The first official Groundhog Day celebration took place on February 2, 1887, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Since then, the groundhog has been predicting with variable results whether winter will continue for six more weeks if he sees his shadow or that spring is on the way if it is cloudy. Other cities have adopted their own version of Groundhog Day such as Boulder, CO who has Flatiron Freddy Day.
Here are some activities to get you outdoors whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not.
- Paper (optional)
- Small objects like Lego’s
- Ruler or tape measure for measuring (optional)
Sunny days provide plenty of outdoor fun including the creation of plenty of shadows. See what kind of shadows you can find outside. Are they big or small? Using the sidewalk, driveway (if it safe) or a piece of paper, trace the shadows you see using chalk. You may even choose to bring small objects outside with you such as Lego’s to trace the shadows the objects make. For older children, you can also make this a math lesson by having them measure and recording the length of the shadows. You may even want to have a friend or parent trace your own shadow. Is it the same length as your height measurement
- Paper (optional)
Beginning in the morning, trace the shadows of a few objects using the sidewalk, driveway or piece of paper. Come back every hour or two and trace the shadow again. How has it changed?
- Notebook (optional)
- Pencil (optional)
Go around your yard or take a hike or walk through town and take photos of all the shadows you see. You may even want to take a pencil and notebook to make notes about the shadows you see.
Make Your Own Sundial
- Empty can, container or bucket
- Piece of cardboard larger than the can, container or bucket
- Rocks, sand, or dirt
Tell a story about how people used to use the sun to tell the time. For teaching purposes (and to help with assembly), you may want to create a sundial ahead of time. This video from britannica.com is a good visual for kids to see how a sundial works. This video from Bill Nye is also helpful for children to understand shadows.
Begin by filling an empty can, container or bucket with rocks, sand or dirt. Place a dowel or long stick into the center of the can. Make sure the dowel or stick is secure before moving to the next step. Find a spot that will stay sunny throughout the day. Place your cardboard down in that place. Put your can in the center of your cardboard piece. After your can is placed on the cardboard, make a mark on the cardboard where the shadow from your stick or dowel is and also put down the time. Repeat this step every 30 minutes to an hour to see how the position changes throughout the day.
If it is a sunny day, you can play tag with shadows. One child will be the chaser. The object of the game is for the chaser to chase the other children trying to step on their shadows. If they step on a child’s shadow, that person becomes the chaser.
- Blankets or towels
- Flashlight (optional)
- Large number of children (optional)
This activity can be done inside or outside. Build a tunnel using chairs, blankets and other objects for children to crawl through. For more fun, shine a flashlight on the children to see if they can see their shadow as they emerge from the tunnel. If there are a large number of children, you can create a human tunnel for children to crawl through. Start by making two lines of children across from each other. Have them reach across to join the hands of the person across from them to create a tunnel. It may help to create more of a tunnel if the children get down on their knees. Have children take turns crawling through the tunnel like groundhogs.
Just Keep Singing
- Your best singing voice
- You best acting skills
There are many fun songs about February 2nd. If the weather is nice enough, you can go outside to sing and act out these songs. Here are some song ideas origins unknown.
“I see a little groundhog, furry and brown,
He’s popping up to look around.
If he sees his shadow, down he’ll go.
Six more weeks of winter – oh, no!”
Sung to “Frere Jacques”
“See my shadow, See my shadow
Move this way, Move this way
Doing things that I do, Doing things that I do
Follow me, Follow me!”
What is a Shadow?
If I run, my shadow runs (Same fingers in running motion)
And when I stand still, as you can see (Same fingers, standing still)
My shadow stands beside me. (Use first two fingers on other hand and stand beside the first two fingers)
When I hop, my shadow hops, (First two fingers, hopping)
When I jump, my shadow jumps (Same fingers, jump)
And when I sit still, as you can see, (same fingers, bend at knuckles to sit.)
My shadow sits beside of me (Use as before, both sets of fingers sitting beside each other. )”
Sung to “London Bridges” (this one would be fun to sing when playing the tunnel game above)
“Mr. Groundhog down below
Pop up through the fluffy snow
See his shadow watch him go.
Winter’s here to stay
Mr. Groundhog down below
pops up through the fluffy snow
Wide awake he wants to play
Spring is on its way
I hope these ideas give you some good ideas on how you can get outside and enjoy Groundhog Day!
Happy Groundhog Day and Adventure On,
Courtney and Phil