Have you had a chance to participate in Expedition Blue Mountain?

"We are going to a place of learning, a school that nurtures children through a curriculum that is built on students' needs, interests, and talents. With deeply aware educators as guides, the unique learning relationships at Blue Mountain School allow for authenticity and mindfulness in and out of the classroom."

You can make a donation now online, or if you'd prefer to contribute with a check or cash, send in your pledge via email.

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

Shelly Fox & Heidi Dickens
Shelly Fox
Heidi Dickens
Shelly says...

As we look toward our Winter Celebration on December 18th, our staff are preparing small gifts for each student in our school. Each gift includes a unique word that represents a quality or gift that the student brings to our school community. This is a tradition we started years ago, and it is one of the ways that we show students that we see and appreciate them. At our celebration, teachers give their students the gift (sometimes a magnet, or an ornament, or another small item) and share with students that we recognize and are grateful for their presence and contribution. 

Last week, a six-year-old student proudly recited to me the word he received at our celebration last year. It was a reminder of how important and special traditions are for young children, and for all of us. It reminded me that being seen and mattering is a human need, and highlighted how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to meet that need every day at Blue Mountain School.

Heidi says...

Educating from the Care Perspective

Teachers at BMS work with the students' interests and stages of development to create engaging, meaningful, interdisciplinary projects which teach the skills and content in each subject area in an integrated manner, rather than in isolation. Particular care is taken in supporting the stages of cognitive, social, and emotional development through which children progress, which vary individually and as a group.  
At BMS, learning does not take place in a linear fashion; rather, learning takes place by having an opportunity to experience and reflect on new ideas and concepts multiple times and in different ways. Therefore, while encompassing national standards, our curriculum also reflects and takes into consideration the needs of the specific students in a given class, and their interests and passions at a given time.  
" The present insistence on more and more testing--even for young children--is largely a product of separation and lack of trust. When parents do not know the teachers of their children and teachers have not formed caring relationships with their students, it is predictable that demands for "accountability" would be heard. If no adult has time to spend with a child--shared time that yields dependable and supportive evaluation--then society looks for an easy and efficient way to evaluate: test, test, and test year after year. Then fear and competition take the place of eager anticipation and shared delight in learning. Although we may find out by such methods whether children have learned (at least temporarily) certain closely specified facts and skills, we do not get a full picture of what each unique child has learned and how he or she has built on the gifts we offer. What we learn in the daily reciprocity of caring goes far deeper than test results."  Excerpted from a 2005 article Nel Noddings wrote on Caring in Education.
Our school uses several different tools to assess a child's academic, social, and emotional growth. We do not engage in standardized testing. Our students and teachers work together to complete a portfolio of the students' work for review several times throughout the year.   

Special Pickle Kids
Holly Haworth
Holly Haworth
"The business of stories is not enchantment," writes the mythologist Martin Shaw. "The business of stories is not escape. The business of stories is waking up."

I would say that in order to wake us up, stories enchant us and offer us escape. When we are enchanted, and when we escape from our habitual patterns of perception, that is when we are transformed, when our perspective on our own lives, and on the lives of others, can shift. The business of stories is enlarging our hearts and minds.

That is why I am in the business of stories in the classroom. Stories--not didactic "information"--are the primary vehicle that most cultures throughout time have used to carry teachings.

In recognition of the widespread practice among Native American cultures of a "storytelling season" between first frost and last frost, we are celebrating storytelling in the classroom until the end of winter. (Some Abenaki say that the first clap of thunder in the spring means it is the end of the season for telling stories.)

The students began the month of November by collecting stories of their ancestors. It was wonderful to see them connect to the past in this way, with colorful and humorous stories of grandmothers and great-uncles and the long-ago faraway people of their lineage. It became clear to me once again that in exploring stories of who our ancestors were, we also explore the story of who we are in a more meaningful way, within the larger frame of history.

The students and I read the myths of many cultures together. This month, we enjoyed a story of the White Mountain Apache called Turkey Makes the Corn and Coyote Plants It, which I will share here, during the storytelling season.

In order to carry it on and honor the storytellers, I challenge you to tell the story to someone else in the next seven days. See what kind of enchantment happens. If you escape through this story, notice, too, how you return.

Turkey Makes the Corn and Coyote Plants It

Long ago when all the animals talked like people, Turkey overheard a boy begging his sister for food. "What does your little brother want?" he asked the girl.

"He's hungry, but we have nothing to eat," she said.

When Turkey heard this, he shook himself all over. Many kinds of fruits and wild food dropped out of his body, and the brother and sister ate these up. Turkey shook himself again, and a variety of corn that is very large dropped out of his feathers. He shook himself a third time, and yellow corn dropped out. And when he shook himself for the fourth time, white corn dropped out.

Bear came over, and Turkey told him, "I'm helping to feed my sister and my brother, over there."

Bear said, "You can shake only four times to make food come out of you, but I have every kind of food on me, from my feet to my head."
Bear shook himself, and out of his fur dropped juniper berries. He shook himself again, and out dropped a cactus that is good to eat. Then he shook out acorns, then another kind of cactus, then Gambel oak acorns, then blue oak acorns, then piñon nuts, then a species of sumac, then manzanita berries, then wild mulberries, then saguaro fruit.

Turkey said to the boy and girl, "I have four kinds of corn seeds here for you, and this is a good place to plant them."

The sister and brother took digging sticks and made holes with them. In the holes they planted all their corn seeds. The next day the corn had already come up and was about a foot and a half high.
The girl said, "We still have some squash seeds here," so they planted them too.

The boy and girl asked Turkey for more corn seed. "The corn is coming up nicely," they said, "so we want to make another farm and plant more corn there." Turkey gave them the seed, and they left him to look after their first fields while they started off to make the other farm.

When they came back, they heard Turkey hollering at the corn field. They ran down there and saw him dragging one wing along the ground on the side toward them. There were snakes on the other side of him, and he pretended to have a broken wing to lure the snakes away and shield the boy and girl.

The squash plants had young squash on them, and the corn had grown tall and formed ears and tassels. The tassels had pollen in them, and the snakes had come to gather the pollen out of the corn plants. Turkey told the boy and girl to stay away from the corn for four days, when the snakes would be finished.

At the end of the four days, the corn was ripe. Turkey told them, "This will be the only time when the corn will come up in four days. From now on it will take quite a while." And it does.

By now the brother and sister had planted corn three times, and they gave seeds to other people.

Then Slim Coyote came and asked for some. "The corn you planted is growing well, and the ears are coming out on it," he said. "I'd like to have some seeds to plant for myself."

Coyote would have to do lots of work if he wanted to raise his corn, but that wasn't his plan. "These other people here plant their corn, and after it's grown, they have to cook it. Me, I'm not going to do it that way. I'll cook my corn first and then plant it, so I won't have to bother to cook it when it's ripe."

Here's where Coyote made a big mistake. He cooked his corn, ate some, and planted quite a patch of the rest. He felt pretty good about it. "Now I've done well for myself. You people have to cook your corn after you plant it, but mine will be already cooked," he said.

After planting, he went off with the rest of the people to gather acorns, but when they returned to their fields, Coyote's had nothing growing on it at all. He said angrily, "You people must have taken the hearts out of the corn seeds you gave to me."

"No, we didn't do that," they told him, "but you cooked the heart out of them before you planted."

Coyote asked for more seeds and planted them the right way this time. So his corn grew: the day after he planted, it was up about a foot and a half. He felt good.

The people who had planted their corn at the beginning were harvesting now and tying it up into bundles. Coyote saw these and wanted some. People got mad at Coyote because he was always asking them for corn. "I just want some green ears to feed my children," he would say. "As soon as my corn is ripe, I'll pay you back."
The other people had all their corn in and stripped now, but their squashes were still growing in the field. Coyote stole their squash, and the people all came to his camp. They wanted to know if he was the one who was stealing their squash. Coyote pretended to get angry. "You're always blaming me for stealing everything. There are lots of camps over there. Why do you have to choose mine to come to with your accusations?" But the people knew about Coyote's thieving ways.

"From now on, don't make your farm near us. Move away and live someplace else!" they said.

"All right. There are several of you that I was going to repay with corn, but I won't do it now that you've treated me this way," he said.

So Coyote's family lived poorly, and they never bothered to cook anything before they ate it.

TheˈfəNGkē Wolf Gang
Lore Deighan
Lore Deighan

Tis the season for honoring and cultivating warmth and light in our lives, as well as a time for gathering with others to share our stories.

This is what we have been focusing on in Coyote School this December, as we're learning how to build fires outdoors and share stories around the light and warmth of the flames.

Yellow Electric Wiggly Weasles
Shelly Sherman
Shelly Sherman

In the middle of each school day, right after lunch, if you walk into our classroom you will find one teacher sitting in a chair reading out loud and ten children strewn about on the couch, the rug, or a cushion listening and finger knitting.  
Finger knitting has become the favorite pastime of the Weasels. The truth is that they are set on breaking the world record for the longest length of finger-knitted yarn, which is held by Ida Sofie Myking Veseth from Norway. Her finger knitting was 12.3 miles long!  
Finger knitting, if you don't already know, is precisely what it sounds like. It is a way of creating a knitted chain of yarn by using your fingers as your knitting needles. 

The Weasels have successfully knit all of the classroom yarn and are now working on yarn that has been donated by parents, other teachers, and a local knitting guild. I am amazed at how fast their fingers can fly through a skein of yarn.This project was initiated by the students, and they continue to take responsibility for all of the logistics, including tying each bit of their finished product to the main piece and then wrapping it all onto the yarn ball.  

With only 30 minutes to work on this project each school day, the Weasels try to squeeze in extra knitting time before or after school.

Golden Crystal Turquoise Dragons
Tammie Sarver
Tammie Sarver

The Golden Crystal Turquoise Dragons have continued to make every day a celebration of learning as we note the special days on the calendar. The days we observe are learning opportunities and also opportunities for making learning fun! We weave these observances into the rhythm of our days, using the celebrations to inspire journal writing prompts and other experiences.

We sampled pickles during afternoon snack on National Pickle Day.

We played ghost in the graveyard for second recess on the Day of the Dead.

On National Throw Away Your Leftovers Day, we cleaned out our cubbies, and we ate pomegranates for afternoon snack to celebrate National Pomegranate Month.

Inspired to learn that November was Novel Writing Month, we began incorporating more writing structure into our Writer's Workshop mini-lessons and started our own group mystery story! We incorporated book reports and book reviews into our Reading and Writing Workshops, and we began our own individual writing project kernels to grow into larger writing projects. It's been really gratifying to see these young writers' enthusiasm as the power of putting their words into published pieces begins to take form!

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, we focused on expressing gratitude. I modeled expressing gratitude by beginning our Morning Meetings with a modified Thanksgiving Address, and then the Crystal Dragons took turns sharing some of the things they are grateful for. We kept an ongoing gratitude list.  We revisited our list and used it to inspire us. We're using our gratitude list for some of our December Word Work with a festive twist. The children are invited to write the things they are grateful for on paper strips, creating a paper chain, where we can watch our gratitude grow and wrap around our classroom.

As fall merged into winter, we took some time to observe and represent nature in some creative processes.  We made felted acorns.

During Outdoor Explore we collected leaves and sticks and created mosaics.

As we've been deepening our understanding of measurement and marking the passage of time, it's been a great opportunity to work on our time telling with analog clocks. Friends made their own clocks to enhance their hands-on time telling, and we've used sand timers and digital timers to compare and deepen our understanding of minutes. As we know children learn best through play, we've had fun playing a "Beat the Clock" game and time telling bingo.

We've spent some time and energy enhancing our social emotional learning with mindfulness tools. Among other things, we've been practicing breathing techniques like Star Breathing and Shark Breaths, and I am very proud to say that my friends were inspired to create their own mindful breath technique, called Fish Breathing!  It feels so rewarding to be with a friend and see her use the Fish Breathing tool that the lassdc created themselves! I'm grateful to get to watch peace and mindfulness settle around our classroom!

Secret Magic Amberwings
Jenni Heartway & Amy Adams
Jenni Heartway
Amy Adams
The Beef Police Boat
Our study of boats began about a month after school started. We noticed that the children were very interested in books with landforms, and so we checked out many landform books from the library. From these, it became evident that the interest was really with the boat and ocean pictures. After talking with the students, it became clear that boats were a very interesting topic, and we needed to learn more about them.  
We began our study by talking about different structures that were present on boats and different types of boats. We began with simple boats like rafts and skin boats and worked our way up to more complicated fishing rigs and sailboats. We spent time talking about what types of projects we could do, and students were very interested in turning our loft into a giant boat in addition to doing some woodworking to create small tug boats.
Our woodworking project was really an opportunity to practice using tools like hammers, saws, and drills. We also incorporated measurement (in order to follow the pattern) and design (when we added our paint).
Our individual projects became a big part of our Writer's Workshop.  We spent time creating books about the boats we had chosen to work on individually and in small groups, and we used resources, like books, to find true information to add to our non-fiction books.
Our large boat, The Beef Police Boat, required a great deal of collaboration. We had to decide if we were going to create a modern boat (with a motor) or create a sailboat. We eventually decided to create a modern sailboat with both an engine and sail. The rest of the boat came together easily. The students were eager to include areas like the Bridge (which they filled with computers for navigation), the Galley (which had locking cabinets filled with yummy things and a stove), and a State Room with a Head (bathroom) and bed.   
The most important parts of our project included practicing sharing with each other, having an opportunity for the kids to be the teacher, and reflecting on our work. We each had written reflections where we shared the things we worked on, two "star" items (which were things we loved about the boat), and a wish for what we would have done differently. One of our favorite wishes was that the boat was REAL.  
As we wrapped up and presented our boat to friends and family, students were already talking about what our NEXT study will be!   

Blue Mountain Flying Unicorns
Stefi Schafer & Angie Barrett
Stefi Schafer
Angie Barrett

As part of our daily circle, we look at the calendar. We have meteorologists that tell us the weather by looking out the window and report it to us; every day we draw a representation of the weather. We talk about what enrichment is, is it Mindful Monday or Yoga with Sarah? Our calendar tells us if it is a "stay home" day or how many days till Thanksgiving. One of the most important notations are birthdays.

This month we noticed many friends have November birthdays. Even Ms. Stefi and Ms. Angie have a birthday in November. Several of the children mentioned birthdays of parents or siblings.

The calendar and birthdays give us lots of math opportunities. We count how many candles to draw on the calendar, how many friends are 3, 4 or 5. We compare what age has more and less students. This month we added all the birthdays in our families, and we counted them together. The children estimated how old Stefi was, "Probably bigger than 14."

The Unicorns have a birthday tradition, during lunch we read On the Night You Were Born, a sweet story about welcoming a child into the world, about the uniqueness of each of us. As we read the book out loud, we insert the name of the birthday child, celebrating and noting another year, getting older and growing.

We look at the calendar, we talk about what has been and what will come next in our time together. We remember and reflect and look forward and plan.

Yoga & P.E.
Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy
We have been getting into our yoga winter routine; winter is an especially nice time to practice yoga.

We have been doing lots of balancing poses, twisting poses, and partner poses as well as some new pranayama breathing techniques and an extra long savasana (relaxation on the back).

For the youngest classes, our yoga stories have focused on the coming chilly winter season. A recent story was about a family who created snow animals after a big snowstorm. They made a cat, dog, crab (she was a bit chilly and was wondering where the beach was) locust, owl, eagle, and snake to name a few. The animals magically came to life and helped a squirrel family in distress!

Forest Programs
Jenni Heartway & Tammie Sarver

Jenni Heartway
Tammie Sarver
Thank you to all the families who joined us for our Fall sessions of our Forest Programs. We had a fantastic time in the woods!

We have a few spaces open in Forest School (ages 7-11) for our Spring Sessions, and we are taking names for the waiting list for Forest Kindergarten (ages 3-6). Both programs start in March. Email or call 540-745-4234 to get on the list.

See you in the spring!

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

Dec 13: Student Plays [3:00]
Dec 18: Winter Celebration [5:30]
Dec 19-Jan 6: Winter Break 
Jan 18: Goal-Setting Conferences
Jan 21: MLK Jr Celebration & Sip for Peace
Jan 25: Snow Make-Up Day 
Before you leave for Winter Break, be sure to take home everything from your child's cubby and coat hook, and don't forget to check the Lost and Found for familiar items.  

Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees meets regularly in the enrichment room. The public is welcome to attend. If you would like to learn more about the Board, please contact the office.   


In Gratitude We Thank

Citizens Telephone Cooperative for working tirelessly to help us update our networks.

Blue Ridge Accounting & Tax for keeping our books.  
Citizens Telephone Cooperative for donating internet services.
Clark Gas & Oil
for keeping us and our water toasty warm. 



Shopping on Amazon?

We encourage everyone to support local businesses whenever you can. However, if you find yourself shopping on Amazon, be sure to link your Amazon Smile setting to Blue Mountain School.

Also, if you use the link below each time you open Amazon, even more of your purchase will come back to BMS for our scholarship fund!
Going Krogering?

With all the wonderful and farm fresh food in Floyd, it's hard to imagine spending much time in Kroger, but if you find yourself there, please help the school earn a little extra for the scholarship fund.

Link your Kroger Card to BMS with the Community Rewards Program. Our Organization Number is QK830.

Blue Mountain School 

470 Christiansburg Pike, Floyd, Virginia 24091