As promised in the last newsletter, we'll be taking time this year to share with you glimpses into our school's past. Many people know that Blue Mountain School began in 1981 as a parent cooperative, but did you know the school's model was originally inspired by the Waldorf method? Here are some memories about those early days from one of our first teachers, Alywn Moss.
The day approached when [...] we were to open our doors to our first combined pre-school and kindergarten class and a very small first grade [...] Snack foods were in the refrigerator, and some on the counter... I think there were hooks in the hallway for children's sweaters or coats. Children-size chairs and tables were in place in the classrooms. My small lyre, called a Kinderharp, was on a shelf along with some special books of verses, rhymes, songs and stories and so on.
But were we really ready for the honor and challenge of offering to educate these lovely young beings whose parents were entrusting us to do this job? After over four years of training and practice-teaching positions, I was eager and excited to apply what I had learned and been given in my four years or more of training and internships in Waldorf schools. The importance of sensory experiences, imitation, and relationships of trust in early childhood was central in planning the kindergarten curriculum. I was deeply convinced of the value of rhythms, creative play, fantasy and imagination, art and music, and nourishing a sense of the sacredness of nature and life for the young child.
[Over the next several years] the vibrancy that had been so strong at the school's beginning remained, and our Waldorf venture made its mark in Floyd and in the region, easily surviving several moves and changes in faculty.
[..] Art, gardening, writing, crafts, languages, along with our festivals evoked joyful creative forces in the children which they shared with an intimate caring faculty. A number of parents grew in their own capacities to teach and eventually got jobs or volunteer positions at Blue Mountain even as the school evolved, eventually establishing itself in the new buildings on Route 615. Deep friendships were made, many that have lasted decades.
Reading Alwyn's description of what was important to her and the newly-formed BMS community as she opened her classroom doors back in 1981, it is notable how the values she highlights are very similar to those that we continue to model 35 years later.
Stay tuned to your email and our Facebook group for more information and pictures.
This month, we are beginning to compile the pieces of our self-study, which is the next step on our way toward becoming accredited. The self-study is intended to be a comprehensive process, so there are many pieces to it. One includes a report on BMS's philosophy and objectives--including our mission, vision, and values. It is important for us to identify and reflect on the ways that we are bringing these fundamental aspects of our school to life and to identify areas that need more attention.
We will be surveying our school community over the course of the school year to get your feedback. But first, we want to make sure everyone knows our
mission, vision, and values
. We have been working on sharing these explicitly with our students and talking about what they mean. We'll be sharing them with you, as well, over the next few months, starting with our school mission.
Blue Mountain School Mission
As a Contemplative Progressive school, we commit to providing a holistic approach to education that nurtures the mind and the heart, the rational and the creative, the physical and the spiritual. Together, the Contemplative and Progressive elements of our model honor the whole child.
The big idea underlying our mission is that education must always include a balance: alongside academics, enrichment classes will continue to be viewed as a vital part of our program. Classroom instruction time will continue to include Social Emotional Learning activities as well as more traditional subjects. Time spent outdoors will continue to be valued and protected. The idea that we are committed to this balance is significant when so many schools across the country are facing pressure to discontinue or scale back on enrichment classes, or where recess is being eliminated even for elementary students. We are fortunate to have the freedom to develop our program according to what research and experience tells us is best for kids.
Our first full month of school in the Upper Elementary classroom has flown by! The students have continued to build a strong and positive learning environment, and I have enjoyed seeing their progress as they learn to work together and help one another.
In Coyote School, we have been learning the trees in the little BMS copse of woods. The students have each chosen a tree to spend time with, making detailed drawings for their nature journal of bark, leaves, branches, silhouette, and the things that grow in and around their trees. Next in Coyote School we will begin to use dichotomous keys as tools for identification.
In poetry, we are exploring the aubade form. Aubades are songs or poems that greet the dawn. After reading many poems in this form, several students wrote their own aubades.
Sleep in Late
Waking up in the morning is sometimes great,
but only when I can wake up late.
I don't want to go to school,
when in the morning it feels cool.
I want to stay in bed and sleep,
I don't want to feel the cold floor
with my feet, but on the weekends
it feels great to stay in bed
and sleep in late.
Silent paws up the hill.
You stand still in the morning dew,
wondering what they do. As they walk,
they walk they seem to talk.
In the rising sun of the chill morning,
they walk on the wet ground
of their den, as the sun finishes
painting the Earth with light,
as the night leaves with fright.
Pretty cat, soft cat, sleeping on
a chair. Rising early in the night,
running swiftly through the air.
As the sun starts to rise, the stars
start to fall, the birds start to
chirp, but the cat sees it all.
The cat hears something ruffling
out of bed and runs to find,
a hand coming down from behind,
it picked him up and petted him
until the end of time.
I look forward to the fall season as we begin some longer learning units and projects on maps, Native America, and the Columbian Exchange.
As I reflect on this first month of school, I am so happy for the many successes we have had in our class so far. New friendships have blossomed, new routines have taken hold, new ideas are starting to flow, new skills are being learned and practiced, and the Golden-Black Koalas are becoming an awesome class community.
We started the school year with caterpillar eggs, and in September we released four monarch butterflies! There are still two caterpillars working on and in their chrysalises (complements of Wubi, Loic, and Anya). Watching this cycle of life together has been awe inspiring. One day we were even lucky enough to catch two of our caterpillars shedding their skins to become a chrysalis.
In October, we will be participating in a symbolic monarch project where we will send pictures we have drawn of our monarchs to a school in Mexico. In the spring when the monarchs return, the Mexican school will send us some pictures that they have drawn. Our symbolic monarchs will migrate just like the real ones!
October also marks the beginning of our
. Classes from all over the world each designed one piece of the monster (we designed the wings), and then each class will use each other's designs to build our own monster! We will be creating this global monster all month long and hopefully making new friends via Skype. Here is a list of ideas our class came up with for what they think our monster ought to be able to do.
How Our Monster Could Change the World
Our monster would:
Build homes for the homeless and schools for the schoolless
Build a pollution and littering sensor to catch litterbugs and pollution makers
Build an internet shield to protect our games from hackers
Build more hospitals and kid hospitals
Plant more trees and plants to help stop global warming
Turn all the bombs into water bombs
Teach people how to make better decisions to stop war
Create a gun zapper that would gather all the guns like a magnet and blow them up in outer space.
Create a gun that heals and not kills, or guns that shoot confetti, glitter and ice cream
Create an antivirus to stop all the disease like Zika and Lyme
- Get rid of GMOs
Hari Berzins & Jenni Heartway
Introducing the Rainbow Jellybean Worm Snakes! You can call us Worm Snakes for short.
September was full of community building and learning about each other. Through group projects such as counting and sorting marker lids, sharing All About Me posters, and making our ABC books, the Worm Snakes are learning math and language arts through hands-on, interactive work that helps them go deep into the learning.
We are proud of settling on a name so early in the year! The amount of negotiation and discussion inherent in this process is astounding. These young people practiced listening to one another, sharing their own ideas, responding to other's ideas, and living with ideas that they don't quite love.
This 35-year practice of naming classes at Blue Mountain School is one of the foundations of our model.
From our values:
We take responsibility for ourselves and work to develop our understanding of others. Settling on a name as a class is a powerful exercise of this BMS value.
For example, sh says "sh" like shine and shell. Students designed their own "sh" and used a push-pin to prick the outline to make it shine (a great way to strengthen that
), and then picked out beautiful shells to glue around the poster. While everyone discussed the shells they chose, they thought of other words that start with sh. Shoe. Show. Shelly. Shhhh. This interactive lesson helped the students learn through creating and discussion with peers. It's exciting to witness the learning take on a life of its own when students are free to explore a concept.
We look forward to continuing to learn more about each of the Rainbow Jellybean Worm Snakes, as we continue to listen to students present their All About Me posters in October.
Stefi Schafer & Tammie Sarver
Our sense of community, friendships, care and security have continued to grow throughout our classroom. As our community, interests have grown, we have picked our classroom name! We are the Flying Rainbow Turtles!
Our turtle identity has inspired a lot of turtle, reptile and pet curiosity. We've researched and explored turtle shell artifacts, read books and consulted with an expert. We've done turtle inspired art, and we've learned that the science word for turtle shell is a carapace and the individual tiles are called scutes.
This has been a great parallel with our magnet-tile construction as we consider different kinds of shelter, homes and building. We've seen a lot of collaboration and cooperative play as friends have used magnet-tiles to build space ships and other structures, mentored each other's building, and flown around the Flying Rainbow Turtle classroom. We've introduced STOP signs for saving important structures. This not only builds literacy and teaches respect for other's work, but also provides an opportunity for long term projects and deeper learning opportunities.
The Autumn Equinox has inspired a lot of fall and harvest exploration. We've sung songs, done finger plays and read poems. We've painted leaves in fall colors. We've explored autumnal loose parts, measured, sorted, and created with autumn gems & sticks, scales and sorting trays.
We've been on nature walks, collected nature treasures, woven golden rod into our loom and even picked apples from our neighbor's tree! We look forward to more autumnal learning and apple harvest and of course cooking and eating explorations in the coming weeks!
The Flying Turtles and the Worm Snakes have been practicing the rhythm and routine of our yoga class. We begin with an introduction sing-along song about yoga and then bow to start our class. We focus on our breathing by lying on our backs with our animal breathing buddies on our tummy. We practice diaphragmatic breathing, which is deep belly breathing through our noses. When we focus on our breath we develop concentration and calm - calm in or bodies, minds, and hearts. (If this is the one tool kids get out of my class I would be thrilled!) We then move into games practicing asanas (yoga poses), and learning about our bodies and each other too.
The Golden-Black Koalas and the upper elementary class have been doing an introduction to yoga and learning a bit about the history of yoga. We have practiced breathing, relaxation, 10 to 15 postures, and games.
In the older classes, our focus continues to be on team building activities and cooperative games. The main objective is to learn about ourselves and our classmates. By doing creative and sometimes silly movement games where we witness and listen to one another, we learn that we all have unique ways we contribute to the group. We will continue these games throughout the year.
It feels to me that school has been in session for a while, but the reality is I have only shared three art classes with the students so far. I did miss one art day, which Corey took on with gusto and joy (thanks Corey!!!), but in the Art Room, the school year is truly just beginning.
We are continuing to work on creating our classroom culture, getting to know each other, talking about our hopes for the school year, creating classroom agreements, decorating sketchbooks, and learning about materials.
We also took a fun field trip to Lineberry Park to meet with Rising Sun Community School and celebrate the International Day of Peace.
All our students worked with Corey to create a peace train that they installed at the Black Water Loft.
I am excited to finally dive into projects with each class as the seasons change, and as we become settled into our school routines. We will be transforming our classroom discussions about artwork we are interested in into reality! Stayed tuned for the next newsletter, where I will share specifics about what each class is doing!
What is Mindfulness?
We all use mindfulness in our lives. Moment by moment, we go about doing things, thinking things, and creating infinite worlds, often without awareness. When we develop awareness in the present moment, we become mindful.
Awareness offers us a choice. A choice to be distracted. A choice to stay on task. Maybe a choice to change the course of our action when things are not working out.
Bringing our awareness back to the present moment, again and again, is mindfulness.
We learn this in the arena of life where distractions are wonderful tools for helping our practice. This is what we do on "Mindful Mondays." We practice together, again and again, so that we may develop this awareness. This, I believe, is the most essential tool in life for accomplishing anything.
Perhaps this month we can keep a focus on "awareness." By ourselves, with our children, and with other family members, let's commit to becoming more aware. Listening without judgement is a good starting point. Ask me if you need help.
Here's what we will be working on in Drama this month!
Flying Rainbow Turtles
With my youngest friends, the emphasis continues to be on engaging children with drama both actively and receptively, rather than on mastery of skills and techniques. We are using drama and dramatic play to express, represent and integrate their experiences by participating in group music experiences, creative movement, dance, and drama.
Rainbow Jellybean Worm Snakes
The Worm Snakes will continue to use drama activities to practice expressing and interpreting feelings. Some skills we will work on include developing attention and concentration, working with others, and being a good audience. We will begin talking about a play we want to perform later in the year for our community.
With this group, we will be exploring different kinds of plays, how to create a play, and how to put on a play. We will begin work on creating a play of our own to share with the school, and we will use lots of games to build up our social and acting skills. We will spend some time working with pantomime, which helps students focus on their movement and body.
Our goal is to create a play that our early childhood friends are able to act in alongside this upper elementary group. The project will work on developing skills in several areas including critical thinking, problem solving, decision-making, planning, managing a project from beginning to end, and compassion for our selves and others.
It's wonderful to be back sharing music at Blue Mountain School! I have enjoyed singing and playing with the Rainbow Turtles and the Worm Snakes, and I had a blast with my husband, Michael, at the recent Harvest Celebration.
I will miss a few classes, as I head up to Toronto to record a children's album with Ken Whiteley. Ken is a world class producer of children's music, with such icons as Raffi in his resume. I can't wait to share my experiences when I am back in the classroom!
My work at BMS is made possible by a grant from
The Virginia Commission for the Arts
Press Corps, Field Guide, and
Beginner Bonsai & Nada Yoga
Our afternoon elective time is now in full swing! Each session, our elementary students will be able to choose between two classes and decide how they want to spend their afternoon period. For this session, kids chose from either the BMS Press Corps or the BMS Field Guide. Students also had a chance to sign up to work with Jagadisha one day a week for a special, year-long class. Descriptions of each elective are below.
BMS Press Corps with Tammie
During this session, students will build on the foundation already created for the newspaper in the first month of school. Each student in the Press Corps will choose subject areas--stories, interviews, comics, photographs--that they would like to feature in the paper. Visits from journalists and photographers will help to inspire and guide student's interests--the direction that the Press Corps members will go in as they create their newspaper will be child-inspired.
BMS Field Guide with Lore
Students will explore, identify, and study the plants and trees that make up the beloved and unique BMS Woods. They will be introduced to technical drawing skills and will create their own Autumn nature journals, which will then be compiled into a future BMS Field Guide that incorporates all of the seasons.
Beginning Bonsai and Nada Yoga with Jagadisha
This is a year-long opportunity for interested students to commit to learning the process of caring for Bonsai and practicing the art of Nada Yoga, which is an ancient practice involving meditation through sound and music. This group meets once a week, so students in this class will also be with one of the other groups the rest of the week.
What adventures we've had at Forest Kindergarten over the past this month!
After getting to know each other and the woods around our school, the students have started to become engaged in rich and meaningful play outdoors.
Industrious play has been a theme. Exploring, working together, and helping each other with "big" tasks has been very important to the students. They have rescued as many salamanders and newts as possible, collected wood for our fires, and tracked toads across the forest floor.
At our last class, they began a game of hide and seek that turned into a monster train, complete with whistles and train stops.
It is exciting to watch their play evolve as they spend more time together and as the seasons change.
We have one more class in this session, and our second session begins on
. If you're interested in being on our waiting list, please let
know. We may open additional spots if we have enough students!
We hope you enjoyed reading the Indigo Messenger.
Be sure to it to anyone you think may be interested.
The folks at
Oct 20: Enrichment Field Trip
Oct 21: Parent Conferences
Oct 21: Forest Kindergarten Second Session Begins
Oct 31: Halloween Celebration & Open House
BMS kids go outside in all sorts of weather, so please be sure your child is prepared! Rain boots and a rain coat will help as autumn gets into full swing, and soon it will be time for lots of layers and maybe even snow gear!
Board of Trustees
The next meeting of the Board of Trustees is Thursday, October 20, at 5:30 in the enrichment room. The public is welcome to attend.
Strengthening Our System
for allowing the Flying Rainbow Turtles to pick apples from their giant apple tree.
Seven Springs Farm
for donating apples for our Harvest Celebration.
David & Agatha Grimsley and Alan Kaplan
for bringing their cider press and making cider for our Harvest Festival.
for talking turtles with the Flying Rainbow Turtles and for popping a ton of popcorn for our Harvest Celebration.
Plenty! and Farmer Rachel
for visiting with us and sharing farm-fresh snacks during our Harvest Celebration.
for bring treats for our Harvest Celebration.
Kari & Michael Kovick
for singing with us at our Harvest Celebration.
Philip Martin, CPA,
for donating his services.
for donating books.
for hosting our Peace Train installment.
Linda Johnson and Jessica Maas
for helping in the classroom.
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.