Indigo Messenger


It may only be spring now, but before you know it school will be out for the year! We're ready for summer. Are you? Sign up now for summer camp! Registration forms are in the office and online.


Stay tuned to your email and our Facebook group for more information and pictures from our school.

Shelly Emmett
Shelly Emmett


When you think of parent-teacher conferences, I bet you don't think of hearing things like "I love this school!", "This school has changed our family's life for the better!", and "Thank you for caring so much about my child." These and many other positive comments were shared with teachers when they met with parents this week for conferences, and they were shared with the entire staff when we spent time together during our staff development day following conferences. The day included time to reflect about how the school year has gone so far and what we would like to make happen for the rest of the year, too, so that we may continue to grow and evolve as adults who have the unique opportunity to work with children in a school like ours.  


Sitting there with our staff, having a lively and productive discussion about our work with kids, I was filled with gratitude for the people I work with. We have a special bond, one that allows us to look not only at our successes, but also areas where we might need to focus our attention on improving. I wish parents and kids could have heard the discussion, too: it is inspiring to hear people talk authentically about work that they love. 

March conferences are a reminder that it is time to begin registering for next school year. With only two more months of school left when we return from Spring Break, we want to make the most of the rest of this year while looking ahead to the next. We have many confirmed returning students, so our classes are nearing capacity even before we've advertised! Please be sure to get your registration forms and fee in as soon as possible, as we want to prioritize placement for returning families.

In the 2013-2014 school year, we will offer our current classes (Early Childhood, Kindergarten, Elementary, and Upper Elementary/Middle School). But we are very excited to also be opening a new class for Early Elementary students, which we have long been interested in offering but now are able to do because of increased enrollment. We are in the process of posting and hiring for this position and will have more information about it soon.

I hope everyone has a fun Spring Break, and I look forward to seeing you when we return!


A High School Teens Will Love
Joe Klein
Joe Klein


In the fall of 2013, Blue Mountain High School will open at the Floyd EcoVillage with a maximum of twelve students, ensuring a small teacher to student ratio, a close connected learning community of peers and staff, and a personalized approach to education that will keep students inspired and continuously seeking inspiration. Each day, students will be guided to align with their internal motivation for learning through a schedule that includes periods of silent inner reflection, personal sharing with others, exploration of the natural world, and an interdisciplinary academic focus.


The central feature teens will love about BMHS will be the sense of connection and belonging they will develop with peers and staff through facilitated activities that will help them have a sense of place and a sense of ownership in their experience. The school will be a place where students can feel safe socially, emotionally and academically, so that they will risk going beyond their comfort zones and being seen and heard as their authentic selves. Thus, they will be able to experience less stress and conflict and free up time and energy for more fun and academic progress. In this stimulating and supportive environment, teens will come to better know, love and accept themselves as the imperfect works-in-progress they are.


Personalized Education Plan

In addition to academic placement assessments, each student will be guided through a process of self-evaluation and exploration based on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (a tool for successful business leaders) to develop a personal mission statement, vocational pathway and a corresponding personalized education plan that he/she is committed to and responsible to carry out with the support of peers, staff, family and mentors from the wider Floyd community. They will also be assessed for personal learning and working styles so that the activities and mediums they work with will enhance their strengths and challenge them to improve their weaker areas. A variety of assessment and evaluation measures will be used to allow students to demonstrate their learning and achievements including: oral and written presentations; standardized tests such as PSAT, ACT and SAT; audio, video and web-based projects; and development of a portfolio and resume. Thus, each student will be continuously collecting and updating a diverse file of content for use in apprenticeships, college and careers.


BMHS will adopt some of the highly successful structures and practices of the North Star program in Massachusetts. North Star is a center for self-directed learning and community-based education serving teenagers who prefer to pursue their educations outside of traditional schooling. Member teens choose from a wide array of educational options depending on their needs and interests. For more than 16 years, North Star has provided self-directed educational alternatives to students, many of whom have gone on to colleges, including such prestigious institutions as Brown, Columbia and MIT. 


Core Academic Courses

As a student-centered school, specific subjects will be offered based on interest and need through a mix of teacher-led and online classes. Students will be able to progress through many core courses in Math, Science, English and History, as well as electives that can be pursued at each student's own pace or in small groups with support and oversight facilitated by experienced teachers. Vocational, entrepreneurial, and service-learning projects will bring the interdisciplinary subjects to life through real-world problem solving scenarios.


A weekly Great Books & Great Thinkers Seminar will expose students to classical and modern ideas that shape the culture around them. The disciplines of this seminar will hone student's skills of reflective reading, writing, speaking and critical thinking. Oral and written communication skills development will also be integrated into vocational skills development and place-based entrepreneurial learning activities so that every student will know how to write effectively and how to clearly communicate ideas in public forums.


BMHS is in the process of pursuing accreditation through the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS). Online curriculum in areas such as Math, Science, History, Language Arts, and Computers will be available through Kahn Academy . Older, more advanced students will be able to sign up for community college classes as well as  Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offered by Harvard, Yale and other Universities.


Entrepreneurial Learning Environment

In addition to the EcoVillage Conference Center facility with its performance hall and commercial kitchen, students will have access to the 75 acres of forests, gardens and trails as well as a neighboring 100 acre farm for academic, recreational and vocational activities. Students will be able to participate in vocational apprenticeships in organic farming, green building, conference and event planning and marketing. Even more exciting will be the opportunity for students to work in small teams to create pilot entrepreneurial ventures in the local sustainable and creative products economy of Floyd. Students will learn basic budgeting and accounting using QuickBooks, as well as how to write a business plan, conduct market research and apply for a small start-up capital investment loan. Students will be assisted to find mentors and apprenticeships for their personal vocational interests within the local Floyd community.


Ecological Intelligence, Sustainability and  

Reverence for Life

Thomas Berry, one of our great cultural historians and modern ecological thinkers, has said that people will not do the hard work to adapt lifestyles towards preserving the natural world our lives depend on unless we come to see the natural world, and all our relationships within it, as something sacred. He implores us to teach our youth to see the world as a communion of subjects rather than a collection of objects to be utilized and exploited. Students at BMHS will spend time in a personal nature spot every day as they investigate their own growing sense of inferiority in relationship to the constant changing patterns of growth, decay and regeneration of all the life forms in the vicinity of their spot.

The great faith and wisdom traditions of humanity espouse a value-driven lifestyle that nourishes and supports individuals to grow into a destiny that serves as part of something larger than them selves. Students at BMHS will be involved in service learning projects that help them identify needs and opportunities within the local community/economy to deepen relationships through giving and receiving.

If you would like more information about Blue Mountain High School, please contact me
The Unknowns:
Math and Language Arts
Jonathan Vandergrift
Jonathan Vandergrift


In between the various snow storms this past month, we were finally able to head out on a short field trip to the Plenty! food bank. While some of the students had visited Plenty! in the past, the organization's expansion over the year showed the students how a small operation like Plenty! was able to grow due to dedicated and persistent people who believe in the cause.  

Karen and McCabe, the co-directors of Plenty!, were gracious hosts and walked the students through all of the different programs the organization has in the community with families, local agencies and public schools. Alexis, their AmeriCorps volunteer, even helped the students in the Plenty! community garden where we incorporated a short math lesson - finding the perimeter of the garden for a second deer fence. Thanks, Plenty!, for having us.

The students have moved on to their fourth novel this school year in Language Arts. Since I selected the first three books, the class requested to be allowed to choose the next book. While this idea might scare most teachers, I was brave and said yes, but only if I had final say in the selection. We spent some time going over the number of suggestions the students brought into class, and I had to spend some time explaining why everyone might not want to read "Twilight" - myself included - and other popular teen books. After a number of votes and compromises, the students finally agreed on two books: Percy Jackson and the Lighting Thief by Rick Riordan and A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. Instead of forcing the students to pick just one book, I thought this would be a great opportunity to have the class read both books, half the students read one and the other half read the other. This way they can have a smaller intimate group discussion, and I would be able to introduce some comparison/contrast exercises between the stories. Now, I just have to be able to keep all the characters straight in my head.

The Unknowns: Social Studies
Hari Berzins
Hari Berzins


We have our line-up! The Unknowns and I have spent a lot of time on the phone these last few months.  It has been an honor to have meaningful conversations with so many of our community members, and we know for sure that TEDxFloyd is going to be full of ideas worth spreading. Thank you to our speakers for your willingness to be part of this community event.

Jennifer Finn: Dancing with the Darkness

Veronica Santo: Practical Permaculture

Ricardo Brown: Look Ma, No Fossil Fuels!

Lee Chichester: Nurturing Community Arts Centers

Billy Weitzenfeld: Sustainable Energy

Fred First: The Nature of Place

Kathleen Ingoldsby: Patterns in Place: Evidencing Ingenuity

David E. "Jason" Rutledge: A Forest of Dreams

Karen Day: The Welcome Table--Nourishing Community

Mara Eve Robbins: The Importance of Story

Sarah Beth Jones: A New Age of Authenticity in Business

Mike Mitchell & Arthur Connor: Craftsmanship Begins at Home

Lydeana Martin: Grace

Laura Polant: Little House on the Off-grid Prairie

Mac Traynham: Local Old-time Banjo Tradition

Joe Klein: Imagination and Education

Shirleyann Burgess: Transformation

BMS Students

TED Talks from


TEDxFloyd will be held at the Floyd EcoVillage on April 27, 2013, from 12-6pm. The 100-person audience will be made up of speakers and their guests, students and their parents, production crew, sponsors and Blue Mountain School staff. The community is invited to view TEDxFloyd live via webcast. We will announce the webcast url on our facebook page once we have it secured. Please like us to stay informed:
Red-Eyed Tree Frogs
Miranda Altice
Miranda Altice


Geometric, protractor creations, fully-functioning microscopes, Old Man Winter, and research papers have weighed nicely on the Red-Eyed Tree Frogs minds recently. One of the magical beauties of being in a holistic learning environment is the spontaneous freedom to explore interests surrounding certain topics. In math, making large poster-size geometric shapes measured to the max with protractors has been an awesome hit. This was a project that happened quite organically and then went viral. In the picture, two students chose small tangram shapes and created a small rough draft, which they then re-created onto a large poster-sized graph paper. Since it is "their" creation, they also named it.

During my birthday party (which of course was a tear-inducer since they showered me with such love that I realized that I am THE luckiest teacher in the Universe), I was presented with gifts, cookies, dancing and singing, and.... a wild geometric-shape poster - angles measured and all! It was downright flattering - the whole experience. As I watched the snowfall that day from our beautiful classroom and observed the students happily interacting with each other, I thought to myself, "This... is beauty. To feel this way about a class is every teacher's desire." So, before I get teary-eyed again...

One Old Man Winter day, a box came in the mail for the Red-Eyed Tree Frogs. Inside of the box.... was a microscope!! No name attached, no one claimed it, and so it was dubbed an anonymous donation to our classroom and my, my, MY have we had some serious fun with it! We've looked at our bacteria, snake skin, green algae (cells and all!!), a shark vertebra, and even plucked out our own hairs to take an up close and personal look at our incredible world. One of my biggest goals as a teacher is to spark a healthy interest and imagination about our Universe. I remember my first experience with a microscope in the sixth grade, and upon viewing a "simple" eyelash a whole new incredible world was opened to me which took me deep into the world of biology... and eventually obtaining a degree in this field! I hope to bring this same enthusiasm and curiosity to every student who comes through our door. So whoever you are, the microscope benefactor... an enormous thank you!!!


Learning about our world has been quite an adventure this year. Our monthly "research shows" have been fantastic, and I like to tell my students that I - even as a teacher - am always learning... even from their research show reports! We've had some incredibly interesting topics so far since we began in October, from unicorns to koalas, banana plants, Hawaii, Venice, first steps on the moon, Portuguese man-of-wars, only to name a few! Apprehension from their first research report was immediately replaced with enthusiasm when each child learned that the world is at their fingertips and can they research ANY topic and then present what they've learned with a visual to their class.

We've also had a number of guest speakers to bless us with the presences and knowledge, and we've most recently had the pleasure of listening to Shalene Massie, doula and owner of Rhythm of Birth, to share her experiences and beautiful stories about living in Sudan, Africa with her family. The Frogs asked a lot of questions and were held in captivation by her photographs and funny - and sometimes heartbreaking - stories of life in Sudan. She gave us a wonderful peak into a part of Africa that many younger folks don't often know about. They would like to give Shalene a big THANK YOU for her time and for helping them get another stamp in their passports during their studies with Virgina on Africa!

And, as always we'd like to thank Martha for volunteering her time to help our classroom during math! We love you Martha!


Until next month my fellow Earthlings - and perhaps then I can speak of Spring-like weather!

Literacy Learning: Map Questing
Virginia Klara

Virginia Klara

Teachers are learners.


Some of the most interesting things I've learned this semester (alongside the Red-eyed Tree Frogs) have been the geography, histories, and cultures of the settings of the books we've read together.


We began our virtual travels in the Caribbean Sea, then moved to the streets of Paris. We've climbed high into Pakistan and Afghanistan, returned to anywhere USA, and then headed off to Hiroshima, Japan. Recently, through folktales, along with the children, I've located and considered countries in Africa that I'll likely never visit. But I've also had the opportunity to recall and share my memories of parts of Africa I have seen, Kenya and Tanzania. We plan to know more about Central and South America before the school year ends.


The children have informed me about Colorado, Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and other areas from their families' travels. Class visitors have brought our consciousness to remote areas like the Sudan and Antarctica, while the experiences that Miranda has shared from her travels in Australia and islands in Oceana have moved that area of the globe upwards on my bucket list. I suspect that many of the children would say the same.


In May, I will be studying, observing, and touring in southern France, Spain, and Portugal. Call it exciting, call it enviable, call it continuing education ...


I'm gladly bitten by the travel bug in hopes of returning to Blue Mountain School with more experiences to share and social dilemmas to ponder with the youngsters.
Lore Deighan
Lore Deighan


With this seemingly never ending winter and us entering spring break with snow on the ground, I am looking forward to resting and rejuvenating but more so to the thought of warm weather and fresh new spring ideas to bring into the art room upon return.  We are truly not far off from that quick, warm, creeps-up-on-you end of the school year frenzy, so I plan to return with determination and inspiration for creating lots of art over these last couple months.  We have already covered so much this year, and lots of beautiful artwork was sent home with the recent parent-teacher conferences.  I hope everyone enjoyed looking at their children's art made over the previous semester - I know we sure enjoyed making it!   

One thing, however, that could not be sent home is the new outdoor chalk board in the playground, so wonderfully constructed by Justin Grimes and Johnathan Vandergrift, and so beautifully decorated by the Unknowns.  It looks as if it has always been there; fitting right into our quaint, welcoming, beautiful playground decor.  It will be a wonderful addition to the creativity, learning and fun that is had outdoors at our school, as children will be encouraged to draw, write, reflect, learn and play with this new tool.  Please come out back and check it out, and feel free to draw and write on it whenever you'd like! 


I hope everyone enjoys spring break!

Yoga and Movement
Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy


Sandy Gorillas and Ice Kids

The theme for the winter quarter in yoga has been connection and interconnection. We started doing some partner poses and even some group poses. The students especially like the group poses; we have practiced group blooming flowers and group palm breathing. We played nature connection and memory games, created yoga stories with story cards, and learned the word for peace in some different languages. Some new games we've played are hot potato with yoga poses and "find the hidden yoga card and share game." We read Owl Moon, a book about a boy who goes owling with his dad in the snow and who he has to be brave and quiet. We also sang and did hand movements to Kari Kovick's version of the song, Owl Moon. (Thank you, Kari!)


We have been practicing 'garbage truck meditation,' which is a kundalini breathing practice of letting go of negative emotions. We imagine a small garbage truck is in front of us taking away our negative feelings. We chant the magic yoga words, "SA TA NA MA," and do some hand movements with our fingers to help us, too. We let the words help us let go of any negative feeling we are holding onto. This is a favorite one for most! We have also been reading a sweet book about the Thanksgiving address of the Native American traditions, the Lakota and others that give thanks for all living and non-living things in our world.


We usually end our time together listening to quiet music, relaxing our bodies in savasana. It is a very important and needed time together. They are getting very good at it too!


These children are such rays of light in our world. I enjoy exploring the world of yoga with them and appreciate all the love and hugs I receive!


Red-Eyed Tree Frogs

The Red-Eyed Tree Frogs' focus for the past winter months has also been connection and interconnection. We have been practicing how we are dependent and interdependent with so many things and each other. We have been practicing this through partner yoga: rainbow, partner tree and mountain, downward dog, mirror hands, blooming flower (and group flower), warrior, and warrior on horse (Alonso and Summit's creation). One day I came in to teach and this class was already started. I entered the very quiet room to everyone in beautifully orchestrated partner poses. They were all smiling and very proud of themselves. It was awesome and shows the true uniqueness of this class! They love the partner yoga and we hope to do more.


We also played nature connection and memory games, created yoga stories with story cards, learned the word for peace in some different languages, and practiced 'garbage truck meditation,' described in the previous section. 



During these cold months, we have been inside practicing hatha yoga. We will be continuing our yoga through the chilly weather. Although these kids really enjoy the outside time of group and cooperative games, they have been warming up to the yoga practice! I am witnessing a surrender into it, as with any discipline that is difficult to start but after completion, happy to have done it. They enjoy the movement and challenges of yoga; they ask to lead and create poses on a regular basis.


We start out our time together with a short group game, lightning round, or check-in; we then continue with our yoga asanas. We begin with sun salutations, then move into child-led balancing poses and other poses: triangle, warriors, upward dog, tabletop, eagle, forward folds, boat, spinal twists. We end with bridge, plow, shoulder stands, and savasana (relaxation). Every savasana seems much needed as they relax busy minds, social expectations, and growing bodies.

It is helpful to remind ourselves of some benefits of hatha yoga. Yoga nurtures a strong healthy body, increases energy and endorphins (the feel good hormones), helps regulate other pre-teen and teen hormones, and develops focus and concentration. Most importantly it nurtures a calm and contented mind.
Music & Movement Education
Lucia Gruber
Lucia Gruber


Welcoming the spring in March was the topic of our MuME classes.

We explored the spring with the senses and the body.
Flowers were popping out of the drums.
Sunlight arose with the sound of the triangles.
Wind blew with the sound of the guiro.
Tiptoeing in the imagined cold stream.
Balancing the scoop of ice cream.
Moving like a willow in the spring breeze.
Reaching up high to the clouds.
Dancing to the beats of Alabama Gal.
Awaking the body from its winter sleep.
The bright sun comes up, the dew falls away -
good morning, good morning the little birds say!


Contemplative Studies
Jagadisha Rotella
Jagadisha Rotella



Side by side our core practices (mindful listening, breathing, movement, and sitting meditation), we have been exploring music as mindfulness. I have been drawing on my over 30 years experience of Nada Yoga. Nada Yoga is the science of sound that, simply speaking, uses Taal (time cycle) and Raga (melody form). The Taal is counting using the help of precise hand movements to keep track of the slow base count. Upon that we count double and double never changing the base. This may seem very easy at first glance, but consider a time cycle of 10 beats. Doubling 1 beat we get 2, 4,8,16, etc... However, we can only count to 10. This is interesting math. To do this there must be concentration of a high order. So, what do you get? Mindfulness.

Now the other part is the Raga which is expressed as a melody. We must listen to give it back. You can't be distracted. The melody is sung with words, usually in a language we are not accustomed to (we sing in Sanskrit, an ancient Indian yogic language). As you can see, if there is interest in the song, you can't help being mindful!


At each level of all the classes we explore to the capacity of the students' concentration, which is, in many cases, increased. The idea here is to reveal how mindfulness is necessary for anything we do. When there is love and respect for any subject, we naturally develop mindfulness. It is this interest that we must foster in our children again and again.

After spring break we should be exploring mindfulness in creativity. Our project will be creating sacred space. Thank you!
We hope you enjoyed reading the Indigo Messenger. Be sure to  it to anyone you think may be interested.
Thank you,


In This Issue
BMS High School
Unknowns: Math & Language
Unknowns: Social Studies
Red-Eyed Tree Frogs
Literacy Program
Yoga & Movement
Music & Movement
Contemplative Studies
Board Notes
Parent Collective
On the Calendar

April 1-5: Spring Break! 
April 12:
Friday Enrichment Program Session 4 Begins 
April 20: Floyd Earth Day at the EcoVillage
April 22: All-School Work Day
April 27: TEDxFloyd

Chess Club: 3:15 Thursdays
Board Notes
The Board of Trustees has put many hours and much energy into the creation of five new committees: Governance, Community, Facilities, High School, and Program Development. We have also been working to revise two existing committees: Development and Finance. Parents and community members are encouraged to participate in a committee. Which one will you join? Contact the Board president, Kristan Morrison, for information about joining a committee.

At the March meeting, the Board accepted roles, responsibilities, and processes for all the committees and voted to begin using a Consent Agenda for future meetings. The Finance Committee presented the proposed 2013-14 budget, which includes staff salary increases and new tuition rates. The budget was approved.

In the works this month are a Security/Emergency Plan for BMS, gathering volunteers for Vintage Virginia, and finalizing plans for additional classroom space for 
next year! 

Our next meeting is April 10 at 6:30 pm in the Community Room at the Floyd Library. Please join us!
From the Parent Collective
There are several upcoming opportunities for the Parent Collective to pitch in.  BMS will participate in this year's Earth Day celebration at the Floyd EcoVillage on April 20, from 10-4, and adults are needed to help with the children's activities.

Additionally, we are looking for volunteers to help out at the Vintage Virginia Wine Festival in Northern Virginia the weekend of June 1. You get free transportation, lodging and meals, time to explore the festival and the wines, and fun with friends. BMS gets donations from Across the Way for each person sent to the festival.

How can you help?  Contact Cassie Pierce.
In Gratitude We Thank

Shirleyann Burgess for donating musical instruments and books.

Cassie Pierce for donating eco-friendly cleaning supplies.

Van McKay for helping drive the Unknowns to Plenty! for their field trip.

Robert Montague for helping with Chess Club.

Warren Lapine and Angela Kessler
for donating the digital National Geographic library and Warren also for helping the Unknowns with Photoshop.

Cheryl Carter and Carol and Anya Volker for making and donating bean bags and twirly wands for Movement class.

Linda Johnson and Martha Taylor
for volunteering in our classrooms.

Andy and Susan Morikawa
for supporting a student for a week of school.

An Anonymous Donor
for paying the school's mortgage.

Wilder Publications for donating to the scholarship fund.

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.

Shop Amazon



Blue Mountain School 

470 Christiansburg Pike, Floyd, Virginia 24091