Volume 12, Issue 5 ~ January 29-February 4, 2004

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photo courtesy of www.groundhog.org.
The Inner Circle, Punxsutawney Phil’s fan club, greets him on Feb. 2 year after year.
Not Just for Kids

Waiting for Phil
by Martha Blume

Since 1887, members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club in Pennsylvania have watched and waited on Gobbler’s Knob on February 2 for Punxsutawney Phil, the local and esteemed groundhog, to make his appearance. Why? To find out if spring is on its way or if there will be six more weeks of winter.

Some say the tradition came to us with the Puritans from England, whose weather predictor was the hedge hog. Others trace it to Europe, where Germans looked for the appearance of a badger on Candlemas Day. They even made up this rhyme, “For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day, so far will the snow swirl until the May.” According to this theory, Pennsylvania Dutch brought the tradition with them to America.

One culture or the other — or, perhaps, both — transferred the job to the native groundhog. If the groundhog appears and sees his shadow, he runs fearfully back into his hole and burrows in for six more weeks of winter.

Punxsutawney Phil is a real celebrity. He’s met governors and presidents and even appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show. He has his own club, the Inner Circle, which, along with some 30,000 others, greets him every February 2.

Special guests are babies born on groundhog day, among them Benjamin Litkowski, who spent his first birthday, February 2, 2003, with Punxsutawney Phil.

Word Attraction

The word groundhog is as American as apple pie, coming straight from the mouths of early settlers, who saw the fat North American mammal burrow into the ground to hibernate every winter. But one name isn’t enough for this furry native. Other names are woodchuck, which is an English way of saying the chuck’s Algonquinian name ockqutchaun. The little hog is also called whistle pig by people living in the Appalachian mountain region.

Shadows are fun to play with, even if you’re not a groundhog. Try this shadow art.

You’ll need a sunny day, crayons or colored chalk, a big piece of paper, and something with an interesting shape that fits easily on your paper and won’t blow away. It is best to do this activity in the morning or in the afternoon, but not right at noontime, when the sun is directly overhead. You won’t find shadows then. Why?

1. Go outside and find a sunny place where you can easily see shadows.

2. Lay the paper down and put something on the corners to keep it from blowing.

3. Put your object in the middle of the paper.

4. Use your crayons or chalk to trace the object’s shadow. How is the shadow like the object? How is it different?

5. Leave the object in place for 20 minutes. Then, using a different color, trace the object’s shadow again. Has the shadow moved? Has its shape changed?

6. Keep tracing the shadow every 20 minutes, using a different color each time. What do you notice about the way the shadow’s shape keeps changing? Why is it changing

Kids’ Stuff This Week

Thursday, January 29
Become a Nature Detective
Ages 6-12–Hunt for clues like tracks in the snow or mud, and learn how rabbits, birds, squirrels and even a fox spend the winter. 1-3pm (Anne Arundel Schools closed). Meet at Tawes State Office Building lobby, Downtown Annapolis. $5; rsvp: 410/260-8189.

Saturday, January 31
A World of Blue Crabs
Ages 5-8-Try using pincers, learn to measure keepers and visit art, musings and creative writing by kindergarten classes from Chesapeake Academy at this exhibit of Callinectes Sapidus (beautiful swimmers). 2:30pm @ Chesapeake Children’s Museum, Silopanna Rd., Annapolis; $6 w/discounts: 410/990-1993 • www.theccm.org.

Boot Camp for Kids
Up to 12 years old-Learn how sailors train at the Naval Academy. March to Halsey Field House for training then to the original armory of the Academy, Dahlgren Hall for lunch and ice skating (who said life was hard for the Mids?). 11:15am -2:15 pm @ Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center, USNA, Annapolis. $30; rsvp: 410/263-6933 • jopp@usna.edu.

Wednesday, February 4
Prepare for History Day
Students planning to be part of Anne Arundel County’s History Day Competition in March come and learn to create an exhibit display. Art teachers will teach students design, art mounting, text and labels on exhibit boards. 6pm @ Meade Middle School, 26th St., Ft. Meade. Free; rsvp: 410/222-5440.



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Last updated January 29, 2004 @ 3:15am.