Groundhog Day Lesson for Kids: History & Facts

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

Can a rodent predict the seasons? Maybe so. In this lesson, learn about the tradition of Groundhog Day and the festivities at Gobbler's Knob with Punxsutawney Phil.

A Groundhog Weatherman?

When you want to know what the weather is going to be like, you turn on the news, right? But what if the person giving the weather report wasn't a person at all, but a groundhog? Sounds crazy, I know. But every February, people all over the country tune in to see a hairy weatherman predict whether spring will arrive early or if winter will hang around for six more weeks.

On February 2nd, many of us look to a groundhog to predict whether winter will hang on or spring will be allowed to blossom.
snow on flowers

What's a Groundhog, Anyway?

Groundhogs are a type of rodent, which means they have strong upper and lower teeth that allow them to gnaw through tough materials and create burrows or deep tunnels underground. Another name for a groundhog is a woodchuck.

Centuries-Old Tradition

Each year, Groundhog Day is held on February 2. It has officially been celebrated since 1887. So how in the world did people start trusting a groundhog to predict the weather? Many people who settled Pennsylvania were from Germany. They saw lots of groundhogs hanging around, and as they watched them, they noticed that these animals were actually pretty smart. So smart, in fact, that if they crawled out from their underground burrows and saw a shadow created by the sun, they would scurry back underground and stay for six more weeks of winter.

Who is Punxsutawney Phil?

Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where the tradition started, is home to the largest Groundhog Day celebration in the United States. At a large ceremony in an area called Gobbler's Knob, Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog who makes the prediction, is brought out from his burrow every February 2nd to declare whether or not there will be six more weeks of winter.

Other cities have their own groundhogs to make weather predictions. Many of their names reflect the names or special symbols of the city. Some of these famous weather rodents include Poor Richard, Tumbleweed, and Sir Walter Wally.

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