There is something just silly about Groundhog Day! Every year on a freezing February 2nd, thousands of people come together in a town called Punxsutawney (PUNK-suh-taw-nee) to see “Punxsutawney Phil,” the famous groundhog who is addressed as “King of the Groundhogs, Seers of Seers, Sage of Sages.” They watch Phil come out of his winter hybernation, and if he sees his shadow, it means there will be six more weeks of winter. We know the result because an official holds Phil close to his ear to listen to what the groundhog has to say about the coming weather. It sounds like fiction, doesn’t it? It’s all pretend, and that’s why kids are fascinated by Groundhog Day.
This year, February 2nd falls on a Saturday, so we celebrated Groundhog Day on Friday at my son’s classroom, with a picture book, poems, and food, of course.
There are several entertaining and educational picture books about Groundhog Day, some more factual (The Groundhog Day Book of Facts and Fun), others more story driven (Go to Sleep, GroundHog!, Groundhog Weather School). I chose GroundHog Day by Gail Gibbons for the class group reading activity. It’s very informative while at the same time perfect for short attention spans.
I decided on bear-shaped cookies for my “food installation,” because bears are hybernating animals that were historically watched in Europe for weather prediction. And because the only other cookie options were lions and zebras! Someone needs to invent groundhog-shaped cookies!
I’ll rather make treats from scrach with good and fresh ingredients, it’s better for you and surprisingly cheaper. But for allergy and sanitation purposes, some school regulations allow only store-bought items for classroom treats. So, as much as possible, I try to avoid food labels with long lists of ingredients I don’t understand or can’t even pronouce. I was impressed by the frosting we used to represents the snow, as it’s made with organic palm oil, sea salt, marshmallow flavoring, sugar, and that’s it!
We made a sweet treat since the activity was scheduled just after lunch. For a morning activity, a savory option could include bread slices with texture to simulate the ground such as whole wheet or multigrain, topped with cream cheese, animal-shaped cheese or graham crackers, chopped raisins, grated white cheese or grated white or dark chocolate.
Unlike we humans who tend to crave and eat comfort food and sweet desserts more during the dark and introverted cold seasons, groundhogs eat heartily during the summer to make body fat for the winter they’ll spend in deep sleep. That said, groundhogs still wake and visit their underground “pantry” for a little snack about 10 times each winter.
Punxsutawney Phil made the wrong prediction last year. This morning, he came out of his burrow and predicted an early spring. I hope he is right!