Indigo Messenger


Welcome to the April newsletter for Blue Mountain School.


Hopefully you have received your invitation to our 30th Anniversary Reunion, which takes place in less than three weeks time. This is a big milestone for a school that started so humbly.


While still possessing plenty of the humility that helped get us here, we also have some big plans for the school. We have spent the past couple of months envisioning what this school could become 30 years from now, and we are excited by the opportunity to share our thoughts with you at the Reunion.


If you are receiving this newsletter, you must have been an integral part of getting the school to where it is now. We have also sent out hundreds of postcards and Facebook invitations to the event to people who have been important parts of the Blue Mountain School story. If you've ever had anything to do with Blue Mountain School, we thank you. You helped make all this possible: everything we've been and everything we're destined to become.


So please, if you can, come and celebrate with us on Saturday, May 19. Bring something for the potluck, dance along with Spoon Fight and Just Jake, and come and share your experiences with us. 


This last point is critical: we are compiling a book that features the experiences of people who have been involved with the school. We would love for you to share something with us as well. If you have anything you would like to add ahead of the event, please email Jamie Reygle with your contribution. And be sure to visit the Facebook event page to keep in touch with the latest developments.

And stay tuned to your email and our Facebook group for more information and pictures about activities happening with our school.

Shelly Emmett
Shelly Emmett


For many years, BMS has been a place where relationships are formed and community is strengthened. Wit this in mind, I'm looking forward to our All-School meeting on Monday, May 7th from 3:30 to 4:30. Meetings like this are a way that we can strengthen our school community by getting to know each other and by communicating with each other about the school. In appreciation for their participation, families with at least one parent attending the meeting will also receive $10 off their registration for next school year.

The agenda for this meeting includes: 
  • Moment of Silence and Welcome~Shelly (5 minutes)
  • Introduction of Board of Directors, staff, and parents~all (5 minutes)
  • Reflections on Vision and Action-planning process~Katie (5 minutes)
  • Questions about Vision and Action-planning process~Andrea and Shelly (5 minutes)
  • BMS Budget and Registration for 2012-2013 school year~Carol and Shelly (10 minutes)
  • Questions about budget and registration~Carol and Shelly (10 minutes)
  • Participation in The Parent Collective~Cassie and Shelly (5 minutes)
  • Thirtieth Anniversary celebration and reunion~Jamie (5 minutes)
  • Questions and reflections~Shelly, Carol, Katie, Andrea, Cassie, Jamie (10 minutes)

Please join us!

Purple Platypuses & Rainbow Monkeys: Sciences
Miranda Altice
Miranda Altice


Greetings Earthlings!

I would say "Happy Spring!" but I'm not sure if she's made up her mind yet. All is well either way, and we've been very busy in math, science and geography! 


In science we have moved quite smoothly from the "HUGE" stuff of outer space to the "BIG" stuff of Earth and the formation of  Earth, and now we've dwindled down to things that are so tiny, we don't even have a microscope (yet) that is strong enough to see them clearly. Atoms! And not just atoms, but subatomic particles! Everything we've been learning about so far, we want to know: what is it all made of?? Yeah, sure, a mountain is made of lots of various kinds of rock and dirt, but what are THOSE made of? Chemicals, you say? Yes, well, what are chemicals made of? Atoms? I see... well, what are atoms made of?? These are the questions that are continually being asked in science class. The Purple Platypuses are beginning to understand the real concept of chemistry by doing a number of experiments that all resort back to the chemical constituents. The students are being creatively exposed to the teeny tiny world of atoms and how they have everything to do with the periodic table of elements, the chairs we sit in, the fruit we eat, the shampoo we use, and the air we breathe.  


The middle school group is learning about atoms and are knee deep in atomic structures, atomic mass, and simple and complex elements... but not without learning about the timeline of the atomic structure through ancient reasoning and modern technology. Knowing the historical significance of a topic has proved to be pretty monumental in understanding the processes of developments in scientific knowledge. For one project we took a step-by-step sketching tour through the history of our knowledge of the atomic structure. Call me a nerd (it's ok!), but I've found this to be rather fascinating, and I love passing on this enthusiasm to my students. This is to show them that yes, Democritus may have theorized that everything could be made of tiny indestructible gray dots randomly floating around in a void, but for an ancient Greek to have figured this out through reasoning (instead of experimentation!) is pure genius. At least to have the idea made public so that a couple thousand years later we could begin actual scientific experiments on this theory that has evolved into what we know now as an electron cloud model. I feel it's important for the students to understand that all of these ideas had to start somewhere. And our theories and beliefs now could be looked upon as rather archaic in the far future, so please, don't slap your forehead over Ptolemy who thought we were the center of the solar system! We need scientists such as them to get the ball rolling.

Geography has proven to be the most popular choice of subject right now, since students in both classes seem incredibly excited about their creative processes. Every Wednesday we get together as a group and go over what the students have learned individually about their chosen continent and country, and what they have accomplished so far with their project. This gives all of the students a chance to learn from their fellow classmates and to be together as a group discussing cultures and research. Little do they realize how they are becoming quite the young anthropologists!

In math, Dawn Barnes from Virginia Cooperative Extension produced an incredibly fun math and money workshop for both the elementary and middle school classes. This workshop provided the students with real life scenarios on how to budget their pseudo-incomes.  


They were each given their own specific budget and were allowed to purchase property, cars, groceries, health insurance, clothing, and other necessities, meanwhile dealing with the "bank" and keeping their account and wallet above the negative! The middle school had more of a taste of reality when their scenarios involved taxes, children, marriage, and higher paying jobs. It was a true eye-opener for them and probably for the parents who volunteered to help out! This was such a fun workshop, and I would like to give a big hug and thank you to Cassie, Tree, Rebekah, Carol, and Elisha... our lovely volunteers. And of course a huge thank you to Dawn for volunteering her time, materials, and expertise for this project! 


Until Next Time... May the force be with you,



Purple Platypuses & Rainbow Monkeys: History
Vicky Town
Vicky Town


We have just wrapped up our latest unit. We have been studying women's history in the middle and elementary classes.


To introduce the lesson, I asked students to create characters from 1880. I gave them three candies as their "factory wages." I took away candy-wages if they were a woman, African American, married, lived at home, etc. The students were appalled to realize it was possible for a woman to work a 60-70 hour week in a factory and not keep a single penny!


We created a group collage of women's images from magazines and newspapers and discussed the messages being presented about women.


We used drama tableaus to learn the story of how the Seneca Falls Convention came about; created a time line of women's history and their achievements; learned about cause and effect in history as we traced the path of women's suffrage; read a play from the Smithsonian Institute which wove together real speeches of the time; played women's history bingo; created biography riddles; designed postal stamps of famous women and wrote persuasive essays stating why a stamp should be made to honor this person; created ghost vignettes about famous women; and heard stories about Lydia Darragh, the Quaker spy of 1777, and Wilma Rudolph, the Olympian who overcame great health issues to win three gold medals in 1960.


The older students researched women's rights in foreign countries today and shared them with the group. They also reported on the most famous women of their chosen country.


We interviewed Miss Linda, our RSVP volunteer, and learned about life for women in the 1950s and 1960s. Miss Corey spoke to the group about her great aunt, who was a suffragist, and we also discovered that Miss Lara, Eva and Jeret's mom, has a great-great-grandfather who cast one of the final votes for the 19th amendment in Tennessee in 1920.


We studied how fashion and dance reflected women's status from colonial times to the present day. In fact we had so much fun dancing that I forgot to take the pictures! We really enjoyed the Charleston!


I emailed families a small book list---but as you can see we have only touched the tip of a wonderful unit!


Next up.......a mini lesson on the Irish Potato Famine and then a unit about Children in History.


Purple Platypus & Rainbow Monkeys: English
Jonathan Vandergrift
Jonathan Vandergrift


Last week, we were very fortunate to have another guest speaker in our English class. Accomplished local author Tiffany Trent visited the Middle class and spent the morning talking with students about writing techniques and literature. From the moment she arrived, Ms. Trent shared various aspects - universal and personal -of literary writing in the publishing industry. The students also had a unique opportunity to discuss their interpretations of a couple of Ms. Trent's short stories. This led to both students and author being engaged in conversation on how each reader takes something different from the same story. The class and BMS are very appreciative of Ms. Trent's visit and extremely grateful for her generosity in sharing with the students-thank you.




Earlier this month, I decided it was time to introduce diagramming to the Elementary class. Usually, grammar is not something the students are enthusiastic about when the topic comes up. But to my astonishment, this was not the case - the students became very excited and seemed to actually enjoy diagramming simple sentences. Every so often, the students at BMS truly surprise me... pleasantly, this was one of those times.



Fire Cheetahs/Fire Kids
Corey Avellar
Corey Avellar


The Fire Cheetahs/Fire Kids went on a class trip in the fall to dig up potatoes for Plenty at Five Penny Farm. They gave us 6 potatoes to bring back with us to have for class. We did potato printing and used 3 of them in a science project. We thought it would take us a month or two to do our tests of growing potatoes; however it took 6 months. Here are our findings.

What We Know: What we learned at the farm or things we already knew. As a class, we made this list. 
  1. Potatoes grow in the ground.
  2. Potatoes grow new potatoes.
  3. Potatoes are edible.
  4. There are 1,400 kinds of potatoes.
  5. The first potatoes were eaten in the Andes Mountains in South America.
  6. The potato is not the root, but part of the stem.
  7. The little dents with bumps in the middle are called eyes.

What We Wanted to Know: We made up experiments and guessed what would happen with each.

  1. What do potato eyes do?
  2. We think maybe the roots or stems come out of them. 


  3. What will happen to the potato covered with water?
  4. We think the marker we drew around each eye will come off, or it will dissolve, or it might grow.


  5. What will happen to the potato half in water and half out of water?
  6. We think it will grow, or roots will grow under the water, or the water might soak into the whole potato and make it all grow.  


  7. What will happen to the potato that we stuck in the closet without water or light?
  8. We think it might grow, or it will just sit there, or it will rot.   

What We Learned: As a class, we made this list.  

  1. At first spiky plants grow out of the potato's eye. Then some spikes turn into the stem and some to roots. So the stem and the roots grow out of the same eye on the potato.
  2. The potato covered with water rotted, got stinky, and gross. So potatoes need air to grow.
  3. The potato half in water and half out of water did grow, but it took a long time. After a month it had only grown a tiny spike. After 6 months it had grown 9 and a half inches!

  4. The potato that we stuck in the closet without water or light grew too. We forgot about it for a long time but when we pulled it out, about 4 months later, it had a lot of white spikes growing out of both ends. It looked so cool. It kind of looked like coral you see under the sea.


  6. We took the potato that was in the dark and put it in the window with the other potato and when we came back from break all the white spikes turned green.
  7. The potato that was half in the water is harder than the one not in water. The one not in water is squishy!  


The 3-4-5s
Stefi Schafer
Stefi Schafer

Spring has come to The 3-4-5s!

For a few weeks now the children have been noticing the changes Mother Nature presents this time of year. We had some very sunny and warm days allowing us to start our day outdoors. Many of the children were convinced that it was summer already; the signs seemed clear: no jackets, lots of outside time, going barefoot, even sunscreen. This led us to further investigate spring vs summer. 


The flowers are just starting to grow, and daffodils, forsythia and some dandelions have just begun to bloom. "The leaves are baby leaves!" The pungent odor of onion grass permeated the air and soon found its way into the classroom and the bellies of the kids. We planted some flowers in our Gnome Garden (thank you, Anya!) and watched them take root and gave them water. And, the seeds we planted at the Spring Celebration in March have germinated and are now baby plants.   


I brought in some forsythia and later phlox and placed it on the art table with the appropriate paint colors so the children could deepen their understanding of flowers as they painted their own interpretations of spring blooms. Come by and see the finished art!   


We also noticed more traffic at the bird feeders and followed up by providing small bits of yarn for nesting. The children spent a lot of time cutting the long strands into little pieces. Just this week Virginia took the children to the front of the building, and there it was, a bird's nest, right by the wall of the Gnome Garden!  


There were some chilly mornings and rainy days this month. We even had snow flurries! Is it winter? In the end it was clear that spring is all around us. These are all wonderful opportunities to strengthen our observational skills, use our 5 senses, make predictions, build and test theories, and contemplate the reoccurring cycle of the seasons. Spending time in community with nature teaches the children respect for all living things and appreciation for the natural world.

Enjoy spring, rejuvenate and grow, 




Virginia Klara
Virginia Klara

Exploring the Natural World with Young'uns

This spring, from being with the 3-4-5s and other young ones at BMS, several of the identities I relate to have had to come to terms with seeing and being in the world again as a child.

While the land-use planner in me craved well thought-out pathways, our children showed me that the best way from car to school buildings was usually by the shortest route possible. Thus, multiple paths have been trod in the sod on the hill to the parking lot.

Whereas, the horticulturist in me wanted blossoms to live out their full lives for all to see in the landscape, the teacher / grandmom in me had to smile when a preschooler presented a love-offering of the few tenacious spring flowers which survived in the schoolyard.

The gardener in me has enjoyed helping the youngsters plant both seeds and transplants. With a little guidance from Stefi, Carol, and me, each child has carefully tucked annuals into the Gnome's Garden next to the preschool. Now we wait and watch tiny seeds sprout in pots near the windows in our classroom. Fortunately, some plants can survive frequent attention and even flooding.

The naturalist in me reveled in bird watching with the children. We learned to stay very still as we memorized the colors and markings of our feathered friends so that we could later learn their names. The diversity of birds and animal species we see at Blue Mountain School is partially the result of the efforts of earlier BMS families. Parents and children purchased and then planted wildlife-attracting shrubs along the edge of the pine forest some years ago when a swath of trees had to be harvested so that the buildings and playing field would get more sunlight.

Landscaper, horticulturist, gardener, naturalist --- some of the hats I have tucked under my current bonnet of teacher. What a joy to have a job where so many of one's skills and loves merge. Gracias.
Lore Deighan
Lore Deighan


Spring is upon us and if my calculations are correct, the kiddos and I only have 4 classes left together.  Yikes!  

The Rainbow Monkeys have been plugging away on their t-shirts promoting local food but with the end of the school year on the horizon we're about to switch gears and get one more sure-to-be fabulous art project going.  The t-shirts have taken up a large chunk of our time together this year, but their hard work and dedication definitely shows through in the product.  I am so proud of their ability to work together and see this project through and I imagine their hard work will pay off as the t-shirts go on sale this summer at the Floyd Farmers Market.  

Mask, mask, mask, mask we've chanted over the past few weeks in class with the Purple Platypuses.  We're practicing focusing our energy, working hard and putting some real power into these masks.  We looked at masks from around the world and discussed different uses and traditions around mask making.  Black and white has become the theme as we discuss balance and opposites coming together in harmony.  I can't wait to get a picture of all the Purple Platypuses wearing their masks together, as I hope that this project has inspired them to come together in harmony.  

Both the Fire Cheetahs and the 3-4-5s have been enjoying decorating their paper-mache balloon sculptures over the past few weeks.  The Fire Cheetahs are making self-directed "creature" sculptures, the only guidelines being that it must have eyes, a mouth and a tail.  In this class we have focused on letting projects evolve and change; as one child's paper-mache form collapsed with the moisture from paint, he saw that it took the shape of a mask and has now began working on it in that manner.  I strongly encourage "letting go" and allowing art to be a process of exploration.  

And speaking of exploration, the 3-4-5's are simply decorating their forms in whatever way suits their fancy.  I love just putting out trays of materials and letting children create in their own individual manners.  It can get a bit crazy in the art room with all that excited 3-4-5 energy but I love to foster that pure creative exploration.



Well, I guess it's about time to start cleaning out the art room. It's become a work of art itself with all these projects up on the walls, hanging from the ceiling and piled up on every surface.  I am happy to walk into a work of art every Monday morning, and if you haven't poked your head in lately, please do.

Happy Spring!!

Service Learning
Jamie Reygle
Jamie Reygle


Just three weeks until we go to Washington DC!


The great news is that the students reached their $2500 target with the Yard Sale. This isn't stopping them, though. When we originally came up with this figure, we thought we'd be staying at various people's houses around DC. Since then, we decided it would be far wiser to book some accommodation. This is costing us around $1200, so we need to continue our focus on raising money for the trip.


There are three more tasty fundraisers to come:

We'd love to see you at all of them!

Meanwhile, the Fire Cheetahs and 3-4-5s have been focusing on helping people feel better. They made three gift baskets for sick people (one for a boy, one for a girl, and one for a person with a broken leg), and gave these gift baskets to New River Community Action. These are then given to sick children who could really use some support. 

Next week, the Fire Cheetahs will be visiting the Blue Ridge Center for Chinese Medicine to learn some basic tuina techniques, which may also assist them in helping people feel better.

And then we finish the year with our final visit to the Friendship Cafe. For the occasion, both classes are going this time! If you're one of their parents, why not come along and join in the fun?
Contemplative Program
Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy


Guidance and Acceptance 

The Chinese symbol for "Guidance" shows an open gate with two brilliant lanterns pointing to the source (the wellspring of all possibilities) and leading the way to the spring, step by step, with wisdom and care. As a staff, we have frequent discussions on guidance and how we teach well. They are always the most interesting parts of our meetings for me. When I look around the room at the diversity of teaching styles, I see a common theme, that our teachers really value children. A core value that stands out teaching at Blue Mountain is acceptance. As a staff we work hard to accept students for who they are, where they are, and what they need as a result of this.  


When we sit quietly in the beginning of yoga class, I get a chance to "see" each child for who she or he is. Acceptance comes more easily after a simple moment of quiet and connection. There are those who are more fidgety, have trouble paying attention, or want to talk to their friends. This happens again and again. I find myself saying over and over, "Time to listen!" and counting and using all the tools in my bag to get their attention.  


Recently, I have been asking myself this question, "What does this child need from me right now?" Sometimes it is a leadership role, such as passing out the breathing buddies, closing the door, getting the journals, leading the balancing poses, or perhaps it is just creating our next pose. This week I entered the preschool class to teach, and a child was already lying down in the peace corner. Stefi knew this child needed a special spot to be and accepted this. The student chose to stay there for the entire class and was very comfortable in this chosen space, watching and listening intently to the lesson. 


Just this week, the kids have been visiting the comfy peace corner in yoga more than usual (and I thought it needed sprucing up!). Some visit because they are feeling like they need to be alone for a while, and for some the class can get too wild and loud and they need a quiet space. I look at a peace place as another guide for kids. It is an unspoken guide, a place to go, a tool provided so kids have options when they need it. Sometimes I ask kids if they want to visit the peace place to gather themselves. It is not a punishment but a place to think about actions and tune in.

The superior teacher guides students but does not pull them along, urges them to go forward by opening the way yet refrains from taking them to the place. -Confucius   

We hope you enjoyed reading the Indigo Messenger.

Be sure to  it to anyone you think may be interested.

Thank you,

The folks at


In This Issue
PPs & RMs Sciences
PPs & RMs History
PPs & RMs English
Fire Cheetahs
The 3-4-5s
Service Learning
Contemplative Program
Parent Reminder
Attend the (rescheduled) All-School Meeting on May 7, and receive $10 off registration for 2012-13! 
Board of Trustees

The BMS Board of Trustees met on April 4, 2012. 

The board reflected on the progress made at the first part of our visioning series held the previous Friday. We reviewed our current financial status, including approving fine points of the proposed budget for 2012-2013 as well as approving tuition rates and salaries for next year. The idea of forming a parent collective for the school was revisited and plans to present the idea, along with additional topics, at the upcoming all-school meeting were discussed.

The next meeting will be on May 9th, at 6:00 p.m.

In Gratitude We Thank

Tiffany Trent for sharing her writing experiences with the Rainbow Monkeys.

Finders Keepers
for donating space for the yard sale.


Linda Swers for donating flowers to the Fire Cheetahs / Fire Kids for science experiments. 


Dawn Barnes for sharing a math and money workshop with the Purple Platypuses and Rainbow Monkeys.
B & S Automotive & Judy Mahala for their donations towards the DC Trip.

Cassie Pierce, Elisha Reygle, Tree Gigante, and Rebekah Hicks for helping with the math and money workshop.

Jonathan Vandergrift for mowing the grounds over spring break.
Cassie Pierce, Sarah McCarthy & Jonathan Vandergrift for donating items for the Car Wash.

Kolisha Stermer, Vivianna Lynch, Alexis Beaver, Jonathan Vandergrift, Doug Fisher & Scott Smith for all their help at the Car Wash.
Rebekah Hicks and Cassie Pierce for being backstage managers at Skit Night.

Everyone who helped with Skit Night.
who donated items for the Yard Sale.

Elisha Reygle, Shelly Emmett, Van McKay & Kolisha Stermer for all their help with the Yard Sale.

Medina Baskets for providing a tent for the Yard Sale.

Carol Volker for doing some sewing projects for The 3-4-5s.

Rebekah Hicks, Linda Johnson, Tree Gigante, and Winter Koeppe-Martens for their continued classroom support. 



Blue Mountain School 

470 Christiansburg Pike, Floyd, Virginia 24091