Collectively, Lorane Kindergarteners let out squeals and sighs of delight as a big, furry rodent was projected onto Mrs. Firestone's Smartboard via Zoom. "He's so cute," erupted several of the kindergarteners all at once, to enthusiastic nods of agreement from their classmates, all of whom were wearing handcrafted hats they had colored with crayons earlier in the day.
Lorane Kindergarten, meet Punxsutawney Phil, a 138-year-old groundhog.
Or so legend says.
Cuddled up in his keeper's arms, Phil spent most of the Zoom session with Lorane (and more than 250 other schools) not realizing he was the center of attention as he slept through facts and folklore about him and his famous holiday, Groundhog Day. For instance, Phil, who is Pennsylvania's most famous groundhog, is a herbivore and loves to eat bananas most of all. He's about 10 pounds, and, if provoked, he will bite. He's "married" to another groundhog named Phyllis, and when he's not predicting how many weeks of winter we have left, he lives with her in a viewable burrow at the Punxsutawney Library where he can be visited year-round by patrons. His handlers, who are called the "Inner Circle" and wear top hats and tuxedos, delighted in sharing folklore with the students as much as facts, and shared that Phil's so-called 138-year longevity is possible because of a special elixir that's been handed down through the generations that he drinks at annual picnic. They also taught students the history of Groundhog Day, which started as a tradition from German settlers who had conducted a similar event in their homeland with hedgehogs at the halfway point of the winter solstice. When they came to Pennsylvania, they couldn't find a hedgehog, so a groundhog was the next best thing. Today, they claim that Phil has 100% accuracy with predicting whether we'll have six more weeks of winter or an early spring depending on whether or not he sees his shadow.
Inspired by Phil, kindergarteners then made their own prognostications in advance of tomorrow's big event at Gobbler's Knob in western Pennsylvania.
Their prediction? Count on an early spring!