Ferns and Fiddleheads – Background

Nature made ferns for pure leaves to see what she could do in that line. Henry David Thoreau

Ferns surpass other plants in the varied and graceful designs of their leaves. Like other green plants, ferns capture sunlight and turn it into energy to grow and reproduce. But, unlike many other kinds of plants, ferns do not produce flowers or seeds. Instead, they reproduce by means of spores, particles so small that they float in the air like so many specks of dust. Carried by wind and storm, the spores of ferns have reached every part of the globe; nearly every habitat on the earth, from tropical jungle to icy mountaintop, is home to some ferns.

Although there are only 10,000 species of ferns in the world, compared to 300,000 species of flowering plants, many ferns have worldwide distribution. The lovely bracken fern of our northeastern forests is also found in Britain and Europe, Asia, New Zealand, and Australia. The tropics have not only the largest number of ferns, but also the largest in size. Tree ferns can reach heights of forty feet. Even in New England, 100 different species of ferns are found, and it’s not hard to find a dozen species living within a short distance of each other. Continue reading Ferns and Fiddleheads – Background

Ferns and Fiddleheads – Activities

FOCUS:  The arrival of spring is heralded by the appearance of fuzzy spirals poking up through the soil and leaf litter – fiddleheads ready to unfurl into fern fronds. By examining similarities and differences, sorting by leaf structure and creating leaf prints, we’ll see how patterns can help us recognize and classify our common ferns. All ferns have leaves with a blade and a stem, but the many variations in leaf form, spore-bearing structures, and preferred habitat make each species unique and recognizable.

Objective: To begin to explore and ask questions about ferns and fiddleheads.

Give each child a once-cut fern frond. Ask children to draw it. What do they notice about ferns?

Materials: a variety of once-cut fern fronds; paper or journals, pencils, magnifying lenses.

Objective: To learn the parts of a fern and sort ferns into three basic groups by leaf form.

Have children work in small groups with a leader. Give each group some once-cut ferns (such as Christmas fern) to examine, pointing out the axis, blade, leaflet, stem, and roots (if present). Now give them a twice-cut and thrice-cut (lacy) fern. Continue reading Ferns and Fiddleheads – Activities

Ferns and Fiddleheads – Puppet Show

A Ferntastic Journey

Characters:  Girl, Genie, Ferns: Polypody, Christmas, Interrupted, Ostrich, Hayscented, Lady

Props: Fiddlehead – curl one end of a pipe cleaner into a spiral; magnifying lens.

Girl  Oh gee, I’ve been studying ferns all day and I just can’t tell them apart. I wish I had some genius for this kind of thing. (Genie enters) Huh? Who are you?

Genie  A genie. That’s who. You said you wanted some kind of a genie and so here I am.

Girl  But I said genius. I was talking about ferns. Continue reading Ferns and Fiddleheads – Puppet Show

Ferns and Fiddleheads – Standards


The activities in this unit help children understand the basic concepts in the Disciplinary Core Ideas listed here. You can use the following list as a guide for lesson planning. These Disciplinary Core Ideas are taken from Grade Band Endpoints in A Framework for K-12 Science Education. Additionally, our activities give children opportunities to engage in many of the Science and Engineering Practices and reflect on the Crosscutting Concepts as identified in the Next Generation Science Standards. Continue reading Ferns and Fiddleheads – Standards