Saturday, February 8, 2014

Nature Nuts: Groundhogs!

I'm still not sure why we perpetuate the myth of groundhogs being able to predict whether we will have more snow or not. However, it is a great time to talk about groundhogs and dispel some of the myths since so many people are talking about them. We typically do not see groundhogs unless they are of the stuffed variety like this specimen held by Krista from Elkhart County Parks. True to form, she pulled together a great program for preschoolers on the topic. She talked about many of the characteristics of the animals and their many names, like woodchuck, whistlepig, etc. She also talked about hibernation, what they do in the winter, and their underground tunnels and various rooms. Many other animals also use these areas as well. We have resident groundhogs back in our shed that like to come close to the house from time to time. I can imagine the tunnels and chambers under there!

Then the kids make a pop up groundhog puppet, with a dowel, toilet paper tubes, and knee highs.

The children also made snow ice cream for a snack with carrots on the side since groundhogs like to eat veggies. Obviously, my son approved of the snow cream and wants to make it again! We just made it during one of our cold weather days. 

Laura from Goshen Public Library brought many books about groundhogs in to share with all the boys, as it happened to only be boys for this program. The books told the history of groundhogs day and how it is celebrated today. Here is a piece on groundhogs from Indiana DNR

After puppets were dried, they used them to do a song about groundhogs. 

Pop! They peek out of the ground!

Krista set up a tunnel so the boys could imagine they were underground, just like a groundhog. My youngest really liked that! I really enjoy these Nature Nuts programs through Elkhart County Parks. There is usually a snack, craft, active fun, stories, and activities related to the topic. All are developmentally appropriate for the children and help them understand nature concepts. We typically go to most of them, but my little guy starts kindergarten next year so we just have a few left until the toddler will be old enough. 

Throughout the whole program, my 4-year-old and I really liked looking out the wildlife viewing window. This is a great way to observe nature during the winter months. There were a few very fat squirrels, lots of cardinals, house sparrows, chickadees, tufted titmice, mourning doves, and more! We love watching the different birds to see what they are doing, especially where it is nice and warm next to the fire! Several families stayed to go sledding after the program, which is a nice way to combine nature and recreation. 

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