Happy Groundhog Day! The only holiday to celebrate a furry rodent is a fun one to mark in the elementary classroom — and not just because kids love finding out whether there will be six more weeks of winter or an early spring. Are you looking for Groundhog Day activities for kids that will add to your classroom discussions in a positive way?
You’ve landed in the right place. The teachers who create all the printable worksheets, digital activities, and other teaching resources on the Teach Starter website hail from all around the US, and that means they’ve got a variety of takes on this quirky February holiday.
While some hail from places where there’s no worry about a longer winter (phew), others can’t wait for spring to, well, spring outside those classroom windows. We’ve learned that the February holiday isn’t just silly. It’s a great chance to discuss everything from the concept of hibernation to weather in the classroom, cover the phases of the moon with 4th graders, and discuss during your 1st grade light unit.
With that in mind, we’ve put together activities for kids from kindergarten through sixth grade for you to try in your classroom this Groundhog Day.
Short on time? Skip straight to printables from our Groundhog Day 2023 collection!
How Does Groundhog Day Work?
Maybe you haven’t paid much attention to this holiday in years? It’s OK. We know you’ve got a lot on your plate! Our teacher team put together a quick refresher just in case!
The tradition of depending on a marmot to predict the weather dates back to the 1800s. While origin stories vary, the official Punxsutawney Groundhog Club — that’s the one you might have seen in the Bill Murray movie centered on the holiday — say it’s related to a German tradition, whereby if a hedgehog saw its shadow on the religious holiday of Candlemas (traditionally celebrated on February 2), there would be six more weeks of winter.
The holiday is said to have traveled to the US with German immigrants and translated into a groundhog spotting his shadow as a predictor of whether winter weather would continue into the spring, or warmer temperatures would prevail.
These days the official groundhog lives in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Named Phil, he’s brought out every February by the club at a spot in town called Gobbler’s Knob to “prognosticate” (aka predict) the weather. If his handlers determine the groundhog has seen his shadow, that means there will be six more weeks of wintry weather. If he didn’t see his shadow, spring temperatures are on the horizon.
Simple enough, right? So how do you translate this to the classroom?
Groundhog Day Activities for Kids
Groundhog Day Shadow Drawing
A perfect Groundhog Day activity for the pre-school or kindergarten set is to learn about shadows with some shadow drawing! Print out a few photos of a groundhog (you can grab one off our Groundhog Day word wall!), place on your window with some clear tape, and roll out a long strip of tabletop or butcher paper near the window, where the groundhogs can “cast their shadows.”
If it’s a sunny day, set your kiddos to work on the ground, tracing the shadows created by their groundhogs. No sun in the sky? It’s OK! You can skip the drawing part of the activity and head right into a discussion of how the sun affects shadows — and lack of sun, well … you get the picture!
Of course, shadow drawing is on theme for Groundhog Day, but this isn’t just fun for fun’s sake. This type of activity offers a host of benefits to your primary-aged students.
- Understanding of light and shadow: Shadow drawing can help children understand how light and shadow interact, and how light sources affect the shape and size of shadows.
- Spatial awareness: By observing and drawing shadows, children can develop their spatial awareness and learn to perceive the three-dimensional world in a more accurate way.
- Observational skills: Shadow drawing requires children to carefully observe their surroundings, which can help improve their observational skills.
- Creativity: Shadow drawing can also be a creative activity that allows children to experiment with different lighting conditions and compositions to create interesting and unique images.
- Fine motor skills: It can help children to work on their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination as they need to make a detailed and accurate drawing.
Teaching older students? Try a light and shadow experiment to cover the same topic in a more age-appropriate way.
Groundhog Day Graphing
The folks at the National Centers for Environmental Information know a thing or two about climate — we daresay a bit more than a groundhog. The federal agency has tracked Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions and offers up a look at how often he’s gotten his weather predictions right or wrong, making for a fun graphing activity for the class!
Present your students with the count of how often Phil’s shadow sightings have been right or wrong, and have them create bar graphs on grid paper, shading in bars that represent each option. Ask them to answer the question: Is Phil right or wrong more often?
You can also create a class graph with student predictions, tallying how many students predict an early spring vs. an elongated winter.
This free Groundhog Day graphing resource can help get your class started!
Groundhog Day Roll to Create
Practice writing a narrative text for Groundhog Day with a creative roll to create about a groundhog family. Also sometimes called a roll to build, these activities add an element of fun to the writing process that tests students’ creative thinking skills.
Dig Into Groundhog Vocabulary
Groundhog? Woodchuck? What’s the difference? And what does it mean to predict? It may be a silly holiday, but Groundhog Day has a surprising number of vocabulary words associated with it. We put together a whole list of suggestions for your classroom.
Set Up a Groundhog Anchor Chart
Help your students through the process of prediction with a fun anchor chart activity. Kindergarten teacher Lexe Sims (@lexeslittlelearners on Instagram) uses this fun Groundhog Day anchor chart with her students.
Photo courtesy of South Carolina Kindergarten teacher Lexe Sims
Write a Dear Mr. Groundhog Letter to Practice Opinion Writing
Practice persuasive writing with letters to Mr. Groundhog explaining why he should — or shouldn’t — see his shadow!
This writing center activity gives kids a chance to explain why Mr. Groundhog should listen to their opinions and persuade him to agree with them. Encourage your students to use descriptive adjectives while describing the reasons they have for making their particular plea.
Groundhog Cut and Sort
Challenge your class to cut and sort out facts about groundhogs and elephants to better understand the difference between these two types of mammals. Can they identify the different traits of these animals?
Create Groundhog Puppets
Put on shadow puppet plays or just have a bit of fun with paper bags with a Groundhog Day paper puppet craft! After using the printable template, students can work in groups to write small skits and use their puppets to act out the play in front of their classmates.
Fun Groundhog Day Facts for Kids
Not ready to turn an entire lesson over to Groundhog Day? It’s a busy month with plenty going on, and we get it. Still, a few Groundhog Day facts may be in order for your morning meeting, or to brighten your students’ smiles when they spot them on your whiteboard in the morning.
Here are some of our teacher team’s favorite fun Groundhog Day facts for kids:
- Groundhog Day originated from an old European tradition that involved watching for the emergence of hibernating animals to predict the weather.
- Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, are a type of rodent that lives in burrows underground.
- The most famous groundhog on Groundhog Day is Punxsutawney Phil, who lives in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
- According to tradition, if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow on Groundhog Day, there will be six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t see his shadow, it’s supposed to be an early spring.
- Groundhogs are herbivores. That means they eat mostly plants, fruits, and vegetables.
- Groundhogs are not great swimmers, but they can hold their breath for up to 5 minutes when diving into water to escape danger.
- Groundhogs hibernate for about five months, from late October to early April.
- Groundhogs are known for digging extensive burrows, and they can move up to 700 pounds of soil to create their home.
- Groundhogs are not aggressive animals and will usually only bite or scratch when threatened or cornered.