Indigo Messenger


This holiday season (and every other season), we hope you will support your local businesses, who in turn support community organizations like Blue Mountain School. There are great treasures waiting to be found right around the corner!



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

Shelly Emmett
Shelly Emmett


At our recent Thankful Celebration, we honored the many volunteers who have contributed to Blue Mountain School so far this school year. In preparing for the Celebration, we compiled the extensive list of people who have donated time, goods, or expertise to the school. The list was long, and in looking it over I was struck by a profound sense of gratitude for our small community and the branches that extend out from it. Whether someone washed the laundry for our Early Childhood class, or made it so that our doors open and close more easily, or contributed time in a classroom or for a fundraiser, each person on the list gave something of themselves to make things better here at school. And this list didn't even include everyone who has donated money to the school so far this year, which is giving of a different--but still very valuable--sort.

It is easy, in this world that is so full of people and their stories and struggles, for any one individual to feel lost, unseen, and not heard. One of the things I love most about our school--one of the things that makes it a positive environment for children and adults alike--is that there is room for everyone to be seen and heard, and for everyone to matter. At its best, Blue Mountain School is a microcosm of the world I want to live in; of course it is perfectly imperfect, because human beings are involved and lessons in growth and humility abound. But here, you matter. Here, your unique contribution to the betterment of the whole is seen, felt, and recognized.

Thank you, to all who are a part of BMS!



The Unknowns:
Math and Language Arts
Jonathan Vandergrift
Jonathan Vandergrift


Since the last newsletter, the Unknowns have been busy. The month started with Floyd County Sheriff Shannon Zeman visiting our classroom. The students were given an opportunity to request an interview of anyone in Floyd County. While others were initially suggested, the class quickly came to consensus to invite the Sheriff. Preparation for the visit was taken with utmost sincerity and excitement from the students.   I was very proud of the class with their professionalism and respect towards Sheriff Zeman during his visit, even when they asked him - "Have you ever wrecked your cop car?"


Part of my approach with Math is to identify a real-life application the students can practice for each lesson. So, a few weeks ago the Unknowns applied their knowledge about right triangles and the Pythagorem Theorem to measuring the height of the trees around campus. Students even built their own inclinometers with string, tape, paper towel rolls and a washer. This exercise really let them apply their new understanding of geometry with a hands-on activity. Now while I trust their math, I would probably add a few extra feet to their estimates before cutting down any trees.


Most times I try to develop lessons around the students' interests. How I identify their "interests" can be unusual. Recently, I intercepted a couple of the students passing a note. However, it wasn't a traditional note, but a code sheet where each letter in the alphabet was associated to a number. (1-A, 2-B, 3-C, etc.) So after reminding the students not to pass notes in class, I looked at this as an opportunity to teach the class to count in different bases. I explained to the students how you can add a second layer of encryption to their "code" by using other base systems on top of associating the numbers to the alphabet. For example, under a Base-3 system, you would count 0, 1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 20, etc. This created great enthusiasm with the students where they wrote a few "coded" messages in the hallway. Parents, consider this a warning before you sign a paper with series of odd numbers above it...

The Unknowns: Science
Inge Terrill
Inge Terrill


BMS and The Unknowns were very sorry to see Ezekiel leave in October. He will be missed. Ezekiel's departure, however, has allowed me a chance to return to BMS, this time to teach my favorite subject, science!   


Because there are so many fields of science, I discussed with the class what they would like to study and what they needed more exposure to. The decision was made to cover Life Sciences (Biology), Geography, and Health this school year. They also agreed to continue with the "Sitting Spots" project they had started with Ezekiel this year.


In Biology, the class has been studying everything from pin worms to diatoms. In Geography, the major regions of Virginia, the main oceans on the planet, and the location of the seven continents have been discussed. In Health, we have been learning about "disgusting topics" like parasites that live on and in our bodies, why human beings are gaseous, and what can happen to your digestive system when you get sick or eat the wrong foods.   The students have even talked me into teaching them some German from time to time. What this has to do with Science remains to be seen.


One of November's highlights was the class field trip to Radford University on November 26th.  The first thing we did there was observe an undergraduate social services course.  The topic discussed was community service.  Right up BMS's alley!  Later we looked over a NASA exhibit entitled "Here, There & Everywhere" and even went to the Planetarium for a presentation by physicist Dr. Herman.    


Last but not least, we toured the Geosciences Museum.  We really packed a lot in that day!  Thank you, Jonathan, for setting up this lovely excursion.


The Unknowns: History
Rob Neukirsch
Rob Neukirsch


Hello Parents! Hello Blue Mountain School! Some of you know me and some of you don't. My wife and sons and I moved to Floyd in 2002 to own and run Oddfellas Cantina. Cooper spent three years at BMS ,and now I'll be teaching here. I'm taking over for Vicky and those are some big shoes to fill.  


In History, we will begin with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and take it from there. We'll continue with the timeline that Vicky established as well as our history journals. It's all about perspective, and we'll try to look at things from many different angles. History is one of those subjects that appears to be "straight ahead," and yet it's anything but. Here's to continued success with The Unknowns!

Red-Eyed Tree Frogs
Miranda Altice
Miranda Altice


Frogs at Work

Ice Kids
Corey Avellar
Corey Avellar


In November, we celebrated how thankful we are for all the people in our community who help our school. The Ice Kids (and the other classes) worked very hard to make some beautiful thank-you cards for our volunteers and delivered them at our Thankful Celebration.

To see a larger version of a picture, click on it...

Sandy Gorillas
Stefi Schafer & Winter Koeppe
Stefi Schafer
Winter Koeppe

The Sandy Gorillas had a busy month!

There was all the excitement from Halloween, and after it passed, the superhero theme has stuck with us. (Fortunately brain-sucking zombies are fewer now.)  


Threat and rescue are archetypal ideas that need exploring in the world of pretend. What a wonderful way to experience being in charge, having special powers, being a victim or the bad guy. The early years are made for this and prepare children for the growing challenges of maturing. Big body play is a huge part of the early learning years. What is big body play? The following article will tell you all about it. 


What Is Big Body Play and  Why Is It Important 

By Frances Carlson


Big body play is the very physical, vigorous, boisterous, and sometimes bone-jarring play style many children love and crave.  


Big body play is...

  • When a child throws herself onto a sofa.
  • When children wrestle.
  • When friends jump off climbing equipment.
  • When friends chase each other as they laugh, or race to a finish line.



Why is big body play important for children?


Big body play supports children's physical development but it also supports the development of children's social awareness, emotional thinking, and language skills. Research shows that big body play comes naturally to children. Children all over the world play this way, and that is why it's so important that adults, both teachers and family members, understand and support it.


How does big body play support children's learning?


There are many ways big body play supports and enhances children's learning. 


Younger children gain a lot of information about their bodies through big body play. For example, when a mother kisses or massages her baby's body, her baby learns about where his body ends and the space around him begins. He also learns how different types of touch feel and the names for those feelings. 


When a toddler jumps into her dad's lap, or she runs to hug a friend, she learns how to control and regulate her body movements. She also learns that she should adapt the intensity of her movements in relation to another person. For example, she might run to hug her friend with less force than she uses to jump into her dad's lap. 


When children enjoy big body play they can also build both verbal and nonverbal communication skills. Through big body play, they learn to correctly interpret nonverbal gestures, like when my friend puts her hand up it means I should stop but if she smiles it means I can keep going. Children will apply this skill throughout their lives in different social situations. When children take turns jumping off a tree stump they practice taking turns.   


And, because most children enjoy the play so much, they learn how to compromise. They might let other children go first and be strongest so that the play can continue. Children are also calmer for longer periods of time following very rowdy play. Greater learning is likely during these calm, focused periods. 


Why does this type of play make some parents and other adults nervous?


Even though I have studied and written about this kind of play, sometimes, it still makes me nervous! As parents and teachers, we are very serious about protecting children and keeping them safe. It's difficult to watch children engaged in physically rowdy and vigorous play and not fear that someone is about to be hurt. Often adults see children roughhousing and think they are really fighting so they often err toward caution and shut it down.  


How parents can support big body play:

  • Supervise play closely. If your child needs help telling a playmate to stop or to do something in a different way, you'll be there to help.
  • Talk with your child and set some ground rules for big body play. For example, If your child likes to wrestle, you might set up a Wrestling Zone in your home. Choose an area with enough space to wrestle without bumping into furniture. Make a rule about how long each wrestling bout can last before time is called. You might also have a rule about all wrestling moves being between shoulders and waists, and not around necks or heads.

Five things you should know about big body play:

  1. Big body play looks like fighting, but it isn't fighting.
  2. Big body play is rowdy, physical, and usually loud. It rarely turns into real fighting.
  3. Big body play is a vital component of children's growth and development. Children all over the world play this way.
  4. Big body play gives children sustained moderate-to-vigorous physical exercise. With our current obesity epidemic such a growing concern, it can help children stay fit and healthy.
  5. The quickest way to distinguish big body play from real fighting is by looking at the expressions on children's faces. Their big smiles let us know the play is okay. 

Frances Carlson is the author of  Big Body Play: Why Boisterous, Vigorous, and Very Physical Play Is Essential to Children's Development and Learning .


Literacy Learning: Roving, Reading, Writing & Research
Virginia Klara

Virginia Klara

Early in the school year, Miranda and I both felt that the Red-Eyed Tree Frogs should learn how to write using cursive script. But with youngsters increasingly tapping out their thoughts on keyboards and smartphones, some wonder if learning to write in cursive is an extraneous activity for kids. Here are some thoughts about having children learn to "write."


For students ages 7 and 8, in particular, cursive writing continues to develop their motor skills. If young students did virtually all their written work on a computer, their printing/handwriting would hardly improve over the years without concerted effort later. Forming letters by hand, as opposed to typing them into a computer, also improves their ability to readily recognize letters, a capacity that, in turn, improves their reading ability.


Cursive writing is particularly valuable to children with learning challenges like dyslexia and A.D.D. The "b" and "d," for example, look nearly identical in print, but not so in cursive. Students often have trouble recognizing the same letters since pre-school days. By introducing another writing form, we can reinforce the lesson another way.


Learning to produce script strengthens the neural connections between the hand and the brain. It naturally develops sensory perceptions. Through repetition, the child begins to understand how much force needs to be applied to the pencil and paper, the position of the pencil to paper, and the planning necessary to form each letter in fluid motion from left to right. This physical and spatial awareness builds the neural foundation of sensory skills needed for a myriad of everyday tasks such as untying knots, copying words, and reading.   


Cursive handwriting stimulates the brain in ways that typing cannot. Writing activates areas regions of the brain involved in thinking, language, and working memory. It improves the interplay of the left and right cerebral hemispheres and increases mental effectiveness.  


Although typing can become more efficient than either form of writing by hand, the ability to master the skill to write clearly and fluidly improves students' confidence to communicate freely with the written word. The connectivity of a simple cursive style is faster to write than the stop-and-start strokes of printing; many people go on to develop their own kind of print-cursive hybrid for quick note taking anywhere.


Because cursive handwriting involves connecting letters, it has been shown to increase the attention span during writing. Continuity and fluidity while writing also encourages the production of greater amounts of writing overall.


When printing, some children write so erratically that it is difficult to determine where one word ends and another begins. Cursive, on the other hand, requires one to write from left to right so that the letters will join in proper sequence; therefore, it is easier to read.  It also aids with spelling through the connectivity of the letters. This helps the child to see words as a whole instead of seeing separate letters (as in printing).  Additionally, the hand 'acquires knowledge' (muscle memory) of spelling patterns through movements that are used repeatedly in spelling. This is the same phenomenon that occurs when pianists or typists learn patterns of hand movements through continued repetition.


Learning to write in cursive improves a student's ability to read cursive. How many times over the years will your kids receive a birthday card with the traditional $ bills tucked inside? How many times will your child hand over the card to you and ask you to read it because cursive seems like a foreign language in code? Help foster better communication between the generations; lobby for learning cursive.

Art Room Happenings
Lore Deighan
Lore Deighan


The Sandy Gorillas are continuing to create works of COLOR.  They have finished their primary color pieces and are onto mixing secondary colors.  Last week I put out yellow and blue paint and guess what it made?!?!?!  GREEN!  We got all kind of greens - blue greens, yellow greens, green greens.  I really enjoy sharing their enthusiasm for exploration in color and look forward to mixing the remainder of our secondary colors over the coming weeks.

The Ice Kids are in the midst of a multi-class project; after working hard to draw dragonflies they are now creating habitats for them in tomato box lids.  We have talked about working hard, following through on a project and allowing a work of art to change.  They started decorating their boxes with watercolor which brought on a discussion about control - some mediums we have more control over such as markers while others are not so easy to control.  And as some of the students became frustrated with their lack of control over the medium, elevated emotions coincided and we discussed how the actions of our classmates or any other person is yet another thing we can not control, but we can control the way we act and react to others.  Art making can really be a metaphor for life situations if you choose to contemplate it.

The Red-Eyed Tree Frogs are inspired by art these days.  We have been looking at artists and making work by copying their styles and exploring their mediums.  Last week we looked at the Spanish artist Joan Miro, who once said, "The simplest things give me ideas."  We looked at the colors, shapes and mediums that he used, and the kids used chalk pastel to explore his art making. Next, the students each chose a work of art from my art books that they were inspired by, and in our next class together they will begin to explore and make art that inspires them on an individual basis.  And on a side note, it made my day when one student said, "I am just so inspired by your artwork, can I chose you as my artist?" 

And last but certainly not least, the Unknowns have just begun their final color projects.  They have been learning about the color wheel and different color schemes and are now expected to make a work of art that explores their understanding of one particular color scheme that they have learned.  They can choose from any of the three complimentary color schemes, hot or cool colors, primary colors, analogous colors (if you don't know this term ask them) or a monochromatic color scheme.  The image and color scheme is up to them to choose and I look forward to seeing what they come up with.  We are also about to begin working on projects involving the wool they so beautifully helped dye last month.  In fact - I don't know how we're going to fit all that I wish to do with them before break in the 3 classes we have left together!  But I have faith that they have it in themselves to focus and push through so that some beautiful works of art come home in time for the holiday.

It's been fun and as always, thank you for sharing your children with me.

Yoga and Movement
Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy


With this cool and sunny weather during fall, we have been able to be outside a lot during our time together. This is a great place to be to start our day with mindfulness as the amazing land and trees at BMS surrounds us.


The younger classes, the Ice Kids and Sand Gorillas, have continued to learn new yoga poses through story and games. We have been going on jungle and ocean journeys together. A favorite is when we hit the ocean to go surfing, paddle out to sea on our surfboards, find our waves and ride them in Warrior I and Warrior II poses (then fall down, of course!). We encounter lots of animals out in the ocean, and the kids lead the stories of what we see and how we act out those poses! Savasana pose or relaxation seems to be getting easier for most kids as they know what to expect of our quiet relaxation together: calm time on our own mats, gentle music, muscle relaxation, and calm words and songs. What a gift to be able to spend this time together!


The Unknowns and The Red Eyed Tree Frogs have been starting each day with mindfulness activities, breathing, quiet meditation, or sharing of our difficulties and successes of the week. We have been continuing our group building and cooperative games with much learning and fun. As well as going on a few hikes, some favorite games this month have been the secret handshake and spy game, "Who's the leader?" and "The leadership line-up." The leadership line-up activity goes like this: the kids get in order of categories by themselves without speaking at all. Some categories include alphabetical names, birthday order, number of pets, ages, number of siblings, etc. This was fascinating to watch, and they did it beautifully! These group games foster a sense of group awareness and how important every person is to the group, and remind us that we can all have fun and get exercise without the pressure of winning and losing. I have seen both classes really benefit from these style games. Some of the kids have contributed some great coop games and adaptations of ones we have done.

Performance Arts
Rob Neukirsch
Rob Neukirsch


I am excited about working with all the BMS students in Monday drama class! We will follow and expand on some of Vicky's themes and exercises, culminating in a spring performance. The fall performance of  "Mayhem in the Museum" got such good reviews. We will try to match them. For me, acting is all about being real and truthful; kind of like life, huh? 

We hope you enjoyed reading the Indigo Messenger. Be sure to  it to anyone you think may be interested.
Thank you,


In This Issue
Unknowns: Math & Language
Unknowns: Science
Unknowns: History
Red-Eyed Tree Frogs
Ice Kids
Sandy Gorillas
Literacy Learning
Yoga & Movement
Performance Arts
Parent Reminder
Board Notes
On the Calendar
Dec 2: Cut Your Own Tree
Dec 6: Board Meeting
Dec 7: Mindful Parenting Group
Dec 9: Cut Your Own Tree
Dec 14: Mindful Parenting Group
Dec 18: Half Day (9-12:30)
Dec 19: Winter Celebration 
Dec 19-Jan 6: Winter Break

Chess Club: 3:15 Thursdays

Early Childhood Friday Program: 9:00 to 1:00 

Parent Reminder
The Lost and Found box is overflowing with quite an assortment of coats, hats, socks, shoes, and other items. Please take a few moments to stop by the office and see if you recognize anything. 
Board Notes
Please welcome our newly appointed interim board members, who will serve until elections in May: Aaron Vaughan, Susan Slate, Kristan Morrison, Kamala Bauers, and Jack Wall.

Board Officer elections were held in November. The new president is Kristan Morrison, vice president is Jamie Reygle, treasurer is Aaron Vaughan, and secretary is Cassie Pierce.  

The Board met on November 6. After approving the minutes, the Board heard the Director's report, which covered a discussion about winterizing the school buildings, space planning for next school year, and staff evaluations.

The Finance Committee gave its monthly report, and the Scholarship Task Force shared notes from their first meeting. Several upcoming fundraising events were shared, and a decision was made to thank our Local Gift supports even though we will be taking a year off from that program due to resource issues.

Board members also discussed a recent meeting with CERC and other community members and then planned for the All-School Meeting and Board development workshops.

The next meeting of the Board of Trustees is December 6 at 3:30. 
In Gratitude We Thank

Liz Stucki for donating soap-making materials.

Hari Berzins
for donating a computer for the office.

Inge Terrill for donating a microwave for the school kitchen.

John Getgood for donating maps and puzzles of the 50 states.

Jagadisha for helping the Red-Eyed Tree Frogs earn a stamp in their passports from India.

Warren Lapine & Angela Kessler for donating instructional material for Adobe Creative Suite.

Plenty! for donating cake for the All-School Meeting.

Zion Lutheran Church for allowing the drama club to have the play in the church.

Jonathan Greenberg for volunteering with the Chess Club.

Rebekah Hicks, Linda Johnson, and Martha Taylor for volunteering in our classrooms.

An Anonymous Donor for paying the school's mortgage.

Wilder Publications for donating to the scholarship fund.

Everyone who helped rake leaves at Zion Lutheran Church with us!

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Blue Mountain School 

470 Christiansburg Pike, Floyd, Virginia 24091