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Gail Skroback Hennessey taught for over 33 years, teaching sixth grade in all but two years. She earned a BA in early secondary education with a concentration in social studies and an MST in social...
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Are you Ready for Groundhog Day? (Possible Interactive Notebook Activity)

Groundhog Day is February 2nd. It's a time when people look to a groundhog to find out whether or not we will be having six more weeks of winter. The idea dates back hundreds of years when people looked to hibernating animals such as badgers, hedgehogs and bears to see when they might wake up from their winter sleep.

According to the tradition, if the animal saw its shadow, winter would last several more weeks. If it didn't see its shadow, spring would be soon arriving.

When Europeans, especially the Germans, came to the United States, they brought the tradition. The groundhog became the animals of choice as it hibernated and looked something like the European hedgehog. Groundhog Day started back in the 1880s with the first official celebration on February 2, 1887. The most famous groundhog weather forecaster is Punxsutawney Phil, of Punxsutawney, PA. On February 2nd, Punxsutawney Phil, who lives at the Punxsutawney Library is taken to Gobbler's Knob and placed in a heated burrow underneath a simulated tree stump on the stage near where hundreds have gathered. At 7:25 a.m. Punxsutawney Phil comes out to make his weather prediction. If he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If he doesn't see his shadow, spring is on its way!

Did You Know?

  1. The groundhog, also called woodchuck, is a relative of the squirrel. Learn some additional fun facts about groundhogs here.
  2. Groundhog Day is also celebrated in Canada in February. They have several weather forecasting groundhogs including Wiarton Willie, Shubenacadie Sam and Balzac Billy.
  3. Did you know that Groundhog Day is an official university holiday at the University of Dallas (Irving, TX)? Celebrations are held in honor of the groundhog.
  4. The very first mention of a Groundhog Day in the United States was found in a diary entry of James Morris. The year was 1841.

Extension activities:

  1. Pretend you are a weather forecasting groundhog. Tell us about your big day. What did you hear? What did you see? How did you feel being in the limelight?
  2. Learn about the country of Germany here.
  3. Read more about the groundhog on the National Geographic website. Draw/color a picture and write 5 facts learned about the groundhog (in complete sentences).
  4. The Groundhog isn't the only creature in nature that is used to help forecast weather. Can spiders predict a sunny day? My mother-in-law told me that if you see spiders hanging up their wash (making webs) early on a summer morning, it's a sign of a beautiful summer day. See chimney smoke going straight up on a winter's day? Another sign of nice weather. But, if you see ants building mounds, it's a sign of rain. Same with birds roosting on electrical wires, another sign of coming rain. There are lots of weather folklore. Being observant to nature, can help you predict the day's weather, without a weatherman. Illustrate a weather folklore. A list of different weather-related folklores can be found here.

Check out my Groundhog Day: Reader's Theater Script. Learn about the groundhog and the history of Groundhog Day with Ms. Bie Ografee's guest, Sarsaparilla, the Groundhog.



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