Groundhog Day has been my most favorite homeschooling unit so far. Apparently I dig groundhogs (pun intended, sorry).
So do my girls.
I have discovered the magic of Pinterest and my library for really bringing the fun to the topics we are covering in our school.
At the start of January, I decided that I was going to focus on units more than letters of the week, and just pick a letter that works with our unit. I’m not set on the length of time we stay on one unit. Most of January, other than the past week, was a Winter unit, with our letter being W.
This past week was a Groundhog Day unit focusing on the letter G.
My strategy for preparing for the units is to find good books on our topic and request them from our library. Then I comb Pinterest to find printables for all sorts of activities, some focused on our letter, some arts and crafts, some hopefully pulled from one or two of the books we’re reading. Then I wing it from there.
I found some really fun books for our groundhog unit.
These are the ones I used.
“Time to Sleep” was actually one I had for our Winter unit, but it talks about hibernating and has a woodchuck in it, so I included it this week too. It was fun for them to realize that the woodchuck in this story is the same as a groundhog.
The first book we read was “Groundhog Weather School,” in which the Weather Groundhog puts out a classified ad looking for more groundhogs to help him predict the weather around the country. He gives six criteria, with discussions of each of them, for candidates to consider before applying:
Various animals, such a a hippo, a monkey, and a skunk, check off the criteria they do meet, but then ultimately realize they don’t meet all of the qualifications. The girls really enjoyed going through each of the qualifications, repeatedly, for each of the animals, and disqualifying them at various points in the list. I left the list up all week and we discussed it many times while reading other books too.
I got lots of the stuff we used from DLTK Crafts for Kids, including the rhyme in the picture above, which is a song to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot.” I made up some hand motions for it and we sang it a few times each day after doing our calendar. The girls loved it.
Another thing we did every day along with our calendar and weather discussion was to judge whether we thought the groundhog would see his shadow if he were to pop up that day. Miss really got into this and did a great job thinking it through and making a prediction each day.
And of course we had to make their toilet paper roll groundhogs.
The girls just made these today, and both of them are sleeping with their finished groundhogs tonight. Miss even insisted that we make burrows for the groundhogs, so we glued pieces of construction paper into cylinders that the groundhogs could fit into and “pop up” as desired.
I laminated the pages and added velcro so the pieces would stay put for my girls (and not get lost). I especially love watching Lass do activities like these, because she really shows how much she knows when she can do it in a fun and different way (if I just ask her questions, she often pretends she doesn’t know).
I added a few other fun things to round out our groundhog fun. We went into my bedroom where we could pull the blackout shades and have a large expanse of blank wall to do some shadow playing. We built a burrow with pillows and the girls took turns “popping up” and seeing their shadows. We experimented with moving closer and farther from the light source to see what happened to the shadows. And of course we practiced making some good old shadow puppets.
This morning the girls made their hypotheses about whether the groundhog would have seen his shadow. Then we checked out the website of The Punxatawney Groundhog Club to see what Punxatawney Phil saw (or didn’t see). We watched the webcast, which I thought would be really exciting. I wish I would have watched it first so that I could have automatically fast forwarded the first two thirds of it which was nothing but a looong procession of all the “Groundhog Officials” and introductions of all of them. There must have been 15-20 of them. The girls did get a kick out of it once they finally pulled Phil from his “burrow,” but even that was sort of lame. I’ll just be thankful that I didn’t wake them up at 6:25 to watch it live… Not that I would have done that.
Their favorite thing this morning was when I played this recording of the whistling sound a groundhog makes when it senses danger. We have been talking about how some people call groundhogs “Whistle Pigs” because of this. They really got a kick out of hearing how it sounds.
We had lots of discussions about what makes an animal a mammal, what hibernating is, what herbivores eat, what animals are predators of groundhogs, and how groundhogs set up their burrows. It was all quite fascinating, really.
And finally, it wouldn’t have been Groundhog Day without a groundhoggy snack.
Chocolate pudding cups, graham cracker crumb “dirt” (the other versions I’ve seen of this snack used either chocolate graham cracker crumbs or oreo crumbs, but this is what was in my cupboard, so we had lighter dirt), Milano Cookies, slivered almonds broken in half for the ears, and fudge applied with a toothpick to stick on the ears and make the face. Not quite as elaborate as some, but enough to impress my kids.
So that’s it. I kind of can’t believe how much fun groundhogs can be. I think I enjoyed them as much as my girls did.
Next we’ll do two weeks of V is for Valentine. We’ll also throw some President’s Day stuff in there before we go out of town in a couple of weeks.
Happy Groundhog Day!