Spring is here, and summer is just around the corner! Summer camp registration is now open for students ages 3 to 12. Check out the website for more information!

We'll be opening registration for 2014-15 very soon, and we are expecting classes to fill up quickly!

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

Elementary Direction
Shelly Emmett
Shelly Emmett


Last week, a potential parent came to visit our school. She had spent time on our website, and said she really liked what she saw. This parent asked if I could just reassure her that everything that looked so good about our school on our website, was actually true in real life.


Hmmm...was this a test? This was harder than it seemed! Because yes, everything on our website IS true...Kids and teachers do smile and laugh a lot at BMS--the pictures are authentic. And the words describing what we do are also accurate. But we are also not perfect.


It felt funny to verify that the things on our website are true when I also know that sometimes our students and teachers are not happy--sometimes there are tears.  And we all know that trying to distill the real-life, full-color experience of being in a classroom filled with students into black-and-white words on a page is challenging at best; something is lost.


But as we enroll new and returning students this month, I can offer the reassurance that Blue Mountain School is a community unto itself; we know each other and witness each other's mistakes, celebrate each other's successes, and ultimately learn and grow from it all.

High School Happenings
Ezekiel Fugate and Judy Mann
Ezekiel Fugate
Judy Mann


Ezekiel says...


Ritual and Routine


We've been working hard to establish a strong sense of connection and community at the high school.  Each week, students work in their small groups to build trust, process challenging issues, and have fun.  We have two small groups, each of which has two adult co-leaders.  Our small groups give students an opportunity to develop their social and emotional intelligences in a safe, supportive environment. The activities of the groups constantly change, but always build our time around connecting to one another in meaningful ways. Sometimes we build altars with found objects; other times we take silent walks and then play charades based on what we observed. Often, we play structured games that help us learn new things about one another and build a strong sense of belonging. This is a powerful experience for all parties involved.  If you're interested in learning more, ask a high schooler!   


We've also recently introduced a new all-school ritual: the puja table. Each week, students bring in an object that tells something about their story. We place these objects on a table by the front door and give a little information on what they mean. As the week goes on, we're constantly reminded of our stories and the importance of each individual. Come by and check out our table when you get a chance!



Someone's in the Kitchen with Jason


Students have been really honing their skills in the culinary arts class with Chef Jason Loftus. Each Monday, students prepare a full menu of items, including manicotti, hamburgers, potato salad, and (my favorite) bread pudding. Students in the class prepare all the food and then serve the other students, staff, and community members. They take orders, bus tables, and even refill water glasses. We're just beginning to open our doors to the entire community, so PLEASE COME JOIN US AT THE ECO-VILLAGE ON MONDAYS FOR LUNCH! We'll send out a menu soon enough.





In this first year, we've been able to see just how powerful and educational student-led projects can be. Project-based learning is an essential component of progressive and constructivist education, and it's an empowering way for students to gain ownership over the learning process. We're excited to continue developing this component of our program because it is so full of possibilities.     


This year, students have been hard at work on a variety of projects. They've learned how to formulate a sound project based on motivating questions, develop a project proposal with a timeline and a budget, and manage the implementation of their idea. They've even learned how to work together in group projects. Some examples of projects for this semester include designing and installing trails at the EcoVillage, writing short stories, designing and building a remote-controlled airplane, studying justice, creating a literary arts journal, and learning jazz trumpet.  And that's just a sample! You would be amazed and inspired by the diversity of projects and the passion that our students bring to them. We're starting to plan for our end-of-year project exhibitions, which will be open to the public. Stay tuned to see what these incredible students are working on and to find out how you can support them! 


Judy says...


The high school students have each chosen a topic for a research paper. Some are doing an informative research paper and some are doing a persuasive research paper. All the students have chosen something that motivates them to delve into research.  


At the same time we are continuing a 10 lesson literature unit that involves short stories and poetry. We are practicing dramatic reading and we are interviewing fellow students on how they think authors communicate meaning. This week we are looking at several stories in context with history so they we can examine our authors' frames of reference.  

We have also started the process for our final exam. This will be an extra fun research project. Students will chose one of our authors to research. They will need to find out how they lived, how they dressed, and even what they ate. We are keeping the authors we choose as a surprise from one another. Each student will arrive for the final dressed and conducting themselves as the author they chose. They will act out everything they have learned about their author at a tea party outside.

Dragon Tamers
Miranda Altice and Virginia Klara
Miranda Altice
Virginia Klara


Miranda says...

I'm back! What a whirlwind winter that included giving birth to my sweet Stella Eve only 12 minutes before the ball dropped on New Years Eve! I received a wonderful welcome back only a few short weeks ago from my favorite Dragon Tamers class, and we have not wasted much time in getting back into the groove. I do want to say a huge thank you to Virginia, Inge, and Ashley for being so awesome while I was on maternity leave!

Parent teacher conferences went so well, and I am always grateful for such supportive parents. This is the time that we talk about each individual child, how far he/she has come throughout the year, and what the rest of the year will look like. The Dragon Tamers have a couple of projects that we've started over the past couple of weeks, including writing fairy tales and children's stories for an end-of-the year project. Another project we've begun is creating maps of the world...with a twist. These will include all of the continents, countries, major cities, landmarks, and land and water forms. The twist is that each child is allowed to introduce his/her maps as a comparison to an ancient map from an ancient civilization that they have created. There are rules involved, of course, that will help students to learn about modern maps (including latitude and longitude) as well as using their creative thinking skills on historical themes, whether fictional or non. These are a work in progress, and we - as a class - have agreed that we can allow this project to evolve in different ways so as long as their main objective is met!

Until next time!

Virginia says...

Prose, Poetry and Performance Arts


From January through March, our dear Dragon Tamers concentrated on literacy, geography and social studies during our class time together.


Literacy concepts explored included idioms, which we continue to find humor in as we encounter these tricky, two-faced phrases in our reading and conversations; onomatopoeia, those words that we make up for sounds like rinnnggggggg; alliteration, the creative and sometimes silly stringing together of words that begin with the same sound; for example, wonderful wandering Wednesday; and a glimpse at simile and metaphor. Dictionaries, including rhyming dictionaries and thesauruses, have come into our writer's toolboxes. Each young authors has now contributed to the upcoming issue of Colored Pencils.


After writing haikus for the January BMS Newsletter, students delved deeply into poetry. The children experimented with some different forms of poetry -- couplets, simple 4-line poems with various rhyme schemes, and diamante (diamond-shaped) poems. We reviewed and wrote in the poetry forms we tried previously, too: haiku, concrete (shape) and acrostic poems, and free verse. We have enjoyed reading poems aloud, especially poems about school and friendship. Little do the Dragon Tamers know they are working on oral reading fluency and brain mapping as they find the rhythm in their reading and memorizing of verses.


In conjunction with our US geography studies, the Dragon Tamers discussed songs as poems and poems as songs as we listened to some patriotic songs and learned Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land." When we viewed Pete Seger leading thousands of Americans in singing this tune at President Barak Obama's inauguration, the children were wowed and proud of what they knew. They then drew pictures of favorite places in their land, most very close to home.


The shared reading of two young adult novels heartbeat and hate that cat, both by Sharon Creech, started us on our Author's Wall of Fame. These books also helped us connect creative writing, artistic expression, journaling, and social-emotional learning. Following examples in these two books, each child journalled lists of things: I love..., I hate (or do not like)...., I fear ... Then the students worked on making the social-emotional connection as each came up with personal ideas to lessen his or her our fears (like the protagonist, Jack, did in hate that cat). We also tried to look at things from differing perspectives when we did apple drawing as influenced by the 100-day art project in heartbeat.


Each child gave his/her memory a workout when participating in rehearsals and the performance of magic tricks and a skit at our Special Persons Tea. Magic tricks and the narrated play, "But No Elephants," brought gasps of amazement and laughter from our friends and family members. The Dragon Tamers brought out their best manners and their best clothes for the afternoon. They enjoyed sharing their talents and being a bit grownup with their guests.

Now be listening for your child's reflections about the early exploration and colonization of North America by people from Europe as Native Americans Meet the Newcomers in our next unit of study.

Jenni Heartway
Jenni Heartway


The "Ah-Ha!" Moment


A few weeks ago I was fortunate to have an "Ah-Ha!" moment. Since returning from our Winter Break, the student were studying different countries and cultures around the world. To me, it felt like the study had stalled; the students weren't as interested as they had been. They didn't think only about their projects (which they had been doing just a week before). I made several attempts at rekindling the interest, reading books, introducing new activities, but quite honestly, they were not buying it. They had each completed a great deal of research to fill in the rubric we created together, but they were not revisiting it or adding to it.


Driving to school one morning, I realized it was no longer the countries they were truly interested in learning more about. The one thing that all of the countries they chose had in common was an important landmark or structure. They were really interested in these amazing structures!


During our morning meeting, I shared my thoughts with the Silverberries, and they agreed that they were no longer as interested in the countries. When I mentioned the structures they were looking at, the entire tone of the class changed. Their faces GLOWED! "YES!" "That's what we want to learn about!" We talked about a way to bring our study of the cultures to a close and move on with our study of these famous structures. I felt it was important to have them bring the work they had completed to an ending point. We decided to create posters with our information. We posted them around our classroom and in a few days began our deeper study of the pyramids, the Great Wall of China, and the Eiffel Tower.


It was one of those times when I was really grateful to have the opportunity to co-create the units we study with the students. They were motivated to continue the work on their own terms, and I was excited to be able to move forward with them!

Fire Hawks
Hari Berzins
Hari Berzins

Our little classroom has been buzzing with activity, and we are so excited that spring is here!

In the pictures below, Teja is putting the April calendar together and then creating his own take-home calendar, Lucy is doing her time-telling work, and the Demigods are visiting for reading buddy time. This multi-age activity is amazing to witness. Every single student is fully engaged in reading or listening! The Demigods are improving fluency while the Firehawks are gaining confidence in decoding three-letter words. There's lots of laughter and excitement during this time. We love our big friends!

Swinging Beetle Bugs
Stefi Schafer & Ashley Morales
Stefi Schafer
Ashley Morales

Spring has Sprung for the Swinging Beetle Bug Babes!


In spite of the winter that never seems to end, the children are moving on into spring. We are taking advantage of the nicer days, spending more time out of doors. Simultaneously we had our spring conferences with parents. Each pre-k SBB was asked what he or she wanted to learn before kindergarten. Many of the children want to learn to read and write. This increased interest in literacy is typical of children in this age group. By encouraging the children to express this interest as a learning goal, it allows for our young learners to be active participants in their academic development. Planning activities based on an emergent curriculum supports the development and therefore learning of young children.


The fluctuating weather required great flexibility from the SBBs; one day we can play outside without a jacket, and the next we need hats and mittens. The conversations turned to spring: Does a sunny day mean its spring? Does a snowy day mean it's still winter? We decided to find out for ourselves if spring was on its way, so we went on a walk to search for signs of spring. Before we headed outside, we collaborated to come up with a list of changes in nature that might tell us if spring was here. Here is an excerpt of the list the children created: flowers, snow-piles that are getting smaller, baby birds, insects, robins, and budding trees. Ashley wrote out the list with words and drawings, and then armed with a clipboard, we went outside. The whole group was searching for signs of spring, taking turns checking items off our list. This practical, hands on activity fostered observation skills in nature, extended our vocabulary, encouraged collaboration and turn taking, and supported our emergent reading skills.


Two main themes, spring and phonics, continue to weave through our days. We did art with spring colors, at the writing center we added ABC work sheets and word models with seasonal words, we decided to raise butterflies, and we had picnics outside. Did you know that there are lots of P words in our lunch boxes? Pudding, pancakes, pears, pepperoni! Oh, and you can eat pumpkins too! Rhyming is another interest in our class. Often during lunch the children spontaneously begin making silly rhymes out of our names, Stefi, lefi, befi, mefi... this can get very funny; but we have to be respectful and make sure it's okay with the person because making silly rhymes with names can hurt feelings...


One day before we went outside, we talked about what kind of things are outside and what letter they start with. During our discussion we noticed that our playground is full of S words: swing, slide, sun, sky sand, Sully, Stefi, Shelly, sisters. There could even be a sssnake.

Our next outside treasure hunt was based on our names. The pre-k friends came up with words for their names to find and helped their younger friends to find words for their names too. Once outside each child was the leader to show us his or her article. We all touched it and said the name, word, and letter. Isobel showed us ice, Tiamon a tree, Cedar a car, Casey J took us to the church, Avery shared the apple tree, Casey N pointed out a crack, Clementine was looking for a cat, Sully choose sand. Once we had found an item for each friend, someone noticed that a few friends were missing that day, so a couple of the kids decided to find words for their absent friends, too. Moss for Milo, microwave Oven for Otis, dirt for Dorothy and another car for Carter. Once again the Swinging Beetle Bugs not only showed me how smart and creative they are but that they truly embrace the spirit of our community, proving the success of our SEL model.


Who knows maybe we can find the whole alphabet outside?


Happy Spring!

Yoga & Physical Education
Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy



Feet on the ground


To the inner and outer environment

Chilly wind

Warm skin

Frustrated heart

Wandering mind

Excited legs

Moving into yoga flag tag

Happy muscles


Snatched flag

Oh no!


Moving Body


In this Moment

Life is content

Lore Deighan
Lore Deighan


I told myself when I began teaching this year that with five classes back to back I would need to keep their projects in line with each other for ease with cleaning and material use/set up; HOWEVER with emerging ideas, different interests and excitement, each class is now on its own unique and quite different path from one another. 

We are drawing, plastering, sculpting, painting - you name it and it may be happening in one of the five classes.  And although this does make for more clean up and a bit of fatigue for me at the end of the day, I am really excited about each of the projects we are working on, and most importantly, the kids seem engaged and excited about what they are doing in art!

Contemplative Studies


See the frozen Buds

Could it be, they are alive?

Spring is inside them


Sometimes we find ourselves frozen by circumstances or just old baggage. Once we realize the futility of such things, we must find a way to relieve ourselves. Remembering this old Zen saying, "The obstacle is the path," can help us. When we use our mindfulness, the inner awareness reveals itself, that is the clear, unobstructed sky like nature of mind. It is already there within everyone, child or adult. We just practice, practice, practice. Sometimes it is right here in any moment, taking a full breath in and out and noticing it. Then we have something to rely upon.

Creative Expression
Katie Wells
Katie Wells


Hello BMS Families! This month the Fire Hawks and the Silverberries began to learn how a dance class is typically structured. We begin with a warm-up, then go across the floor with locomotive movement, and lastly learn and remember a short dance at the end. The Dragon Tamers and Demigods are now exploring trust as we dive deeper into our hearts with personalized material and trust building experiences.

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
Elementary Direction
HS Direction
Dragon Tamers
Fire Hawks
Swinging Beetle Bugs
Yoga & PE
Contemplative Studies
Creative Expression
Parent Reminder

Apr 9:
Board Meeting
Apr 14-18:
Spring Break
Apr 22:
Earth Day Work Day
Apr 25:
Elementary School Snow Make-Up Day 
Registration is open for summer camp! Forms are available in the office and online.  

We appreciate all the recent community input regarding the relationship between the high school and the elementary school.  


We are still looking for volunteers to serve on various committees: Executive (must have fairly flexible schedule and be a frequent checker of email), High School, Development, Finance, Personnel, Governance, Community, Elementary Curriculum and Accreditation, and Facilities.  Descriptions of these committees can be found online; new committees have not yet been listed as they are still being formulated. If you are interested in serving on a committee or finding out more about one of them, contact Kristan Morrison.  


Board elections are also happening next month, so if you are interested in serving on the board or know of someone in the community you would like to nominate, please contact Kristan MorrisonIf you wish to nominate someone other than yourself, please make sure that person is willing to serve before submitting the nomination. The deadline for nominations is April 20, 2014.

In Gratitude We Thank

Linda Johnson and Martha Taylor for helping in the classroom.

Warren Lapine and Angela Kessler for paying the elementary school's mortgage and for donating to the scholarship fund.

Wall Foundation for paying the high school's rent.



Shopping on Amazon?

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Blue Mountain Elementary School 

470 Christiansburg Pike, Floyd, Virginia 24091

Blue Mountain High School  

PO Box 943, Floyd, Virginia 24091