Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Groundhog Day with kids!

Last year Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and predicted 6 more weeks of winter.
What will Punxsutawney Phil do this year?

Groundhog Day is a fun holiday that is observed in the United States and Canada on February 2nd each year. Punxsutawney Phil lives at Gobblers Knob near Punxsutawney in Pennsylvania.  Every year people visit Punxsutawney on the Second day of February to watch Punxsutawney Phil come out of his hole and playfully predict the duration of our winter’s weather.  

We completely focus on weather and weather reporting during the last week of January and all of February and it is always fun to add in a little fun when Punxsutawney Phil predicts the weather too.

Originating in Germany, people believed that when they started to see badgers that spring was close behind.  They would use these sightings as a sign of when they should begin to plant their first crops of the New Year. Some groups of German immigrants settled in central Pennsylvania. Due to the fact that badgers are not native to this area, groundhogs (a close looking cousin of the badger) were used in predicting the weather.  As time moved on this became a fun way to predict spring and ward off the winter blues. Today, this is a fun tradition and a huge celebration in Punxsutawney Pennsylvania. 

The kids start their weather charts during the last week of January.  We chart the temperature, precipitation, weather patterns and predictions.  This is a fun and educational study on the science of predicting the weather and its changes.  

Lauren likes to color in a graph every year of the inches of precipitation and temperature in Celsius and Fahrenheit.  Matthew likes to chart weather patterns in each of the major climate zones (polar, temperate, mountain, desert and tropical) of the U.S.  He makes his own weather predictions and hypotheses that he keeps in a science journal.  

All this is great fun and Punxsutawney Phil just adds a little extra fun to our lessons.

Groundhog Fun Facts:
- The National Geographic Society says the groundhog weather predictions are correct only one out of every three times.
- Groundhogs rarely wander more than 1/2 mile from their burrow.
- By mid-October, groundhogs will begin hibernation and will sleep through January or early February.
- The groundhog has excellent eyesight.
- Groundhogs are able to climb trees.
- The life span of a groundhog is 5 years.
- Groundhogs can swim.
- Groundhogs are sometimes perceived to be pests.
- The average groundhog is 20 inches long and normally weighs from 12 to 15 pounds. Punxsutawney Phil weighs about 20 pounds and is 22 inches long.
- Groundhogs are covered with coarse grayish hairs (fur) tipped with brown or sometimes dull red. They have short ears, a short tail, short legs, and are surprisingly quick. Their jaws are exceptionally strong.
- A groundhog's diet consists of lots of greens, fruits, and vegetables and very little water. Most of their liquids come from dewy leaves.
- A groundhog can whistle when it is alarmed. Groundhogs also whistle in the spring when they begin courting.
Insects do not bother groundhogs and germs pretty much leave them alone. They are resistant to the plagues that periodically wipe out large numbers of wild animals. One reason for this is their cleanliness.
- Groundhogs are one of the few animals that really hibernate. Hibernation is not just a deep sleep. It is actually a deep coma, where the body temperature drops to a few degrees above freezing, the heart barely beats, the blood scarcely flows, and breathing nearly stops.
- Young Groundhogs are usually born in mid-April or May, and by July they are able to go out on their own. The size of the litter is 4 to 9. A baby groundhog is called a kit or a cub.
- A groundhog's life span is normally 6 to 8 years. Phil receives a drink of a magical punch every summer during the annual Groundhog Picnic, which gives him 7 more years of life.

Groundhog Day Cookies
Prep. Time: 12 minutes plus chilling time
Baking time: 8-10 minutes per batch
Yield: 2-3 dozen medium to large cookies

2 Cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. powdered ginger
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 Cup butter, softened
1 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup molasses
1 egg yolk
1 egg, slightly beaten
Currants or cut up raisins 

Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, cloves and cinnamon. Set aside. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Blend in the molasses and egg yolk. Gradually stir in the flour mixture and mix well. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 350°. Place small amounts of dough on a sheet of plastic wrap and cover with plastic wrap, leaving the dough you aren't using in the fridge until you need it. Roll the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out the cookies using a lightly-floured cookie cutter.  Place the cookies on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Brush with the slightly beaten egg. Decorate with currant or raisin eyes. Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes. Let cool slightly before removing from the cookie sheet.

Groundhog Day Crafts: 
Pop Up Groundhog 
Have children color a picture of a groundhog and glue to a Popsicle stick. Poke a hole in the bottom of the cup for the stick to fit through. Children can hide the groundhog in the cup (burrow) and pop him up to see his shadow.
Groundhog Paper Bag Puppet
Print the paper bag puppet pattern and color. Cut out and paste onto a lunch bag.  Click HERE and HERE for printout

Groundhog Day Activities: 
Shadow Fun
Experiment with light and shadows.

Groundhog Day Explorations:
Visit the websites of Punxsutawney Phil and Wiarton Willie. Learn all about groundhogs and their special day through books, the internet, pictures, and discussions.
Explore how shadows are created.

Groundhog Reading:
Check your local library for any of the books (below) or click on the photos to order. (They will have pictures showing in the blog)

Groundhog Songs, Poems, Finger-plays

Wake up, Groundhog
Wake up, Groundhog,
Time to see
What the weather's going to be
Time to stretch, time to think
Time to eat, and time to drink.
Wake up Groundhog
Time to see
What the weather's going to be!

Two Little Groundhogs
Two little groundhogs in a burrow so deep
Stick out their heads to take a peek.
They look to the left.
They look to the right.
They hide from their shadows in the bright sunlight!

Making Shadows
(Sung to: Twinkle, Twinkle)
Shadows big and shadows small
I see shadows on the wall
Shadows here and shadows there
Lots of shadows everywhere
All the shadows that I see
Big or small, they don't scare me.
Shadows, shadows - oh what fun
I can make them in the sun
I will make some big and tall
I will make some short and small
I make shadows by the light
In my room so late at night

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