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February 2011

In This Issue
From the Director
Nature's Ninjas
Silly Monkeys
Service Learning
Contemplative Studies
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We invite you to this email to friends and relatives who are part of the Blue Mountain School Family.

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We'd love to thank...  

Lynn Gregory
& Stefi Schafer of the Floyd County Humane Society for letting the Nature's Ninjas play with their dogs

Paige Dalton of Skyline Manor Nursing Home for putting on such a great program of activities for Nature's Ninjas and the Thumbs-Up Kids to share with the nursing home's residents

The Parent's Tao te Ching

from The Parent's Tao te Ching:

If you push your children

they will lose their balance.

If you are always running them here and there,

they will get nowhere.

If you put them in the spotlight,

they will be unable to see their own light.

If you seek to impose upon them

your own ideas of who they should be,

they will become nothing.


If you want them to thrive,

do what you can for their safety,

then let go


Do you have agendas for your children

that are more important than the children


Lost in the shuffle of uniforms,




and performances

can be the creative and joyful soul of your child.

Watch and listen carefully.

Do they have time to daydream?

From their daydreams will emerge

the practices and activities

that will make self-discipline

as natural as breathing.

Encourage these.

On our calendar:

Mar 3: All-School Field Trip 

Mar 5: Mardi Gras   

Mar 7: Kids & Kritters

Mar 11: Snow Make-Up Day

Mar 14: Skyline Manor  

Mar 21: Stefi Schafer Visit

Mar 21: Spring Celebration

Mar 25: Snow Make-Up Day 


Welcome to the February edition of Blue Mountain School's Indigo Messenger.

This is a very exciting time for Blue Mountain School.

On the immediate horizon, the second annual Mardi Gras Costume Ball is less than a week away. Last year, over 300 people attended, and had one of the most memorable parties in a long time. This year, we have already sold all the seating tickets, and are well on our way to selling all the remaining standing tickets. Be sure to buy yours prior to the event, in order to avoid disappointment. Tickets are available at Blue Mountain School, Dogtown Roadhouse, Republic of Floyd, online, and from the following independent sellers: Ellen Wright (Floyd Fitness), Theda Anderson (Black Water Loft), Gabriele Hilger (Finders Keepers), Kari Zoller, Amy Myers, Lora Leigh Giessler, and Jamie Reygle.

We are also preparing to accept student registrations for the 2011-'12 school year. As we are already as close to capacity as we've ever been, it's very important that you express your interest in returning (or joining us) next year as soon as you can.

And, on the horizon, the school is about to celebrate its 30th birthday! This will be an ongoing theme throughout the next school year, and we are looking for plenty of creative ways to celebrate. If you have any ideas, please speak with Jamie. Part of what we want to do is to connect with as many alumni as possible in the coming months, so we can involve them in the celebrations. Again, if you know of any alumni (including past students, staff, and families) who are not currently connected with the school - say, through this newsletter or our Facebook group - please invite them to join us in these forums and/or get them connected with Jamie.
From the Director
Shelly Emmett

Shelly Emmett
Shelly Emmett

One of the things that we hope to encourage at our school is family involvement. We want families to feel welcome here, to feel a sense of connection to their children and to each other. We try to do this by welcoming parents to participate in their children's classrooms, by having monthly events for families to attend, and by having field trips in which families can participate.


Aside from the obvious benefits of community-building, parental involvement is one of the best predictors of educational success for students. This month there are several fun and easy ways to be involved with the school, and we hope everyone is able to participate in at least one.

On Wednesday, March 2nd, the whole school will be traveling to Roanoke for the students to see their own painted ladders on display, as part of the larger public art installation, titled Rise Up Roanoke. This will be an all-day trip, visiting the Taubman Museum of Art as well as the Roanoke Star. Please consider joining us, as we do need help with carpooling, and it will be a rewarding and empowering experience for the kids. You can sign up to attend with your child's teacher. 

Mardi GrasThe Mardi Gras ball on Saturday, March 5th is sure to be a fun way to celebrate the change of seasons, welcoming spring to stay. The ball is also an important fundraiser for our school, so while you are listening to great music and enjoying the excellent beer and food provided by Dogtown Roadhouse, you can feel good knowing that you're supporting the school.

Finally,  we'll be celebrating the official arrival of spring on Monday, March 21st from 1:30pm to 3pm. We are working on some exciting activities for this event, so be sure to put this one on the calendar.

We also hope to get our parent survey out at the end of March, and we'll be looking for feedback. We want to hear how you think things are working at the school, because we know that ideas for improving or refining what we are doing can often help things work better for everyone.


Class Reports
Shannon & Hari's class

Hari Berzins

Hari Berzins

From Hari:    


Happy February!

We have been writing, loving and writing about love this month.

While teaching in the Osceola County Public Schools in Florida, I was fortunate to train with an independent writing firm, PDA. The methods I learned for teaching writing are so clear, that students are able to learn to clearly express themselves, something "...HARD!" (quote from an OxyMoron). There are four basic elements of effective writing: focus, organization, support, and conventions. Through use of extended metaphor (essay is a house), I am teaching students how to build an essay. We start with planning, framing and laying the foundation (focus and organization), add doorways, hallways, windows, stairs (effective transitions), make the house a home by building cabinets, finishing rooms and adding furniture (support through elaboration-specifically, use of the anecdote). To finish off, we decorate (sentence variety; strong, accurate verbs; concrete nouns; strong introductions; and conclusions).

As I teach the above, I am also teaching the writing process - 1) Prewriting; 2) Drafting; 3) Revising; 4) Proofreading; and 5) Publishing. We saw the entire process through to publishing when we explored "I believe love is _____, I learned this from _____." This essay was inspired by This I Believe - "an international organization engaging people in writing and sharing essays describing the core values that guide their daily lives." A couple of student essays are featured on our class blog.

We hope you will take some time to visit and comment on our musings about the oxymoron "controlled chaos." Also, check out the pages Details in Writing and Essay Writing Instruction, both of which are followed by student writing. The goal for our blog is to provide a larger audience for student writing and activities in our dynamic classroom. We hope you'll join our blog community.

Wishing you much controlled chaos!




Inge's class
Nature's Ninjas

Inge Terrill
Inge Terrill

Nature's Ninjas have a new student in the classroom.  Her name is Tigerlily Kaynor and she is in the 2nd grade.  Tigerlily has fit in very nicely with the rest of the Ninjas and into our weekly routines.  She seems truly happy to be a part of the BMS scene.

The Ninjas have certainly been enjoying the fine weather this past month by spending more time outside.  We enjoyed a contemplative walk to the big tree swing on Rosemary's and Walter's neighboring land.  We also did a walk around the school's campus to look at any late winter changes in the trees on the property.  We were looking for changes in bud size, color, and shape as indicators of early spring growth.  The Ninja's recess time has been exciting with new games and activities with the rest of the BMS students.

Some new friends the Ninjas have made this month include several dogs that are being fostered by the Floyd Humane Society.  The Ninjas had fun this month making dog toys for the Humane Society to sell.  They also enjoyed a day of dog training at the school.  The Ninjas helped train four dogs to sit and come.  The socialization the dogs received is important in placing them in good homes.

Our Valentine's Day Special Tea Celebration was a big success.  Many dear ones came to share lots of home baked goodies and tea with the Ninjas.  We shared with our guests many of the lapboards the students have been working very hard on over the past several months.  We spoke about projects the Ninjas are working on, classes they are taking, and field trips they have done and are about to have.  We also had the opportunity to talk a little bit about what makes each one of us special.  All the Ninjas shared with me what they feel makes them special.  I thought I'd share their answers with you.   Enjoy!

Cedar said she is special because she is different from other people.  Gabriel said he is special because he likes working at Sweet Water Bakery.  Indya said she is special because she is unique.  Jonah said he has a good sense of humor.  Kaia is good at drawing faces.  Layla shared with the class that she tries to treat everyone nicely.  River said she is good at drawing.  Tigerlily said she is special because she is good at teaching dogs to pull things like carts.  Tai is special because he is good at making lapboards.  William said he has his own style.

Wishing you all lovely spring flowers and sweet rain showers! 


Amy's class

Silly Monkeys

Amy Myers

Amy Myers


Delightful times from our little Silly Monkeys this month have us smiling. We had such a wonderful time at our Special Persons tea, with so many of our friends and families coming to join us. It is a true joy to bake bread with the children, and they love it too! Together we made heart-shaped rolls and enjoyed a nice potluck of so many goodies. The weather was warm and wonderful that day, so our celebration overflowed outdoors, where we were able to play our current favorite game I sent a letter. It is basically Duck, Duck, Goose with a Valentine twist.  The children loved it even more that parents and grandparents were there to join in the silliness.


Artistically we were inspired to water color paint Valentine hearts, and proceeded to decorate them with other little clippings and ribbons. Currently we are working on sock puppets together and will soon hope to work on a little puppet show that we might be able to share. Not many people would trust young children with a needle and thread, but with a little guidance, their fine motor skills really flourish with this activity. They are so determined and careful; one can't help but be impressed!


Our circle times have been really coming along nicely at this time of the year. Most of the children are enthused to practice counting, can actively listen to our friends share stories, as well as sharing confidently in the group.  We have also been exploring our bird book, and I am impressed that they recognize several of our feathered friends that visit our feeder outside our window. We are still working on which bird sounds belong to the chickadee, tufted titmouse and the nuthatch.


Our current finger play is The Little Brown Sparrows. It goes like this: "Little brown sparrows flying around, high in the treetops, down on the ground. Come to my window dear sparrow, come see, I will give you many a crumb. Here is some water, sparkling and clear, come little sparrow, drink without fear. If you are tired, here is a nest, wouldn't you like to come here and rest? But all the brown sparrows flutter away, singing and chirping, "We cannot stay." For high in the treetops, among the gray boughs, there is the sparrow's snug little house."   


Jamie's class
Community connection

Jamie Reygle
Jamie Reygle

How fast these months fly by!


All classes are getting more deeply involved in their projects now, which can - at times - make it seem as though not a lot is happening. But there is a lot of processing going on, as we move from conceptualizing to understanding.



Empty sand trap

Empty sand trap



The Thumbs-Up Kids are learning that little critters can be very hungry! Every time we go to check on our sand trap, it looks like the picture on the left. The only thing they don't eat is apple peels.


Now we have had some practice at preparing the sand traps, we are going to begin measuring on a daily basis, which means the students need to have the same item of food for the sand trap each day. If you are a Thumbs-Up parent, please do your best to ensure this happens.


We will also be making casts of some of the tracks we find in the sand traps, which should be a fun activity.

Socializing dogs

Socializing dogs


Nature's Ninjas have been socializing some dogs from the Humane Society - both at the place the dogs are currently living, and also at the school.


Soon, we will also be visiting Kids and Kritters of the New River Valley, who focus on special needs animals. They have a blind cat, a horse that is going blind, a three-legged cat, and a bunch of other interesting animals. If the concept of special needs animals seems strange to you, then you are not alone. Kids and Kritters is usually the last stop for these animals, because most people want nothing to do with them.


Meanwhile, most of the groundwork is done, and March should be a productive month for the Oxymorons.


The Extreme Stream team has taken their 'before' measurements, by collecting the dirt that was washed onto a couple of heavy plastic sheets. This means they can now do their erosion intervention, and test whether it works.


The rEcyclists have got most of their ducks in a row, and will be putting e-waste collection boxes out in Floyd this month. They have this to say:

Middle school students at Blue Mountain School are collecting electronic waste for reuse or recycling. Cell phones, plug-in phones, computers and computer parts, game consoles, mp3 players, digital cameras and more will be recycled in the USA by a partnership between Goodwill and Dell. Donors should back up any valuable information and erase any sensitive data from storage media before dropping off.

March 4-11, collection boxes for handheld items will be at Harvest Moon and Slaughters. Larger items can be brought to Blue Mountain School at 470 Christiansburg Pike Monday - Thursday from 9a to 3p. If you have questions, call 540-250-3977.   


SeedzDeedz have prepared their questionnaires, and will be seeing if people are getting the message about local foods. Here is their message to you:

Did you know that the average produce item travels 1,500 miles from farm to consumer? If you buy local food, you will 

  • support family farms
  • get fresher food
  • reduce energy used for shipping
  • keep our local economy strong, and 
  • know where your food comes from! 
You might not find everything on your grocery list grown locally, but you can get much of it here in Floyd. To find Floyd-grown food, browse the list compiled by Blue Mountain School students: .   
Stay tuned, a lot could happen this month!


Lora Leigh's class
The Painted Word

Lora Leigh Giessler
Lora Leigh Giessler

Public Art Project - "Rise Up Roanoke"


The last couple of weeks in art class we have focused on public art. When I learned that Floyd County artist, Charlie Brouwer, was commissioned by the Taubman Museum in Roanoke to install one of his "Rise Up ..." community building art projects, I realized that this was a wonderful opportunity for BMS students to learn about and participate in creating public art.


Charlie has invited the community of Roanoke and neighboring counties to "lend a ladder" to create a 50' sculpture in the shape of a star in the atrium of the museum. He states in a Roanoke Times article that: "We are not asking for any donations. This is about lending and borrowing ladders just like what happens in neighborhoods. And, when you lend a neighbor a ladder your relationship with them grows - especially when they return it! I see that trust and respect are the heart of these projects."

Charlie was delighted when I asked if the Blue Mountain School students could participate and if he would spend some time talking with them about his art.


In preparation for the project, we brainstormed and discussed: Why would Charlie choose a ladder as a symbol? Why is the sculpture in the shape of a star? What does this mean to you? Some of the ideas stated were: "To reach for something that is hard to get to," "For climbing," "To build houses."


What do you reach for, or climb to, or build? "Dreams," "Destiny," "Goals," "Victory."


Working together in groups of two, three or more gave the students another opportunity to experience what it feels like to collaborate and share their ideas and the parts of their paintings that are important to them, and to be a part of something bigger than their individual art.


This public art lesson will culminate when the students meet Charlie at the Taubman Museum and view their colorful ladders, and hundreds more, as a part of a huge sculpture, during our all-school field trip to Roanoke on Wednesday, March 2nd.


Alonzo, Summit and Cypress
Alonzo, Summit and Cypress
Mia and Lily
Mia and Lily

Satya and Oceana
Satya and Oceana
Amy's class
Amy's class

Jonah, Gabriel and Tai
Jonah, Gabriel and Tai

Layla, River and Tigerlily
Layla, River and Tigerlily
Kaia, Indya and William
Kaia, Indya and William

Maggie and Eric
Maggie and Eric

Eric, Madeline and Linneya
Eric, Madeline and Linneya

Madeline, Linneya, Alexis (in the background) and Camille
Madeline, Linneya, Alexis (in the background) and Camille
Maggie, Lily and Madeline
Maggie, Lily and Madeline

Madeline and Camille
Madeline and Camille

Sarah's class
What Yoga Is

Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy

As we stand on the front of our mats with our legs together, our spines and arms leading toward the sky, we compose ourselves with grandeur as we move into mountain pose. Our feet are firm on the ground, our tummies, our centers, are strong. Our eyes are steady on a fixed point; our minds are focused, becoming quieter as we ease into the pose. Many of us love mountains. They are solid, beautiful, full of life, and always there.

Yoga is an ancient science. No one really knows its origins. Legends say it began with virtuous sages who were like children in their own wonderful world. Everything fascinated them: shining stars, tall mountains, flowing rivers, fierce beasts, beautiful birds ... even little grasshoppers.

These sages lived close to nature; truth, non-violence, self discipline, and simplicity were the roots of their life. They developed a path to yoga that included its meaning: to join or unite. One of these sages, Patanjali, describedyoga as the means by which our mind can be made still, quiet, and free from all distractions (from Yoga for Children by Swati and Rajiv Chanchani).

Some of the wonderful benefits to the body through asana practice are: building strength in muscles and bones, lengthening muscles to increase mobility to joints, improving postural alignment, developing coordination and concentration, equalizing energy to temper hyperactivity, and breath awareness to elicit relaxation and focus.    


Although the physical benefits are tremendous, the true rewards come as we practice moving into stillness through our yoga. It is my hope that our children are learning more about themselves and how they are part of a larger picture. Through breathing, asanas, stories, and silence, we are learning stress management and relaxation, acceptance of oneself and all of life, compassion, and connection.

Through yoga we are exploring ourselves, having fun, and learning an old system of gaining wisdom.   

Kari's class
Music to our ears

Kari Kovick
Kari Kovick

Winter is a time when some creatures hibernate and even people curl up inside. What a great opportunity to practice our calming techniques! But how many kids do you know who want to stay in this state all winter? By singing songs and playing games that are wild, and following them with calm, quiet time, I've been offering the children ways to go back and forth, or in social-emotional intelligence terms, to self-regulate. Rather than talking about it a lot, we've been experiencing the difference, and noticing how each feels, and how WE feel in each state. Awareness is the precursor of self-regulation!


For the youngest classes, Goin' on a Bear Hunt is an exciting story! We sing about the trip as we travel through all kinds of terrain, looking for a bear. When we finally find one, AGHHHHH! We have to run home and jump under the covers! I take this chance to ask the kids to feel their heartbeats and notice their breathing. Are they excited? What do our bodies do when we're excited or afraid? I've followed this song with the invitation, "Let's be the bears!" and the song Little Bear. We find our spot in the cave (on the rug) to "curl into a ball and sleep, sleep, sleep" until spring comes. Now how do our hearts feel?



Large motor movement play is usually a big hit, especially when it's too cold to be outside for long. The ultimate, though, is our seasonal favorite, Snowball Freeze Fight! Picture 50 white bath scrubbies flying everywhere to the raucous accompaniment of a bluegrass favorite, Foggy Mountain Breakdown. The only trick is being ready to freeze when I hit the pause button! Now THIS is fun!


And, as if we weren't silly enough already at BlueMountainSchool, I am also teaching some of the older children a song from The Three Stooges!It's called B-A-Bay, because it's a song about vowels, and phonics. It's actually educational!! (Well, as educational as The Three Stooges can be.)  


I promise we're not poking each others eyes while we sing it!

Thank you
We hope you enjoyed reading the Indigo Messenger, and we plan to be sending you another one in a month's time!

Be sure to it to anyone you think may be interested.

Thank you,

The folks at
Blue Mountain School