Groundhog Day Shadow Mapping

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Happy Groundhog Day! 

Legend has it that every year on February 2, a groundhog emerges from its burrow. If it sees its shadow on the snow, it will go back to sleep in its burrow because there will be six more weeks of winter. If it doesn’t see its shadow, it stays outside to await the early spring! A groundhog is another name for a woodchuck, a large rodent that can be found throughout most of Alberta. Each fall they fatten up on plants in order to maintain energy through their long winter hibernation. Try out the Shadow Mapping activity below to see which way the woodchuck’s shadow will be facing this Groundhog Day!

What you will need

  • A long stick

  • A smaller stick

  • A yard or field full of snow

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What to do

  1. Find yourself a long stick. You could go for a walk in the forest to find one, use a piece of firewood, or even a hockey stick would do!

  2. Place your stick upright in the snow in the middle of your back yard or a field nearby.

  3. Stand back to see if the stick is casting a shadow.

  4. Trace the shadow in the snow with your smaller stick.

  5. Come back every hour and trace the big stick’s shadow. Do this for a few hours.

  6. At the end of the day, admire the pattern that the stick’s shadow has made! Do you think winter will last much longer?

Ask yourself

  • What else could I use to keep track of the big stick’s shadow?

  • What makes the stick’s shadow move? What makes it change lengths?

  • How do you think the story of a groundhog seeing its shadow came to be?

Source:

Hinterland Who’s Who: Woodchuck. http://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/mammals/woodchuck.html