Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Groundhog Day: Interdisciplinary Lessons

Source: Visual.ly-Groundhog Day
You always know what season it is when you walk through most schools around the country. They aren't much different from department stores in that respect. Since our students enjoyed looking at infographics about Halloween, we decided to change not only our bulletin boards and book displays, but also our infographics, too. The Groundhog Day infographic from Visual.ly provides a colorful overview of the data surrounding this annual event, including Punxsutawney Phil's namesake, the shadow stats, and the number of people who gather to celebrate this festival in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, every February 2.

So how much ground could a groundhog hog? Well, as it turns out, there is a lot of information to use in connection with this event that can transform geography, math, or science lessons into an engaging way for students to use maps, make predictions, calculate percentages, or look at weather changes. You might even be able to throw in a little life science to find out what the difference is between a marmot and a groundhog.

Source: National Post
The infographic Large Rodents Predict Future from the Canadian National Post uses a map of North America marked with the groundhog locations and predictions from 2011. This visualization can be used with students on a basic level to identify provinces and states or to tally the number of times the groundhog saw or didn’t see his shadow. Compare the information in this infographic with the National Climate Data Center (NCDC) maps of temperature change in February and March of the same year with older students. Have them try to identify any correlation between temperature and groundhog predictions.

The NCDC website, which is part of the government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), also provides other data on temperature fluctuations from 1988 – 2011, and the table from Wikipedia shows Groundhog Day predictions from 2008 - 2011 by the groundhog's name and location. Any of these charts make good teaching tools to reinforce the skills of understanding and reading tables for information and data.

Source: National Climate Data Center
For fun facts, the official website of Punxsutawney Phil has a history about Groundhog Day with a roster of events surrounding it. Phil has his own page on the Weather Discovery Center website as well.

Source: Groundhog Day
Who knew that Phil tweets, too? Follow the Inner Circle on Twitter. They tweet to carry on the tradition while taking care of Phil @GroundhogClub. This adds another layer to the learning by bringing in social media and pop culture. Communication and marketing techniques allow for a nice connection to teaching media literacy and the art of selling an idea. Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania stands to make quite a bit of money on tourism from this annual event that draws over 40,000 people. Heck, begining in 2010, anyone who couldn't make the event in Pennsylvania could text Phil for his prediction. Talk about marketing -- to keep up with all things groundhog, sign up for the eNewsletter. As if that's not enough, check out Phil's Facebook page and YouTube videos as well. Even Phil has a PLN!

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