Introduce Woodchuck/groundhog (Marmota monax) facts:
- Groundhogs are also called woodchucks or whistle pigs. They are members of the squirrel family.
- Groundhogs got their name because of their squat appearance, waddling gait, they eat like a pig, and they live in the ground. They can also climb trees and swim!
- Groundhogs are rodents with powerful legs and long, bushy tails. They have small, rounded ears that they can use to cover the ear opening when they are chucking dirt.
- Groundhogs are diurnal — meaning they come out during the day and sleep at night. Their favorite pastimes are basking in the sun, eating, and sleeping.
- In Iowa, all wild groundhogs are safe and snug in their burrows sleeping away during the winter. When they do wake, they won’t be looking for their shadow — they will be looking for a mate and food.
- The famous weather forecaster who lives in Pennsylvania is Punxsutawney Phil
- Groundhogs make a nest from dried plant materials deep within their burrow.
- During hibernation, a groundhog’s body temperature will drop as low as 37 degrees—just above freezing. Its heart beats only 4-5 times a minute. It will breathe once every four minutes. When its body slows down like this, the groundhog can go without food or water for 5 months.
- When alarmed, a groundhog will whistle a shrill call. When angered, it will chatter. When fighting, groundhogs will squeal or growl.
- Groundhogs are almost complete vegetarians—eating leaves, flowers, grasses, peas, beans, corn, and apples. They also eat the bark of trees, and sometimes may eat grasshoppers, and other bugs, snails, and eggs.
- Groundhogs can chuck a lot of soil. They dig with their front feet and claws. A full-grown groundhog can dig a 12-foot burrow in only a few hours. When building a full-size burrow it may clear out 700 pounds of soil.
What is hibernation?
Many small and medium-sized mammals in north-temperate regions solve the problem of winter scarcity of food and low temperature by entering a prolonged and controlled state of dormancy. True hibernators prepare for hibernation by building up large amount of body fat. The animal’s metabolism heart rate, breathing, and body temperature all drop. Bears, raccoons, and opossums sleep in the winter, they can awaken but with little or no drop of body temperature.
Using a refrigerator box make a groundhog home and tunnel. Cut a hole in the box so the children can pop up through the hole like a groundhog.
Sing: I’m a Little Groundhog
(sung to I’m a Little Teapot)
I’m a little groundhog, furry and brown,
See me pop while I look around.
If I see my shadow, Down I’ll go
Six more weeks of winter, oh no!
Groundhogs in the Dirt
To make a brown groundhog, use Model Magic clay. Demonstrate how to roll clay into balls and then stick one ball on top of the other for the head and body. Add ears, eyes, tail, and two small white balls for teeth. Let these dry before using the groundhog to dig tunnels in a tub full of dirt.
Cut a groundhog shape and sponge paint it brown. Make one bigger in black to represent the shadow.
What are shadows?
- Shadows are dark outlines or images cast by an object blocking light. A shadow forms when light hits an opaque object.
- Make shadow puppets—An adult can make shadow animals out of tag board or foam. Make a small shadow screen, use a light behind it so shadows will show up.
- Guess the shadow – Experiment with light and shadows using different objects. Teach the children how to use their hands to make different shadows.
- If the sun is shining on Groundhog Day, take the children outdoors to a large paved area. The children, with help from an adult, can take turns drawing their partner’s shadow using chalk on the pavement.
- Have children go outside several times each day to measure their shadows. Record and discuss why it is longer or shorter at certain times.
- Predict whether or not Phil will see his shadow. Sunny vs. cloudy day.
- Use flashlights inside the box to make shadows.
See My Shadow (sung to Frere Jacques)
See my shadow, see my shadow
Move this way, move that way.
See it do what I do, See it do what I do,
Follow me, Follow me.
Make a pop-up groundhog puppet
Materials needed: a picture of a groundhog, crayons, craft stick, brown paint, paint brushes or fingers. Children can paint the cup brown. Let cups dry. An adult should make the slit in the bottom of the cup so the craft stick can slide in and out. Have the children glue the colored groundhog pictures to the craft stick. Insert the craft stick into the slit on the bottom of the cup and the children can then slide Mr. Groundhog in and out of his hole to see if he sees his shadow!
Practice ‘in’ and ‘out.’ Practice ‘opposites,’ i.e. sit-stand; eyes closed-eyes open; shoe on-shoe off; dirty-clean; shadow-no shadow etc.
Hey everybody, come over here!
It’s time to do “The Opposites Cheer!”
I’ll say hot! You say cold!
Hot, cold, hot, cold.
Thanks, everybody, for joining me here
To help me with The Opposites Cheer!
Groundhog in the Hole
Put a small picture of a groundhog in the center of a yeast donut.
Happy Groundhog snacks
Ingredients for one:
portion of banana, crushed Honey Nut Chex cereal, 3 M & M’s mini chocolate candies. Slice a banana in half lengthwise; then slice the pieces in half again width-wise to make four sections. Place mini M & M’s on one end of the banana slice for a nose and eyes. Then take the cereal and sprinkle over the rest of the banana as fur.
Will You Read to Me?
Take time to enjoy a story.
Groundhog Day by Gail Gibbons
Groundhog Day by Michelle Becker
It’s Groundhog Day by Kroll & Bassett
Gretchen Groundhog It’s Your Day by Abby Lavine
Gregory’s Shadow by Don Freeman
Geoffery Groundhog Predicts the Weather by Bruce Koscielniak
Groundhog Day Book of Facts and Fun by Wendie Old
Weather Words and What They Mean by Gail Gibbons
Activities provided by:
E Resources Group
2550 Stagecoach Road
Webster City, Iowa 50595-7375
Toddling on the Wild Side was supported by REAP-CEP.