At Blue Mountain School, our core values are Community and Diversity, Relationships and Balance, and a Reverance for Life. So it's no wonder our students have been interested in the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
The effects of the MVP hit close to home recently when the Owls and the Basilisks learned about how our friends at The Mayapple School in Giles County had lost their woods to the pipeline. Our kids felt called to do something. While their older schoolmates were sharing songs and poems with pipeline protestors, the Owls and Basilisks started raising money to buy an apple tree.
Although one tree won't replace the forest the Mayapple students lost, it is a valuable and heartfelt symbol of our connectedness with each other, our community, and nature.
As we move farther into the process of growing our school, it is these same core values that inspire and guide us. You can follow along on this journey in a new section called
Building Blue Mountain.
Stay tuned to your email and our Facebook group for more information and pictures.
It isn't often that grow-ups take time to play games together as part of the process of learning new skills, but our staff recently had the opportunity to participate in two days of (decidedly joyful and fun) staff development led by Hub and Kate Knott and Erin 'Soupy' Campbell from
Living Earth School
in Afton, Virginia. Hub, Kate, and Soupy led our staff in learning about
, which is an approach to nature education that relies on the development of mentoring skills for adults. These skills are then modeled for and passed on to children in an almost invisible but nonetheless powerful way.
Having an opportunity to learn something that is articulated in a new way that also feels familiar and authentic is both comforting and exciting. Our staff shared stories of our own interactions with nature as children, and as we each spoke the connection to our past selves was visible and touching. We played games and tried activities that stretched us. Many of us found ourselves feeling validated in the things that we already are doing with our students to help them learn about and connect to nature, and many of us found ourselves inspired to try some new ways to do the same.
Since that weekend, we've talked at length about embracing and implementing Coyote Mentoring at BMS. Just in time for the beautiful spring! Check out the video below of us practicing one of the games we learned during our training.
This training was funded in part by the
Community Educational Resource Coalition
and in part by donations made during the 2017 GiveBig Campaign for Outdoor Education. Thank you!
There is a rich emerging science of awe that draws the connection between the experience of awe and heightened critical and creative thinking. Researchers are finding that awe is linked to an increase in social skills such as cooperation, kindness, and resource-sharing: capacities that are increasingly rare and increasingly important as the world population continues to boom and the effects of smart phones, overpopulation, global warming, pollution, and wealth disparity are felt in communities across the world more acutely.
The implications for the power of awe are profound: the more awe that we experience, the greater ability we have to improve the world and reach our full potential in it. The more people who experience awe, the greater the societal change that is possible, the more likely we are as a human species to be able to confront the factors that are causing and expediting the sixth mass extinction. In 1931, Albert Einstein wrote that, "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."
In a time when we need awe and its resulting benefits more than ever, awe is harder and harder to step into. An article in Psychology Today states that, "In an awe-deprived world where narcissism, materialism, and disconnection from the natural world and from others predominate and screens absorb many of our waking hours, moments capable of evoking awe seem somewhat diminished." This is why it is of the utmost importance to allow for the experience of awe for today's children. This is why as a teacher I try to facilitate moments of awe every day: from stopping to look closely at a large spider in its web that occupies the corner of the classroom to noticing the new maple leaves that are like pale fires on the branches to falling silent at the sound of thunder.
What is awe? The writer Jake Abrahamson says that it "happens when people encounter a vast and unexpected stimulus, something that makes them feel small and forces them to revise their mental models of what's possible in the world." Something that makes us feel small: this happens to be, almost without fail, the greater fabric of creation of which we are a part. Abrahamson says that, "In [awe's] wake, people act more generously and ethically, think more critically when encountering persuasive stimuli, like arguments and advertisements, and often feel a deeper connection to others and the world in general. Awe prompts people to redirect concern away from the self and toward everything else." Awe, then, is the avenue that leads to engagement with the world around us, to caring relationship with other beings.
Awe doesn't need to be taught. We all have an innate capacity for awe. It is deep in our tissues, already in our eyes and ears at birth. In the classroom and outside the classroom, on the trails in our woods, I simply give my students the time and space to feel moments of awe. Emma Stone writes in Psychology Today that, "The potential of harnessing awe-inducing moments to swiftly and powerfully instigate personal growth and re-orientate values is considerable." After each moment of awe passes, I know that my students are changed, that their awe has transformed them, however subtly, and will prepare them to do their best work in the world.
So many things to learn....so little time.
This time of year I often feel like time is slipping through my fingers. I can see the end of the year drawing to an end, and yet I wish that my students and I had more time to spend singing, creating, reading, and learning together.
We have been spending our precious moments doing a wide variety of things including: writing poetry, practicing the steps of the scientific method, learning and playing new outside games, practicing our songs for a special performance, as well as reading, division, and multi-digit subtraction with regrouping....the list could go on.
With the beginning of May, we also started new projects: welcoming a new rat (Nibbles) into our community, learning the myths and games of Native Americans, and creating our own myths and games. And we have been preparing for and looking forward to our end-of-the-year traditions: Project Fair, Field Day, Pet Day, Bridging Ceremony, and then saying goodbye until the next school year.
Half of the Pythons will be moving on next year to a new class and a different teacher. I am so grateful for the time I spent with these souls. They graced my days this year (and for some of them the last two and three years) and helped me learn as much as I hope I helped them learn.
The Magical Flying Basilisks spent our April settling in with teacher Tammie, enjoying our glimpses of spring, and celebrating National Poetry Month. Our celebration grew into a month long project that ended with The Magical Flying Basilisks Poetry Reading! I'm really proud of the learning and joy that grew all through our classroom and across the curricula. This has been a magical first month for me to be the Basilisks teacher! I've loved learning and growing with each of the children through this satisfying and inspiring project!
We read classic poems and children's poetry from several different genres. We created a Poem-Tree.
All the leaves on our tree represented poems we read together. I loved seeing the children's appreciation for the poems and the different poets grow. At the same time our Poem-Tree canopy grew, helping quantify the work we'd been doing. Watching our classroom walls fill with the joyful representations of our learning was deeply satisfying.
As our poetry exploration and appreciation progressed, the young poets began requesting different poets for read aloud time. We definitely enjoy the humorous poetry! Basilisks even practiced reading some of their favorite poems and performed poems for our class during read aloud time. This kind of child-initiated public speaking and literary appreciation is beautiful to see!
Our poetry reading inspired us to write different styles of poetry. We incorporated all of our senses to inspire our own writing. We played games with rhyme and rhythm, and found poetry set to music for dance for multisensory group games and a few fun dance parties!
We incorporated all the areas of learning into our poetry study. For example, we used tree inspired poems to fuel our tree identification skills.
We incorporated multisensory explorations into our poetry writing, facilitating the children's connection and expression of the smaller details.
We read, wrote, shared and reveled in all of our senses! There was dancing, singing, painting, drawing, smelling, touching, cooking, gardening and of course, reading and writing. We talked about some of the literary devices the poets used.
We especially enjoyed using similes and alliteration. I loved watching my friends reach for the dictionary as they were looking for just the right word for their own poetry!
We ended our Magical Flying Basilisk Poetry Project by inviting friends and families to our Poetry Reading! We continued to stretch our project across our curriculum with our preparations for the event. We created a promotional poster,
We made invitations for our family and friends. The next day we wrote thank you cards to friends and family thanking them for attending.
In preparing, we planned our format, and rearranged our space to accommodate our guests. We borrowed Stefi's platform to create a stage.
We planned, planted and harvested teas in our new school Tea Garden that we helped create! We included more math and science as we prepared tea and cookies and fruit for our Poetry Reading.
As I type our story, I wish now that we had called it our Poet-Tea... Alas it will have to wait until next year. I think we've started a Blue Mountain School Early Elementary tradition! If you weren't able to attend the reading, check out the video below for a little bit of poetry.
During the first week of May all across the United States, many communities took part in a screen-free week. This is an annual event that encourages families to turn off screens and "turn on life."
Many video games geared toward young children are filled with opportunities for dopamine to be released during the game. This means, as a child plays the game they receive bursts of dopamine for small achievements. Inversely, in real life, when those bursts don't come we sometimes see children with impulsive behavior and who have difficulty delaying gratification.
There is a great deal of research about the role of technology in young children's lives. Most recommendations are for less than 1 hour of screen time a day for school age children. At times, even that can seem like a lot. A good question to ask yourself is, "What would my child be doing if they weren't using a screen at this time?" Early literacy learners could be could be creating stories, drawing illustrations or building a scene from their imagination. Young scientists could be exploring, mixing or learning about their natural environment.
Sometimes, all it takes is a short hiatus to break the patterns of screen use. Whether for a day or a whole week, I encourage you to try to put away screens and "turn on life!"
Stefi Schafer & Angie Barrett
Before a weekend break, the teachers filled the media tub with potting soil and
and sunflower seeds. When the kids returned on Monday, the first tiny sprouts were peeking out of the soil. Initially there was little interest in the tiny tips of green, but a few days later, as the baby plants got a few inches tall the Inchworms took notice.
They quickly identified the grass, but the sunflower seeds took a bit of investigating. Some of the fiends thought it might be a vegetable or just another grass. The teachers pointed out how some of the seeds here still stuck to the top of the sprouts. Now the children made the connection, it was bird seed!
"We are growing bird seed!" We had been filling bird feeders with sunflower seeds all winter, and the hulls where indeed a familiar sight. A few Inchworms also remembered the name of the seeds, "Sunflowers!"
Once the plants were well established in the media tub, we added wild animals. Soon the children played out scenes from the jungle. Tigers were sneaking around to jump on the hippo, crocodiles gave rides to the baby zebra, and mama and baby giraffes grazed together.
The teachers transplanted a section of sunflower seeds from the media tub into a clear container, allowing for observation of the root systems going deep into the soil. We noticed that the young plants leaned towards the window and began building theories.
"They got planted crooked!"
"The roots are sideways, and that's why they grow this way."
We moved the container. The plants went straight for a day and then began growing in a new direction.
"They are going to the window!!!"
"The sun, it is the sun!!"
Through careful and ongoing observation, the children discovered the reason for the crooked plants all on their own.
Our next activity was to grow grass heads. Each child had a turn filling a clear cup with soil and adding grass seed. Some choose to fill the cups to the brim and add lots of seed, others carefully placed the seeds on top of their soil and covered it gently with a layer of soil. After planting, the Inchworms created faces with googly eyes to attach to their cups.
the children checked the cups on the window sill
to see if they sprouted.
We provided spray bottles with water, and the kids enjoyed spraying their grass heads and our potted plants in the classroom.
Once the grass was growing a few inches tall, we invited the Inchworms to give their heads a hair-do. Some used the scissors to cut the grass, "like when you mow the lawn" noted a few, and others wanted to tie ribbons into their grass hair.
We continued the planting and growing theme by planting pansies in our window boxes and joining the garden club to plant some veggies.
The children built on their existing knowledge about plants and constructed and explored new theories through testing and observations. They watched and waited, expanded their imaginations and learned about principles of biology. They learned about responsibility and silliness by interacting with the natural world.
We have really been getting into the partner yoga poses this past month.
There are so many benefits including deepening communication skills, getting out of one's comfort zone, supporting one's peers, deepening the stretch in poses, using creativity when creating new poses, and just enjoying the fun!
We have even done a few partner poses with the preschool class. We are working on a partner pose demonstration for parents at the end of the year, so stay tuned.
We are nearing the end of the school year with a popular medium......clay!
The kiddos ask for it every year, and thankfully our yoga teacher is a potter by trade and thus we have access to a kiln (thanks Sarah!).
Every year when we approach clay, the kids ask to make "whatever they want," and each year I am conflicted between wanting to ride that excitement and let them explore their own ideas, while also knowing that allowing the project to be completely open ended can often do just the opposite and leave some students with a lack of confidence, direction and creativity (and to be honest, often lead to a lot of television and cartoon characters).
As an art teacher, one of my aspirations is to guide students just enough to inspire the artistic process while also allowing them to tap into their own creative expressions within a project. So, each year as we begin working with clay I set a specific parameter or theme for the project, making sure to leave a lot of room for individual expression.
Last year we talked about the difference between 2-D and 3-D, and I had them make a 2-D work of art from clay, something that could hang on the wall and be viewed from one perspective, but with no specific theme.
This year, and specifically this time of year, as the buds are bursting on the trees, the birds are in full harmony, and the sun is beginning to shine longer and longer each day, I asked the students to make something (anything) inspired by Spring.
Birds, bugs, grass, plants, trees, rain, flowers, babies, eggs, being barefoot, animals, the sun, the wind, the colors.......SPRING! The possibilities are truly endless, and the inspiration is all around us......
So HAPPY SPRING - I hope you take the time to really look around and enjoy it!
The Parent's Tao Te Ching
A Quiet Place
of your children's senses
They see so much they become blind.
They hear so much they become deaf.
They taste so much they become nauseated.
They desire so much they become forever unsatisfied.
They do not come to know
that which truly satisfies.
Your Children Have Lessons to Teach
Your children have important lessons to learn,
but even more important ones to teach.
What can they teach?
How to pay complete attention.
How to play all day without tiring.
How to let one thing go,
and move on to another
with no backward glances.
How to move and sit
with no tension in the muscles,
no stress in the bones.
Thus the wise parents learns,
younger every day.
Growing a Garden
Dealing with difficult children
is like watching a garden grow.
Resist the temptation
to pull up the plants
to check on the roots.
In difficult times
children may thrive on conflict.
If you take the bait
the battle rages.
Instead step back,
and stay at your center.
Battles require two parties.
One fighting alone soon tires.
April was full of creating, practicing, and performing our skits. The tricky part about these skits was that, unlike a play, we were not just memorizing words and motions but improvising each time we performed. This enables us to explore and build the story, scenery, and our characters as we go.
For their skit, the Shiny Inchworms rewrote the book "Napping House" into the Napping Castle, complete with 4 princesses, many animals and a rainbow at the end. We learned multi-step directions, how to wait our turn while performing, moving in slow motion, and pretending to be asleep with our eyes closed.
The Golden Turquoise Swooping Owls skit was taken from "The Cat Who Loved to Sing" by Nonny Hogrogian. We made it our own by changing the setting, characters, and props, while keeping the main plot, which was a person on a quest helping and trading along the way till he finds what he wants. We learned how to use invisible props, how to wait for our cues, and how to create and develop our own characters.
Instead of one skit, the Magical Flying Basilisks, worked on 4 short skits: "Where's Jack", "Swimming", "Invisible Bench", "Do Not Touch." Instead of using an already-written story, the class picked ideas that interested them and made the performances their own with unique additionals and personalizations. The Basilisks worked super hard at integrating their invisible props and characters into their performance.
The Black, Fire-Breathing Pythons, performed 2 short skits: "Going to the Movies" and "Meatball." Like the Basilisks, the Pythons' skits were created based on original ideas or modifications of ideas we saw elsewhere. We also decided to share two of the games we play to get warmed up: "Zap Game" and "Wanna buy a duck?" We practiced stage presence, awareness of ourselves and others, and attention to cues as well as memory, improvisation, and cooperation. Click the link below to watch "Meatball."
The Burritos, wrote and performed "The Bus Skit." This skit had a basic story to start with, but the characters developed as we practiced. There wasn't a set script, and we never performed the skit the same way twice. I am very proud of the students' character development, patience, confidence, bravery, and their improv skills that they have shown throughout this project. It is not easy to stay in character or keep true to your character no matter what happens around you!
As we wrap up the school year, each class is working on a video project, which we hope to be able to share with you at the Project Fair!
Thank you to everyone who donated during our recent GiveBig campaign to help Build Blue Mountain! It isn't easy to see yet, but we've been working hard the last month and a half. Here are some of our accomplishments so far:
- Formed Building Committee and began meeting regularly
- Assessed school needs and current facilities
- Met with bank to discuss funding
- Determined and mapped legal borders of property
- Explored requirements including building codes, Department of Social Services requirements, and NAEYC recommendations
- Assessed septic system and began planning required upgrades
- Assessed parking needs and began plan to improve parking accessibility and safety
- Developed initial site plan for building based on needs and available resources
- Shared site plan with staff to gather feedback and make revisions
Keep your eyes open for a peek at the finished site plan soon!
We hope you enjoyed reading the Indigo Messenger.
Be sure to it to anyone you think may be interested.
The folks at
May 23: Project Fair & Open House (6:00 to 8:00)
May 28: Memorial Day - No School
May 29: Field Day
May 31: Pet Day (2:45 to 3:30)
June 1: Make Up Day
June 7: End-of-Year Celebration (1:00 to 4:00)
Be sure to turn in your registration forms and fees for the 2018-19 school year! Also, scholarship forms are due June 15th.
Board of Trustees
The Board of Trustees meets regularly in the enrichment room. The public is welcome to attend. If you would like to learn more about the Board, please contact the office.
Linda Adams, Nancy Agee, Jason Anderson & Cassie Wilson, Corey & Brecc Avellar, Sue Avellar, Ellie Avellar, Bob Avellar, Maggie Avellar, Angie & Chris Barrett, Judd & Gloria Barrett, Ellen & Roy Branham, Claude Breithaupt & Lori Klein, Kathleen Brennan, Adam Bresa & Darbi Jewell, Aja Buhler & BJ Harris, Shirleyann Burgess, Cheryl & Chris Carter, Craig Carter, CERC, Robert & Loraine Coker, Jayne Crouse, Lore Deighan & Justin Grimes, Shelly Fox & Justin Miller, Linda Fox, Mads Fox Emmett, Tom & Jody Franko, Kaitlyn Gonzalez, Debra & Larry Grimes, Bob Grubel, Ann Hammond, Jim Hammond, Jennifer & Perrin Heartway, Susan Icove & David Lander, Cindy Kennedy, Charles Lang, Michael Maslaney, Sarah McCarthy & Jagadisha, Lily Miller, Miller Transport, Katie Phillips, Kristan & Barry Robinson, Rick & Nancy Parrish, Shanti & Kelly Posadas, Elisha & Jamie Reygle, Ann Mary Roberts, Ashera Rose & Luke Staengl, Tammie Sarver & Eric Wolf, Stefi Schafer, Shelly & Greg Sherman, Bob & Susan Sisk, Albert Skipper, Stephanie Smith, Pat Stroud & John Wilson, Martha Sullivan, Linda & Arthur Swers, Amy Talley, Carol & Andrew Volker, Diane Volker, Lynn & Carl Whitaker, and Terrie Wood and Neave, Rowan, Seyda, Layla, Alonzo, Milo, Ari, Cedar, Wren, Pippi, Harvest, June, Molly, Gabriel, Reuben, Jeremiah, Eva Rose, Bailey, Kostya and Anya
for donating on GiveBig Day.
The Community Foundation for the New River Valley
for organizing GiveBigNRV Day.
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.