Indigo Messenger
 Let's Party!   




Music! Food! Prizes! Auction! Kiddy Gras! What more could you ask for? Buy your tickets now, and we'll see you there! 


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

Shelly Emmett
Shelly Emmett


Sometime earlier this school year, a sign showed up on the driveway into school. It says "Slow: Free Range Children." I don't know who put the sign up, but I am grateful to the person who did so. Aside from making me smile every time I pass it, this sign contains an excellent reminder of why schools like Blue Mountain School are important and why they are unique.  

In a culture that is obsessed with getting things done quickly, with moving through each day just so that we can get to the next one, with teaching kids what they need to know so that they can pass a test, our school works to present children and families with a different approach to education and to life. As a Contemplative Progressive school, focused on nurturing the unique human beings that each of our students are, we value the slow but steady educational process over a tangible product like grades and test scores. We build relationships with our students by getting to know them and helping them to learn to know themselves, by allowing them to make choices and learn from their mistakes. Kids at Blue Mountain School are definitely certified Free Range! 


The educational process at our school is a messy one, though: if you cook with your children, you know what I mean. No one would argue that it would be a lot cleaner, faster, and more productive to make the food yourself. But then you'd miss out on the opportunity to build a relationship with your kids by including them in the experience, and the kids would miss out on feeling the sense of accomplishment that comes from helping to produce something that is useful for themselves and their families.

The same is true at our school. It would be a lot cleaner, faster, and yes, more productive to tell students what we think they need to learn, how they should learn it, and why. Teaching through relationship and experience is a much slower process, but it is one that is rich and fruitful beyond the usual measures. It is Free Range quality, without a doubt. 

Thank you to our secret sign-maker for the daily reminder that what we are doing is important and valuable!

The Unknowns:
Math and Language Arts
Jonathan Vandergrift
Jonathan Vandergrift


Since returning from Winter break, the Unknowns have been really progressing in their studies in both Language Arts and Math. I was prepared to ease the students back into our normal classroom routine, but to my surprise, they were ready to go on our first day back together! There was very little I needed to review from the lessons in December, which made room for us to begin introducing new material. While I had no illusions the Unknowns were fervently reviewing math formulas and grammar rules during the break, I'm glad the few weeks off didn't completely erase all memories of our class time!


In Language Arts, we recently finished reading A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck. This story was highly recommended by our former History and Drama teacher, Ms. Vicky, who felt these students would enjoy it. She was right! Each chapter is its own story where a brother and sister unwittingly become part of their mischievous Grandmother's elaborate plans to fix the town folks' unethical ways. It has been a great book for class discussion and has improved their ability to interpret literature.


Our most recent math lesson was destined for rebellion from the beginning - LONG DIVISION. The Unknowns were finishing the lesson on area of a circle when I discovered the class was having difficulty with finding Pi (dividing circumference by diameter). While a few students had some success, the others were at a loss. Bottom line: Nobody liked doing long division. So over the next couple of days, we started from scratch and re-learned long division. While some students stayed with the traditional method, I introduced a different method which really excited those who previously moaned in pain by simply hearing a mention of division. After a little misery and initial frustration, the class has really turned around, and they even get a little excited when I throw a division problem on the board.


The Unknowns: Science
Inge Terrill
Inge Terrill


The Unknowns have been busy learning about their bodies this past month. We have been discussing the human body's main internal systems (for example, the skeletal and digestive systems). Most recently we have been learning about the circulatory system. We learned that children have between 60-70 heart beats per minute, as opposed to an elephant that has about 28 beats per minute. The Unknowns have also learned that a human body contains enough blood to fill 7 � aluminum cans. The next system we will learn about will be the muscular system.


In the realm of geography, each student was responsible for finding the approximate location of their home on a map of Floyd County. During this exercise, we found out that several of us do not live in Floyd County. We figured out that all of us live in either Floyd, Franklin, Montgomery, or Roanoke Counties. We made a game out of this exercise by separating the students into two groups, both of which were responsible for writing down the directions to the homes of two of their teammates in as much detail as possible. It will be the objective of both groups to follow the directions from the other group and figure out which "home" they have been directed to go to.


For Virginia studies, we  recently learned about some of the unique features of Floyd County. Some of the features we learned about are Buffalo Mountain, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Floyd Fest. In learning about the uniqueness of Floyd, we are piecing together ideas for the TEDxFloyd project that the students are working on.

The Unknowns: Social Studies
Hari Berzins
Hari Berzins


I am grateful to be back with the kids at Blue Mountain School. We are laying the groundwork for our first TEDxFloyd event, a one-day conference. From the TED website, here is a bit about TEDx:


TEDx was created in the spirit of TED's mission, "ideas worth spreading." The program is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level.


At TEDx events, a screening of  TEDTalks videos -- or a combination of live presenters and TEDTalks videos -- sparks deep conversation and connections. TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis.


My time with The Unknowns will be spent planning and executing this event. As a result of our first four classes together, we have identified the themes upon which we'd like to focus our event. They are:

  • Creativity: dance, music, art, lifestyles
  • Community: intentional communities, communities of faith, interfaith organizations, history, how our diverse community co-exists/common threads of Floydians
  • Economy: environment--water, wildlife, landscape, agriculture, local shops, historic perspectives, ways of making a living in our rural community

TEDxFloyd will be held on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at the Floyd EcoVillage. Our license from TED is limited to 100 guests, so one of our tasks as a class is to decide how we will bring together a diverse audience in a fair way. The good news is the entire event will be videotaped and loaded onto the TED website, so everyone can join in on the discussion.


Last week, we made a field trip to the Floyd EcoVillage and met with Jack Wall to discuss the production. We are delighted and grateful to have the support of the EcoVillage. We can't imagine a better spot to hold our event. Thanks, Jack and Kamala!

Thanks, also, to Will Bason and Laura Polant for visiting our class and sharing your stories with us.


We are seeking speakers! If you or someone you know would like to share your story with our class and possibly speak at the first TEDxFloyd event, please email us or post to our Facebook page.


We look forward sharing our progress with you on our Facebook page. Please like us and help spread the word.


It's good to be back!

Red-Eyed Tree Frogs
Miranda Altice
Miranda Altice


The Red-Eyed Tree Frogs have gone from learning about the massive, and possibly infinite, universe to the teeny, tiny microscopic world of bacteria and cells. A wonderful intro into the world of Life and the Clock of Eras. The Hadean Era showed us how Earth was created, and now the Archaen Era is giving us the story of bacteria and cells. Our first dissection this year involved a raw egg that showed us what a "giant" cell actually looks like.

The importance of washing our hands is proven through our experiments with germs (eww) and how it's so easy to pass them along. (So please, sneeze and cough in your inner elbow...not your hands!). But not all bacteria is bad! We learned this through making our own yogurt with some mighty tasty bacteria! Our journey through cells - and re-creating cells - shows us why plants and animals are so different ... on a microscopic level. And there's a lot more to life than meets the eye...

Toothpick bridges are our main focus in math/physics! The Frogs are learning about how important it is to plan and build solid structures - especially for human use! Once we are finished with our bridges, we will see who has created the strongest! May the best bridge win!!

In math, the Frogs have also been using the protractor and measuring angles of various shapes. This has been a huge hit with the class. Some frogs have loved making their angles books so much that they have begun (and some finished!) poster-sized shapes with imaginative names along with their correct degree of angle! Take a look at the hallway to see some of these creations... our budding engineers!

The Frogs have also been working on table and social manners ("may I please...", "thank you", "excuse me...", how to sit properly at the table, how to set formal lunch and dinner setting, etc.). This work is mostly in preparation for our Valentine's tea party but it also instills great behavior!
Ice Kids
Corey Avellar
Corey Avellar


December and January were the  

best months yet,

Filled with great poems we'll never


We wrote poems for each vowel:  

A, E, I, O, and U.

That alone gave as quite a lot of  

writing to do.


Some were so funny, and  

some made us think,

And I think all our markers  

have run out of ink.

A for appreciation, and I for inside.

E for exaggerate, now don't run and hide!


Two more letters to finish our great vowel clan:

There was under for U, but for O was a bigger plan.

Opposite Poems and Opposite Day,

And to that we say Hip Hip Horray!


The Ice Kids and I had been feeling quite contrary,

and so we expressed it through words necessary

to give the opposite of our true feeling and meaning.

Whenever we talked we had to be scheming.


Being prepared is the name of the game,

so prepared to speak opposites is what we became.

Again we were practicing to get it just right

When our special day was almost in sight.


Thursday, December sixth was our special day,

And we spoke all our thoughts in an opposite way.

Don't sit on your "X" and don't wash your hands,

I'm really not hungry, this day is not grand!


It was very fun but a little confusing,

especially when others thought it amusing

to try to trick and derail us into a ditch.

But here's to success without a glitch or a hitch!


Well, we've had it with opposites, we're taking a break.

Sit back, write a book and maybe eat cake!

Our next poem is patterns, like AABB.

Come check out our walls, and then you will see!


Thanks for reading!

From the Ice Kids and Corey

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

Sandy Gorillas
Stefi Schafer & Winter Koeppe
Stefi Schafer
Winter Koeppe

The Sandy Gorillas have been very interested in dramatic play this month. In particular, the class is enjoying running their store and serving customers in their restaurant. Winter and I thought the Gorillas would enjoy a chance to peek into the inner workings of a real store and a real restaurant, and we were right!

First we visited the Floyd Food Lion, where store manager, Mr. Robert, took us on a tour behind the scenes. We visited the store room, helped stock the orange juice shelves, and had a chance to practice a little cake decorating!

After working up a healthy appetite, we traveled over to the Floyd Country Store for a peek in the kitchen and a tasty lunch!

5 x 5 = Literacy Learning
Virginia Klara

Virginia Klara

My literacy work with the Ice Kids, Red-Eyed Tree Frogs & the Unknowns centers around 2 sets of principles: the 5 Pillars of Reading Instruction - phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary; and the Daily 5 of Literacy, developed by Gail Bousey and Joan Moser.


I spend more time on the 5 Pillars (Phonics, Phonemic awareness, Fluency & sight words, Comprehension, and Vocabulary) with the younger students, the emerging readers. Our one-on-one tutoring sessions and small group games help them make connections and develop these skills.


The Daily 5 of Literacy concept comes into play as students become independent readers and writers. The Unknowns concentrate on 4) Working on Writing and 5) Word Work as Jonathan and I explore literature and the writing craft with the oldest group. Miranda and I try to put all of the Daily 5 principles into play with the TreeFrogs.


The Daily 5 of Literacy:

  1. Read to Self - You'll see Red-eyed Tree Frogs lounging around class, singly or in pairs, enjoying fiction books. Each week's language arts contract has silent reading as one of the students' activities. This provides each child with a little reading practice time which builds stamina for reading longer and longer texts. It gives them enjoyment and time to use their imaginations during the independent reading 'task' because it gives the student the choice of what and when he or she reads. Miranda and I discuss the books with the readers and have students occasionally read a section aloud to one of us to check for comprehension and fluency. Some would read all day if allowed. Wow!
  2. Read to Someone Else - In class, this may take the form of reading one's own poem or research, or sharing a poem or information composed by another. Several children occasionally 'pair and share,' reading alternate pages to each other and assisting each other with decoding unfamiliar words. Reading to another improves one's reading rate, especially one's read-aloud rate. I hear students working together and explaining words and concepts to each other, thus the students become teachers, too. Wow!
  3. Listen to Reading - We have listened to recorded books as a class, but I've found that the children are much more engaged by a live reader so Miranda and I both read chapter books aloud. By hearing competent readers read, youngsters gain in fluency, inflection, and intonation. Concept comprehension questions come up organically, and vocabulary is examined in context. Sharing a group read book and discussing it frequently is my favorite part of class.
  4. Working on Writing - The more one reads and writes, the better one become at these skills. The Tree-frogs have learned to read and write in cursive script; they love knowing this grown-up skill. The writing assignments that engage the Unknowns cover many types of writing, from journal entries to persuasive essays to thank you notes. Practical writing practice improves spelling and helps the students learn the conventions of written English.
  5. Word Work - Students at all levels increase their vocabulary and spelling knowledge in the context of what they read and write. Crossword puzzles, word searches, vocabulary games, and jumbles also help to develop problem solving skills and make cognitive connections. Have you been stumped by some of the words learned by the Unknowns as Jonathan's Word of the Day (WOTD)? Has your child challenged you to find as many words as possible in a search of your full name? Try gaming with words at home; it's a fun way to engage your child.

P.S. SCRABBLE, anyone?

Lore Deighan
Lore Deighan


I imagine we're all feeling the dregs of winter as the snow begins to fall and coughs and sniffles prevail but alas, school keeps on going. And we're moving right along in the art room...


The Sandy Gorillas

have worked through their primary and secondary colors and created works of art with each color individually. They especially enjoyed mixing their secondary colors; this group loves to paint, especially with their hands! Right now they have really shown an interest in drawing so we are working mostly in their sketchbooks. It is fascinating seeing their little imaginations transfer into newly recognizable shapes and forms.   



The Ice Kids worked very hard learning how to draw dragonflies and then creating habitats for them. We used marker, water color, tempera paint, oil pastels and embellishments as we pushed through this multimedia project that addressed drawing, allowing changes to occur in ideas and process, learning about materials that we have more and less control over, and not giving up when we feel discouraged.




And since we have finished our dragonfly works, the Ice Kids have moved on to exploring color. We made color wheels and explored shades and tints, and next we will begin looking at different color schemes and combinations.


The Red-Eyed Tree Frogs have been getting down and dirty in the art room. I apologize for the paint on their sleeves and charcoal on their faces, but this group just loves to make expressive, hands on art. To wrap up our works "inspired by" other artists, per their request they made art work inspired by themselves. It was a fun day in the art room as creativity, exploration and, well, messiness ruled. Now we have begun exploring our colors and started by mixing colors to create color wheels. This seems like a very basic project, but the kids really love learning how to mix colors. We also learned about shades and tints, and next we will go on to explore different color schemes and combinations. Color is the "big idea," but as always I encourage creativity, exploration and individuality within projects.


The UNKNOWNS just wrapped up their explorations in color, and we are anticipating a fun class this week as we're set to make the King and Queen Crowns for the upcoming Mardi Gras Ball. Then after that we're planning (I do talk to them about what they want to do!) to begin working with drawing. I have a lot of fun ideas and different techniques to share with them and am excited to begin this next lesson.


I look forward to sending work home during March conferences as the art room feels to be busting at the seams. And as always, thanks for sharing your kids with me!


Yoga and Movement
Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy


Getting back to it and seeing the fruits!


It was so wonderful to be back after our nice long break. When I saw the faces enter into my first class, I realized how I really missed all of the children. I was awarded with many smiles, hugs, and eagerness to begin our day. Lately I have been noticing growth as we keep practicing our yoga and social emotional learning. All of these kids have had half a year to practice and get used to what we do and expect in class. As you know we have a definitive rhythm to our yoga time together. We start out with breathing and quiet time (sometimes a song with younger classes). Then we move in to slow yoga warm-ups and balancing poses (usually kid led), and next we get into our movement or longer asana sequences and some games. FInally we move into savasana and relaxation. As the year has progressed and kids have had time to practice, I have seen more focus, better concentration, and more confidence. I have also seen more self-correcting behavior, better listening, improved leadership skills and more kids going to the peace corner of their own will to calm themselves. Here we see that experience and time are the true teacher. Some of our kids have been doing yoga and contemplation at BMS for years. It is a joy to see the tools are being used and growth is happening! Of course there is a long road ahead on the Social Emotional Learning journey of life, and resiliency comes with lots of practice and life experience.

Music and Movement Education
Lucia Gruber
Lucia Gruber


Slap-slap-clap! Slap-slap-clap!


Hi, my name is Lucia Gruber, and I am the Music and Movement Educator for the rest of the school year. In the first two classes in January, I introduced some of the varying "materials" of MuME.


First, an imaginative excursion to the world of the animals and especially to the North Pole brought us into the movement of a Polar Bear, "who is unaware of cold that cuts me through: For why? He has a coat of hair? I wish I had one too!" By contemplating this poem, the students experienced the combination of language, movement and body percussion to create rhythm and music.


Next we practiced feeling the beat in the feet and the body. This is key to connecting students with their individual rhythm. To start off the semester, the Native American Hand Drum was the perfect instrument to feel the beat with the body. In their first class, the Red-Eyed Tree Frogs left the classroom behind and enjoyed this rhythm while walking in the warming afternoon sun. A quartet of Sandy Gorillas played the first dance music for their class, and all the students enjoyed the music and dancing. The Ice Kids began with listening to music and experimenting with a changing dynamic of playing percussion instruments, and so did the Unknowns, except they practiced using coordinated rhythm.


The last couple of minutes of each of the classes were reserved to implement the students' newly acquired skills in dancing.

Contemplative Studies
Jagadisha Rotella
Jagadisha Rotella


Contemplation and the brain! 

by Guest Writer Sarah McCarthy


Jagadisha has been called away to India for a few weeks to tend to the social emotional needs of his nephew, but he will be back tending to the social emotional needs of our students very soon!


Jagadisha has been leading our kids through meditation and focusing, feeling (the truth of how things are going inside), and sharing (learning the language and how to share it in a group), and he has been teaching other tools to help our kids better understand how to get to know themselves more. One of these tools has to do with science!  


The oldest two classes have begun to explore how our brains work at the social emotional level with the help of an amazing book, The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel and Tina Bryson.The authors share new research into neuroscience, how our brains (of both kids and adults) work. They explain how the brain is plastic, moldable; it physically changes throughout the course of one's life. Our experiences actually change the physical structure of the brain. Participation in lots of screen time, texting, and video games wires the brain in certain ways. Spending time with family, friends, and learning about relationships will wire it in other ways. The neat thing is that we can rewire our brains, which can lead to happier and healthier lives. Siegel and Bryson also explain how our brain has many aspects to it, like the right brain which experiences emotions and the left which is our logical and organization side. The goal is to help both sides of the brain work together as a whole, which they call integration. The book shares great tools to develop our emotional intelligence toward integration with our children and with own self too.  


There is so much more to it, so join us during our Mindful Parenting Group to discuss it in detail! The Whole Brain Child is an amazing book that you will be so grateful you read! You can get it at Notebooks in Floyd.


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 Arts
Unknowns: Science
Unknowns: Social Studies
Red-Eyed Tree Frogs
Ice Kids
Sandy Gorillas
Literacy Program
Yoga & Movement
Music & Movement
Contemplative Studies
Chess Club
Board Notes
Parent Collective
On the Calendar
Feb 9: Mardi Gras!
Feb 13: Board Meeting
Feb 14: Special Person Tea
Feb 18-22: Mid-Winter Break   
Chess Club: 3:15 Thursdays
Chess Club
This past month the Blue Mountain School Chess Club attended its first tournament. While we only had three participating, it was a tremendous success and a positive experience for all.

Jerrin Fisher and William Avellar played in the Beginners section and came in first and second place, respectively. Tai Nunez stepped up to play in the Regular section, which involved those who were nationally ranked. Even though it was also Tai's first time in a tournament, he still pulled away with 18th place out of 26 seasoned players.

On top of their wins, I was even more proud of Jerrin, Will, and Tai when a tournament organizer pulled me aside to compliment the students on their sportsmanship. She said they were sincere and showed compassion with their opponents whether winning or losing. It was truly a great day for Blue Mountain School!

Big thanks to Brecc Avellar for driving and helping out at the tournament.
Board Notes

The Board of Trustees met January 9th at the Floyd Eco Village.

Having attended several board development workshops, we are in the process of (and close
to the finish line) of creating an efficient, task-oriented, and extremely effective
Board of Trustees.

Topics on the table this month were the Scholarship Fund Drive, winterizing and maintenance of the current BMS buildings, and of course, Mardi Gras.

As always, board meetings are open to the public, and we welcome and encourage
your presence.  The next meeting is February 13 at 6:30 at the school.

Minutes from past meetings and agendas for upcoming meetings can be viewed online.
From the Parent Collective
Some of you have contacted me about volunteering for Mardi Gras. Thank you and keep it coming! We
need "all hands on deck" for this exciting FUNdraiser!

The Parent Collective is also looking for a small group of folks to help with researching passive fundraisers. If you can donate some time to help research, please let me know!

As always, communication and cooperation are two hallmarks of community; let our children learn from our examples!
In Gratitude We Thank

Shayne Goodrum and Aaron and Anne Vaughanfor donating office and classroom supplies.

David Wicks and Polly Disharoon for planning, creating advertising, and running the Christmas tree sale.

Kai's Krew
for donating supplies for Mardi Gras.

Food Lion and the
Floyd Country Store for being wonderful hosts for the Sandy Gorillas field trip.

An Anonymous Donor
for paying the school's mortgage.

Linda Johnson and Martha Taylor for volunteering in our classrooms.

Wilder Publications for donating to the scholarship fund.

Anonymous Donors for supporting three students for a day of the Friday Enrichment Program.

Kristan Morrison for donating to the general fund.

David Lander and Susan Icove for supporting two student for a week of summer camp.

David Burris & Meredith McGrath for donating to the scholarship fund.

Susanna Smith & Daryl Barker for supporting a student for one day of the Friday Enrichment Program.

Jamie and Elisha Reygle for supporting a student for one day of the Friday Enrichment Program.

Chick and Linda Fox for supporting a student for a year of Chess Club.

Brenda and Christopher Klara for supporting a student for one week of summer camp.

Cathy and Roy McCarthy for supporting two students for a week of summer camp and a student for one day of the Friday Enrichment Program.

Syd Wellman for supporting a student for one day of the Friday Enrichment Program.

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Blue Mountain School 

470 Christiansburg Pike, Floyd, Virginia 24091