ACTIVITIES & LESSONS

2023 Groundhog Day Activities for Elementary Students

9 Min Read
Groundhog Day Activities for Elementary Students Hero

The legend goes that if Punxsutawney (PUNKS-uh-tawny) Phil sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter, and if he doesn’t see his shadow, you can expect an early arrival of spring. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if groundhogs could actually predict the weather?

The celebration of Groundhog Day on February 2 began in the 19th century in Pennsylvania but has now spread across the United States and into Canada. The idea of the holiday comes from an ancient Christian celebration called Candlemas Day. On this day, Christians would take their candles to the church to have them blessed by the clergy.

An old English poem about Candlemas provides insight into the tradition:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go, Winter, and come not again.

This tradition eventually evolved in Germany, where a badger “predicted” the weather. When German immigrants settled in the United States, the groundhog replaced the badger.

8 Groundhog Day Classroom Activity Celebration Ideas

Celebrate Groundhog Day and learn more about its traditions and groundhogs with our eight Groundhog Day activities for elementary students!

Activity 1: Trace a Shadow, Science, Grade 1

Groundhog Day can have students thinking about shadows. This activity from HMH Into Science lets students learn more about the role shadows play in showing how the sun moves throughout the day. Ask young learners: have you noticed that the sun looks different throughout the day as it moves in the sky?

Topic Covered: Sky patterns

What You Need

  • A pencil in a ball of clay
  • A crayon
  • A piece of paper

What to Do

Have students put the ball of clay with the pencil in a sunny place. Then, after positioning the ball, they should write the time and trace the shadow they see (they should do this two other times of the day). After tracing shadows multiple times throughout the day, have students explain how shadows show how the sun moves throughout the day and predict how the sun will move the next day.

Activity 2: Investigate Shadows, Science, Grade 5

In this hands-on activity about shadows from Into Science, students will investigate the question: how do shadows from sunlight change throughout the day?

Topic Covered: Sky patterns

What You Need

  • New pencil or dowel
  • Modeling clay
  • Posterboard
  • Metric ruler
  • Marker

What to Do

Have your class decide on the most important questions about shadows to investigate. Then, in smaller groups, they’ll determine the materials they might need—besides the supplies listed above—to answer the decided-on questions. After gathering all their supplies, teamed-up students will carry out their plan for investigating their questions about shadows, record their results, and present to the class using a table, graph, photographs, or a sketch.

Activity 3: Create a Groundhog, Arts & Crafts, Grades K–2

Let your students make a groundhog from construction paper and display their crafts on a bulletin board. Follow the simple steps below.

What You’ll Need

  • Brown, black, and white construction paper (or any combination of colors!)
  • Glue or tape
  • Scissors (students may need help cutting)
  • A black pen or marker

What to Do

  1. Prepare the following shapes. Cut one circle for the face, two small half circles for the ears, and two whole circles for the cheeks from the brown construction paper.
  2. Cut rectangular teeth and two eyes from the white construction paper.
  3. Cut a small nose, six whiskers, and inner eyes from the black construction paper.
  4. Follow the visual steps in the image above when creating the groundhog. Attach the ears underneath the face. Then, using a black marker or pen, create a border around the edges of the teeth and a line down the middle; attach the teeth on top of the face and the nose above it (with the bottom slightly underneath the teeth). Attach the cheeks over the teeth and nose, and tuck and glue the whiskers underneath the cheeks. Finally, attach the eyes to finish the groundhog.

Consider having your students make predictions of their own. Create a bulletin board with a title similar to “Will Phil See His Shadow?” Have two sections—one for yes and the other for no. Students can place their “groundhogs” under either section. Then, hold a discussion centered on why they chose their predictions.

Activity 4: Write about Groundhogs and Other Holiday Themes, ELA, Grades 3–5

Almost any holiday can allow students to practice their creative writing skills. For Groundhog Day, have students get their creative juices flowing using these three writing prompts:

  • Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow—there will be six more weeks of winter! How will Phil spend the next day of winter? What will he do on the first day of spring?
  • Punxsutawney Phil is local to Pennsylvania. However, other American cities have their own weather-predicting critters, from Chattanooga Chuck in Tennessee to Essex Ed in New Jersey. Have students choose their favorite rodent and create character profiles. What food do they eat? When were they born? What do they do when they hibernate? Encourage students to use their imaginations and draw their rodents.
  • You are in charge of organizing the next spring festival. What will happen at the festival? Will there be music? Games?

Activity 5: Make a Habitat Diorama, Science and Art, Grades K–5

Ask students: where do you think groundhogs live? Hold a class discussion about the habitat of groundhogs. These animals can be found along forest edges, meadows, open fields, roads, and streams in the eastern and central United States and Canada and sometimes in dense forests. Groundhogs live in complex burrows they build by excavating holes and tunnels by moving dirt. In the wintertime, during hibernation, these animals remain in their burrows for months. In this activity, students will create dioramas showing a groundhog in its typical habitat.

What You Need

  • Cardboard boxes (at least the size of shoe boxes) without lids
  • Various art and craft supplies, such as paints, colored pencils, markers, crayons, colored construction paper, colored modeling clay, pipe cleaners, and furry fabric swatches
  • A collection of natural objects, such as small rocks, leaves, grasses, pine needles, and twigs
  • Glue
  • Scissors (students may need help cutting)

What to Do

  • Define diorama and habitat to your students. Then, ask them to research a groundhog’s natural habitat.
  • After conducting their research, students can begin making their dioramas. Have them add background scenery before adding objects. Each student’s diorama should include at least one figure of a groundhog using cutout drawings, clay, or anything else that might help them form their groundhogs.
  • After placing their groundhogs, students can add natural or crafted objects to their habitats. Finally, have students present their dioramas to the class and explain the features of a groundhog’s natural habitat. You may want to coordinate this activity with a science lesson on animal habitats.

Activity 6: Write a Cinquain Poem, ELA, Grades 1–5

A cinquain (pronounced like “sing cane”) poem is simple enough for young learners to grasp and write. It’s called a cinquain because it has five lines, and “cinq” is the French word for “five.” Nineteenth-century poet Adelaide Crapsey developed this type of poem.

There are multiple formats for cinquains per line. Overall, cinquains are short and sweet but can tell a big story. In this activity, students will use a simplified cinquain format to write a poem that describes, you guessed it, a groundhog.

What You Need

What to Do

Provide examples of cinquain poems to your students. Ask students what they notice about these poems. Then, start a discussion about groundhogs, their habitat, and words one might use to describe these furry rodents.

Write a cinquain about groundhogs as a class so that students can get a bit of practice. Pass out copies of the cinquain worksheet and have students write their poems using the following simplified structure:

  • First line: One word or two syllables
  • Second line: Two words or four syllables
  • Third line: Three words or six syllables
  • Fourth line: Four or more words or eight syllables
  • Fifth line: One word or two syllables

Here’s one example you can share with students who are feeling stuck:

  • First line: Subject
  • Second line: Description of the subject
  • Third line: Verbs that relate to the subject
  • Fourth line: Phrase that describes the subject
  • Fifth word: Synonym for the subject

Once all students finish writing their poems, have each student read it aloud. If you want to connect it to an art lesson, have students illustrate their poems and hang them around the classroom!

Activity 7: Read about Groundhog Day, ELA, Grades Pre-K–5

Elementary students can learn about the many adventures of groundhogs—real or fictional—through reading books. Some of these book recommendations for Grades Pre-K–5 also help teach young learners about hibernation:

  1. Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox by Susan Blackaby, illustrated by Carmen Segovia (Grades Pre-K–1)
  2. Groundhog Day by Lisa M. Herrington (Grades Pre-K–1)
  3. Groundhog’s Dilemma by Kristen Remenar, illustrated by Matt Faulkner (Grades Pre-K–2)
  4. Groundhog Gets a Say by Pamela Curtis Swallow and Denise Brunkus, illustrated by Bill Lobley (Grades Pre-K–2)
  5. Black Bears by JoAnn Early Macken (Grade K)
  6. Groundhog Weather School: Fun Facts About Weather and Groundhogs by Joan Holub, illustrated by Kristin Sorra (Grades K–3)
  7. Hibernation by Tori Kosara (Grades 1–3)
  8. Hibernation Station by Michelle Meadows, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (Grades Pre-K–3)
  9. Substitute Groundhog by Pat Miller, illustrated by Kathi Ember (Grades Pre-K–3)
  10. What Do Critters Do in the Winter? by Julie Lundgren (Grades 2–3)
  11. Winter Sleep: A Hibernation Story by Sean Taylor and Alex Morss, illustrated by Cinyee Chiu (Grades K–2)
  12. Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen (Grade 5)

Activity 8: Mark Past Prognostications, Social Studies, Grades 3–5

In this straightforward social studies activity, young learners practice using a timeline. Our furry friend has been making predictions as far back as 1887. Though Phil’s accuracy rate of correctly predicting the weather is nowhere close to 100%, we can’t help but be inspired by his dedication to forecasting.

In this activity, have students choose a decade and research past Groundhog Day predictions. Then, using a timeline graphic organizer, they can write whether Phil spotted his shadow based on the year. For each year, have students add additional facts, such as the time Phil saw his shadow or one notable event that happened that year.

Share Your Groundhog Day Lesson Plans & Activities

How do you help your students learn more about our favorite animal soothsayer, Groundhog Day’s history, and spring’s arrival? Share your Groundhog Day lessons and activities with us on Twitter (@HMHCo) or Facebook or email your Groundhog Day celebration ideas at shaped@hmhco.com.

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