Episode 10 +11: Balsam Traditions

“Balsam Traditions” is one of ADKX’s most beloved school programs. The superstar of the program is the balsam fir. Balsam is an evergreen tree that grows naturally in the Adirondack mountain region and other cold climate areas. It’s treasured for its wonderful scent and soft needles.

Balsam is used for a wide variety of purposes. It is logged for use in papermaking and light construction. Campers of the past used to use balsam boughs to make a bed in lean-tos and tents. The needles are used in souvenir pillows. Its asymmetrical design makes it a popular choice as a Christmas tree. The resin has been used in the past in medicines.

Join us for an episode in two parts about our superstar conifer—the balsam fir.

Souvenir pillow (1982.024.0001)

A lean-to with a balsam bed, c. 1890 (P020134)

Part One:

Part Two:

Header Image: Logging spruce and balsam for use in paper making and construction, c. 1900 (P008164)

Connecting To Curriculum

Read-aloud – Students can follow along while listening. Download a copy of the transcripts here Episode 1 or Episode 2.

Vocabulary – Explore new words. Students listen to high level vocabulary in context. Have them find words in our Word Search. Click here for the vocabulary page.

Reading & Writing. A Balsam bee is very much like a quilting bee. Groups of people come together to work on completing a project. At a balsam bee souvenir balsam pillows are created. Students can learn more about quilting bees by reading The Quilting Bee by Gail Gibbons.

Science – Take students on a hunt for balsam trees. Tree identification can be difficult. Make sure you take students to an area that has a few different conifer trees, including balsam. Then, use our ID guide to find the balsam fir. Click here for the tree ID guide.


Higher grade level students may want to explore some topics in more depth.

  1. Evergreen cones are a perfect example of how the Fibonacci numbers are expressed in nature. Students can explore this fascinating number sequence that is found all around us.


PBS Learning Media here or here.

list of books about the Fibonacci sequence.