Are you ready to Give Big?
Each year, Blue Mountain School joins together with dozens of fellow non-profit organizations under the organization of the Community Foundation for the New River Valley to encourage our community to support the great work we are doing.
This year, our focus is on making sure No Child Is Left Inside in Floyd and surrounding counties.
As a new member of the Virginia No Child Left Inside Coalition, Blue Mountain is working to improve and expand its nature-based learning experiences for area children.
How can you help?
- Schedule a donation to BMS on April 26 or if you'd prefer to donate by cash or check, email your pledge amount so we can include it on the Give Big web page.
- Join us for our Give Big Giving Day Event on April 26 and help us spruce up our camps.
Stay tuned to your email and our Facebook group for more information and pictures.
The True Story of Blue Mountain School's Stone Soup
Once upon a time, there was a small school that didn't have very much money. At 35 years old, the school's buildings were aging, and its parking lot and driveway were muddy and needed attention. Everywhere you looked, there were projects that would keep a handy-man busy for a long time.
But what this school lacked in money, it possessed abundantly in the form supportive families and a supportive community. The school was also filled with happy, growing children, and the school's teachers loved their jobs, even though they were never going to become rich working there. This school even had its very own school cat named Luna, whose playful spirit made everyone smile.
One day in early spring, this school was welcoming new and returning families with an open house and spring celebration. As the school was planning for the celebration, the list of tasks to be accomplished and food to make and activities to coordinate grew and grew.
This list was the 'stone' in the soup: the thing that really started the story.
As soon as the list was made, people came forward to help. They kept coming, and kept coming! "We will rebuild the stairs," said parents Claude Breithaupt, Jason Tueller, and David Grimsley.
And then there was the food! Community member Barb Gillespie donated many loaves of delicious Grateful Bread, and parent Agatha Grimsley contributed the perfect desserts. Teacher Jenni Heartway helped the Rainbow Jellybean Wormsnakes cut vegetables and fruit and made fresh butter from cream.
"We will plant the flowers and work on landscaping," parent Tim Da'Mes and teacher Corey Avellar agreed. Fixing the play structure and working on other maintenance projects was how parents BJ Harris and Aja Bueller contributed. Parent Enone Mellowspring helped to get the materials for a new school garden project.
Teacher Shelly Sherman helped the Golden Black Koalas make fruit salad, and teacher Holly Haworth made a delicious special soup to share while the Lunas cleaned their room and prepared an origami activity for their guests. Even the littlest of our students pitched in; teachers Stefi Schafer and Tammie Sarver-Wolf helped the Flying Rainbow Turtles make yummy soups for everyone to enjoy. Families from every class contributed by donating vegetables and other ingredients for the meal.
This was the 'soup': the part where everyone contributed with generous spirits.
The evening of the celebration, the school was sparkling from all of the work that had been done on its buildings and grounds. Everything was beautiful, and there was food in great abundance. The school seemed to glow!
As the evening came to a close, families headed home feeling happy and connected, bellies and hearts full. Having experienced the wonder and power of community in making big things happen with ease, Blue Mountain School knew it could look forward to many more years of holding happy, growing kids.
And that is the True Story of Blue Mountain School Stone Soup.
The creation of art inspires the creation of more art. This is the idea behind our weekly ekphrasis practice. In this practice, I project a painting on the wall, and students spend a minute in silence with the painting, taking it in. When I ring the bell, everyone picks up their pens and begin to write. Their free-writing takes the form of haikus and prose-poems, or just stream-of-consciousness. The idea is that the experience of visual art can unlock certain thoughts and emotions that fuel our writing. This is a tool used by poets and writers since the beginning of the written word. It is also a way to engage with the minds of other artists throughout time and across cultures, which enriches our own perspectives and reminds us that we are part of a long lineage of creation and a larger conversation. It emphasizes the interdependence and intersubjectivity of our creative work, rather than upholding the fantasy of a completely individual creative self.
Through this practice, students have had first-hand, personal experiences of works of art by artists like Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Henri Rousseau. After students have written and shared their ekphrasis work with one another, I teach them some about the lives and creative processes of the artists. We learn how those individuals were able to create the space in their own unique and complex lives (as all lives are unique and complex) for their true expressions to unfold. A common theme that we have encountered in the lives of the artists is the resistance--financial, societal, and otherwise--that they came up against and how they pursued a vision in tension with that resistance. In many cases, in fact, it seems that it was that very struggle that drove the artists' creations. We are learning that acts of creation always happen within the given limitations of our lives, and in that way achieve a sort of transcendence, beyond limitations.
Here are a few of the students' ekphrasis works.
Kahlo's "Roots," 1923
An ocean of sand and caverns, caverns twisting and turning like rivers or an anthill. Blood going through your veins, connecting you like a plant to the earth. Mountains growing up and rising up like hands reaching out and grasping something. Plants growing, grasping something. Plants growing through the body like a hand slipping into a puppet and making it flow with life and emotion. Just the simplest of movements can change one's emotion, yet their true feeling is inside their heart. A gown of plants, plants like silk, connecting you to all other plants and to the earth.
Endless desert going to the horizon, the desert that only brings dryness and dehydration but a beacon of hope filled with trees and nice people in the middle of the dry wasteland. Cracks, fissures, animals peering out their nice homes, underground shapes long forgotten underneath, the mass pressure of the sky so colorful and the desert seems brown but if you look closely you'll see small bits of every color.
Vines of life seeping into her soul. Colors blooming, emotions flowing. Sleep or is it rest, rest or is it peace and tranquility, life such a strong thing taken for granted, life taken any minute at any time. Happiness is a silly thing, laughing so much you cry. You cry tears of joy.
On O'Keeffe's "Gray Line with Black, Blue, and Yellow," 1923
A stream of colors flows beside a bed of flowers, the stream turns this way and that, marking everything in its path glow radiant with joy. It's like a hallway you're about to walk down and then be led up a rainbow. It's like a cloak wrapped around the sun, making an eternal warmth you can always pull out to remind you of happiness. The blanket of the universe is protecting everything in its warmth.
People are dancing
worshipping a green flame
On Pollock's "No. 16," 1950
Lines going along roads of red; yellow and black: the history of ancient cultures embedded deep within its lines of black and red. History seeping out of every crevice, every line. Yellow, black, and green. Letters spilling ancient words of history. Culture jumping ou
t at you like a predator on its prey. Warriors going to battle with swords made of their civilization.
The bleeding of colors sinking into my soul, I feel as if I am chosen to take one of these paths but which one do I choose? Do I take the red path to love? The olive path to life? Or the black path to nothing? Which do I choose to go towards? All these colors bombard each other like fighting bulls trying to get as much space as possible, each color colliding with the next.
On Rothko's "Orange and Yellow," 1956
Thinking, not knowing, thinking.
Perceiving, not judging, perceiving. Understanding, simply understanding. Give in to the warmth. Give in to the light. Expanding, stretching, living.
Red, yellow, orange. Those are the colors you think you see, somebody else may say it's lemon, carrot, or beet . Lines that form the letter "H." Colors that form shapes like squares. It looks like this piece of art is happy. The creator poured his feeling into this piece of art and when one truly looks at it they don't see it with their eyes but with their heart. The letter it forms can stand for anything but only when you look at it will it truly mean anything.
On Rousseau's "Exotic Landscape, Fight Between Gorilla and Indian," 1910
The eclipse realm. Hidden in between everything. In between the lines of words. The seeds of a dandelion puff that are sent off on a journey with a wish to make come true. In between each sound that each wind chime on earth makes. In between beautiful things, making more beautiful things. All you have to do to see those beautiful things that are made is find the invisible ink between words that are written: these words, all words, no words.
Flowers growing out of sunbaked earth. The same earth where people dance a dance of sorrow, of sun, of freedom. Freedom to explore the jungle, the jungle that goes until it hits the horizon and above the jungle is the blue sky with birds. Birds of prey, birds that hunt birds, that sing for their lost ones who have been killed by the humans. But excitement overcomes them and they go to watch the struggle between two animals, both struggling to stay alive, only one can in the jungle. They've been fighting for a long time, so long the sun is red in the sky that is no longer blue but yellowish with some white splotches that contrast with the orange flower below on the sunbaked earth.
reverence for life
is a value that is instilled by witnessing the beauty and wonder of the natural world. Last September the Golden Black Koalas watched as the monarch caterpillars in their classroom went through the process of metamorphosis. It was a magical production. Now they are witnessing the metamorphosis of tadpoles and salamanders. It is still a bit of a mystery as to what type of amphibians will emerge, and that has made the process that much more exciting!
Speaking of exciting...Did you know that the state bird of Alaska is the willow ptarmigan? Or that the state insect of Virginia is the tiger swallowtail? We learned these interesting facts and many more through our state research project. Students wrote letters to a state of their choice and received information that, along with their own research, they used to create a poster which they presented to the class on "State Fair Day"
Another learning adventure we all experienced is that our Creativity Lab gave birth to a Rube Goldberg project. The Koalas put on their engineering caps and worked to create machines that would be a continued chain reaction. They could use anything in the lab or the room to fuel their machines. Tubes, ramps, dominoes, drums, spools and so much more were set up, knocked down, and tweaked over and over again to get the much desired results. It was harder than it sounds. Watching the Koalas flex their "keep on trying" muscles was a proud and wonderful thing.
In the weeks to come, we are looking forward to getting out into the woods and exploring all that spring has to offer!
Stefi Schafer & Tammie Sarver
The Flying Rainbow Turtles have been soaring into enjoying these beautiful spring days! As it's warmed up, we've all been happy to be able to bring Haven outside onto the playground-especially Haven!
It has been a fun learning journey to try different safe and respectful ways to mark our well camouflaged friend when he is outside with us so that he is more visible and we can keep him safe.
Friends have helped make flags and leashes (that fit around his carapace), but I think our favorite is when he wears a balloon from Slaughters!!
He's a tortoise with a thirst for adventure! He frequently heads into the woods for a tortoise hike. Maybe we'll let him lead our classroom on a hike . . .
Our Flying Rainbow Turtle community has embraced our name and jumped in to deeply explore the rainbow, color spectrum, color mixing, hues and value.
We have used our creativity, our critical thinking, and our science know-how to learn about primary and secondary colors.
We've created a rainbow in our science area, and we'll eventually be mixing it all up to create our own, custom made paint colors as part of our project.
We had a special guest recently. We invited Stefi's friend Dianato come to visit our group time. Diana grew up speaking sign language. She told us stories about growing up, her school and she taught us many new words including the signs for colors.
In all our classes, we have been
learning new names for PEACE in different languages. Sometimes we repeat the new word lots as we spread peace from our two palms to different parts of our bodies in the beginning of class: tummy, legs, shoulders, cheeks, nose, toes...
We have played diversity games to get to know each other and learn that we all look a little different, like different foods, like different things, and learn we have lots of similarities too. We play a movement game where we run, jump, turn around in circles, do crab pose up and down each mat, do warrior pose, etc if we answer yes to different questions: Jump if you like spiders, lift your knee high if you are wearing red, spin in circles if you feel shy today, Run around your mat if you like broccoli. We take time out to pause between questions and notice what our peers are doing so we can become better listeners and get to know them a little better.
We read and learned about a few native American tribes and learned about the thanksgiving address that the Iriqouis and other tribes recite to give thanks to all things that sustain us. During Savasana we listened to stories and music from Yona Nighthawk, a Cherokee elder, from North Carolina.
How do you say Peace in other languages?
Paz - Spanish Sula - Afganistan ( Pusto)
Yoruba - Nigeria Hetep - Egypt
Lafi - Ghana Lumana - Nigeria ( Hausa)
FIELD TRIP DAY!!!!!
We had a fun-filled, art-packed field trip to both the Floyd Center for the Arts and local artist Charlie Brouwer's studio and sculpture trail in just one day!
At the Floyd Center for the Arts all four classes from BMS (over 40 kids!) were welcomed in and offered three different programs. We divided the students into three groups and each one got a chance to make cute little creatures in the ceramic studio,
practice observational drawing in the classroom studio,
and participate in an art scavenger hunt in the Hayloft Gallery.
The kids also got the opportunity see their artwork hanging in the center, an exhibit of masks and self-portraits which had been on display the previous two months in the Breezeway Gallery. AND as a little bonus surprise, the students were invited in to watch a demonstration on glass torch work!
Thank you Floyd Center for the Arts for having us!!!
After lunch at the Center, the pre-schoolers packed up and headed back to school for rest-and-read, and the older three classes loaded up and headed "Out There."
That is the name of Charlie Brouwer's sculpture trail, and it really is way out there, down gravel roads, through thick forests out in Willis. Out There the student split into two groups which alternated between getting a personal studio tour with the artist,
and walking his outdoor sculpture tail through fields and woods,
viewing around 25 large wood sculptures.
I recommend that anyone who has not gotten a chance to visit this incredible place, look it up and go Out There, as the artist welcomes anyone by appointment or during his open studio times, to come and visit. For more information check out his
Thank you to Charlie Brouwer for opening his home and land to us!!
Our mindfulness practice is ongoing: deep listening during check-ins, mindful breathing with chi kung, and silent sitting meditation. All this helps us to be in the present moment.
With the accompaniment of my tampura and harmonium, we sang om and simple chants in various melodies. How profound, the silence after immersing oneself in pure sound.
On the snow makeup day, we had mindful "Tea and Cookies." This is a sight to be seen:
children of all ages
waiting for all to be served
before a drop or crumb have touched the lip
As our practice is ongoing, I always encourage each student to be sincere in their practice and develop well. This is a skill for a lifetime and more.
We have worked on a number of activities building up to performing our plays, including mime acting,
process drama, and playback. Stay tuned for Dates of your child's play. I thought I would explain some of these elements of our Drama class.
What is Mime
A mime or mime artist is a person who uses mime as a theatrical medium or as a
, involving miming, or the acting out a story through body motions, without use of
Why Use Mime?
Sometimes a student can get caught up in the words of acting and the nuance of speech and forget about the body language that needs to accompany the words. Students need to become comfortable with expressing themselves and telling a story through the use of their bodies and actions. Mime exercises and games are great, fun, and safe feeling way to work on these skills.
What is Improvisation?
What are Plays?
Improvisation is a kind of activity done without preparation. In improvisation, students must create a scene, speak, act, react, and move without preparing. The decisions for what to say or do are made on the spot.
What is Process Drama?
As opposed to the traditional idea of drama, which results in an end performance, process drama is performed for the sake of the act of doing it--not for an audience, not for a production, and it doesn't need to be rehearsed. The audience can simply be the performers themselves. In process drama, the importance is working through a problem, and seeing it from many perspectives.
Why Use Process Drama?
Process drama allows the participants to experience a topic from many perspectives--to dig deep into meanings and feelings. It creates an atmosphere of exploration. Because the end product is not the focus, students work at every moment to produce to the best of their ability. In this way, process drama can be seen as more meaningful, productive, and well-rounded.
Similar to improvisation, participants are given a context: place, problem, and character. However, in plays, the script (what they say) is partially or totally pre-determined. In plays, students are assigned a character, and they must plan or read the lines of the character and dramatize the actions. In plays, students must listen to their partners in order to know when it is their turn. Although listening is not as necessary in a play as it is in improvisation, students still must know when it is their turn to speak.
Why Use Plays?
When students are asked to take a role in a play, they can imagine and plan how to act in situations. for which they do not yet have the experience. It gives them the chance to recite the same lines repeatedly, giving them the opportunity to practice pronunciation, volume control, adding expression, intonation, speed, and movement/blocking. Students can read for the main idea, read for details, read to write a different ending, read to understand character's motivations, among other purposes.
Press Corps, Forest Explorers, and
Bonsai & Nada Yoga
Finally we studied one composition in Raga Malkons and Tal Dadra.
Press Corps with Tammie
The Blue Mountain School Press Corps has just published its March edition and is hard at work on the April edition.
Press Corps has grown into an enthusiastic team of committed writers, comics, researchers and artists. We're growing our editing skills and frequently work in small groups to collaborate on projects. Press Corps members collaborate on what articles should be in each edition and each member works hard contributing to the BMS times.
We're looking forward to guest speakers coming from the
to further inspire us. Press Corps is a bright spot in my day, and I love getting to spend time with Blue Mountain School students from all classes, interests and developmental levels!
Forest Explorers with Jenni
I had such a great time during Forest Explorers! It was wonderful to work with the older students and try our hands at some advanced survival skills.
Each time we met we started with our Knot of the Day. This was, at times, the most rewarding and the most challenging part of our day.
During our first week we learned about orienteering. We worked with compasses, pacing, and maps. One of our favorite activities involved putting our heads in boxes so we could only see our compasses and following directions from our friends.
We then created survival shelters. The students took many things into consideration when building their forts, and we all had the goal of creating shelters that wouldn't leak. That proved to be very challenging!
We also spent time at the creek assessing the health of our stream. By studying the macro invertebrates present, you can tell how clean the water and usually the land around it is. We are happy to report that our creek is very healthy!
We ended our time together with 1-match fires. This was very exciting for all of us, and we had several successful fires!
Bonsai & Nada Yoga with Jagadisha
During the winter months we studied Nada Yoga (science of sound). We learned the rhythm cycles of 4 beats and 6 beat, and various musical scales with breath control.
As spring has come, we are returning to bonsai. We are researching materials and costs, and soon will be making some clay pots for accent plants to accompany our future bonsai.
At some point parent involvement will be necessary for this project to be successful, so please feel free to ask where you might be helpful.
We have been joking that this session of Forest Kindergarten could really be called Extreme Forest kindergarten. At the beginning of our time together we shared a proverb with the enrolled families, "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. "
The weather intended to prove us wrong.
In the first month we've had unexpected downpours, 20 degree mornings and strong, bitter winds. Each week has brought a new weather surprise!
Luckily, we have also been able to discover new cozy nooks (on that chilly, windy day), over 40 Red Efts (because of the rain), and a very hidden, deep, mud hole in the creek (also due to the rain)! We have enjoyed seeing the smiles on our friends' faces during these wonder filled moments. What a wonderful time to be outside!
We hope you enjoyed reading the Indigo Messenger.
Be sure to it to anyone you think may be interested.
The folks at
Give Big Day
Snow Make Up Day
We have already had a few tick sightings this year. Please be sure to check your children for these pests daily.
Board of Trustees
The next meeting of the Board of Trustees is Wednesday, May 10, at 6:00 in the enrichment room. The public is welcome to attend.
for donating a scholarship for the Tinkering to Treasures Summer Camp.
SolShine Energy Alternatives
for donating a Mindfulness Card Game to the Rainbow Jellybean Wormsnakes.
for donating to our Field Trip Fund, donating wooden toy houses for the Flying Rainbow Turtles, and for delivering soil and mulch to the school for our garden.
for helping unload mulch.
BJ Harris and Aja Bueller
for fixing lots of things around school.
for sharing her story with the Flying Rainbow Turtles and teaching them some sign language.
who helped drive for field trips.
, for teaching the Lunas about herpetology.
for donating grow bags.
Buffalo Mountain Kombucha
for donating coupons for our egg hunt.
for donating bread for our Spring Celebration Soup Dinner.
for donating a helium balloon to help us keep track of Haven on the playground.
for donating classroom supplies.
Floyd Center for the Arts
for inviting us for a field trip
Perrin & Jenni Heartway
for donating fencing for our garden.
Shopping on Amazon?
We encourage everyone to support local businesses whenever you can. However, if you find yourself shopping on Amazon, please use the link below, and a portion of your purchase will go into our scholarship fund.
With all the wonderful and farm fresh food in Floyd, it's hard to imagine spending much time in Kroger, but if you find yourself there, please help the school earn a little extra for the scholarship fund.
Link your Kroger Card to BMS with the
Community Rewards Program
. Our Organization Number is 84005.