Sunday, February 2, 2014

Groundhogs....Shadows...and getting outside.

Today is Groundhog day!!  I love this quirky little holiday and I have some bright ideas how to tie it into your curriculum. 

So first, a little history....way back in the day (you know feudal lords and peasant farmers), Candlemas Day, a Christian Holiday, was celebrated by blessing the remaining candles so they would last the rest of the winter.  The farmers would check to see if they had enough hay in their stores to last.  The big question was would spring come early or would they need more hay and grain for their cattle because winter was going to drag on longer?  February 2nd is exactly halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.

In a Scottish poem:
If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There'll be twa (two) winters in the year

According to an old English song:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.

Did the groundhog see his shadow??  Don't know yet, but your students can explore theirs.  Try this activity to help your students connect with the world around them and understand the movement of the earth.  I've done this with my second and third graders and they seem to be as amazed as to what happens to their shadow as the little ones.

Start first thing in the morning.  These pictures were taken last year on a beautiful sunny day just after February 2nd.

 Trace the shadow of one or two students.  TIP: trace the students feet into a box so they will know exactly where to stand each time you trace.

 We traced at each recess.

 The shadows of course moved and got smaller....time for a little predicting.  What will happen at the next recess?  Most said their shadows would keep shrinking (they got the movement part right).  Surprise!!! Just like the india-rubber ball they did not grow at all like proper children. 

I love sharing Robert Lewis Stevenson's famous poem My Shadow.  That little shadow that goes in and out with you can be a lot of fun.  Shadow tag can be a fun way to stomp on your friends head without anyone getting hurt. For weeks we jump on each other as we walk across the playground.

Most years it is too snowy to use chalk.  Don't let that stop you.  One year we had so much snow we could take a stick and really dig deep, tracing just one student shadow (I picked the student with good snow boots and snow pants ).  I thought about using a bottle of snow paint this year (but no snow).  Snow paint is just spray bottle and thinned down poster paints.  Don't stay inside just because there is snow on the ground.

Groundhog Day is a good time to go out searching for signs of spring.  Take some time really looking at those bare trees, draw and write what you see.

Are there buds?  How big are they?  Go back out every couple of weeks to see how things are changing.  Record what you see, give your students time to notice the small changes over time.

One more bright idea??  In second and third grade we made paper plate sundials.

Just a cheap paper plate and a long pencil (or wooden skewer).  Every hour (on the hour) we would stop and go mark our plates.  It can be eye opening to students to see how different the "sun clock" looks from the one in our classroom.

Need some more bright ideas?  Follow this link to Teacher Bits and Bobs for bright ideas on classroom management.



  1. I love shadow activities. Such a great way to celebrate Groundhog Day!

  2. I've done the tracing the shadow activity with my kids, too - they really liked it. It was a great way to really see how their shadows changed throughout the day. Great post!

    Buzzing with Ms. B

    1. I always love how surprised they are to see the change.