl, Naomi currently lives in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina with her family.