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January 2011
In This Issue
From the Director
Nature's Ninjas
Thumbs-Up Kids
Service Learning
Contemplative Studies
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Swede McBroom of The Natural Woodworking Company for contributing a Chinese writing table to the Floyd Feast auction

Kurt Steger for contributing his continuum #9 sculpture to the Floyd Feast auction

Howard Wenger for contributing his Windswept painting to the Floyd Feast auction

Susan Icove of Icove Lighting for contributing her Funneling Teal floor lamp to the Floyd Feast auction

Gibby Waitzkin  for contributing her Abandonment triptych photograph to the Floyd Feast auction

Floyd Fitness  for contributing a six-month membership to the Floyd Feast auction

Jayn Avery for contributing a coil built pitcher & a hanging planter to the Floyd Feast auction

Benjie Osborne for contributing a turned cherry platter to the Floyd Feast auction

Anne Vaughan for contributing a necklace to the Floyd Feast auction

Pat Sharkey of Earthdance Jewelry and Gems for contributing her Phoenix Rising pendant to the Floyd Feast auction

Jeanie O'Neill of Jeanie O'Neill's Gallery / Boutique for contributing a handbag to the Floyd Feast auction

Sarah McCarthy for contributing a vase to the Floyd Feast auction

Medina for contributing a market basket to the Floyd Feast auction

Dick Giessler for sharing his knowledge of Floyd history with the Thumbs-Up Kids and Nature's Ninjas at Skyline Manor

Calvin Conner of Homes Plus for allowing members of the Oxymorons to conduct an erosion management project on his site, and for the donation of a roll of hay

Natasha Shishkevish and her team at Natasha's Market Cafe for putting on such a fine dinner at Floyd Feast

Linda Laplante of Sunset Orchard for volunteering with the Thumbs-Up Kids each Tuesday

Laura Polant of Artemis GIS for helping the Thumbs-Up Kids identify a forestry-related project

Jeff Walker of Blue Ridge Site & Soil for helping members of the Oxymorons plan erosion management

Jon Emmett for helping members of the Oxymorons plan a local foods market survey

Stacy Hairfield of Natural Awakenings Magazine for helping members of the Oxymorons plan an eWaste recycling project

On our calendar:

Feb 7: Skyline Field Trip

Feb 11: Snow Make-Up Day

Feb 14: Valentine's Day

Feb 18: Ski Trip!

Feb 21-23: Mid-Winter Break

Feb 24: Conferences

Mar 5: Mardi Gras


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

We're nearly half way through winter! For many of us, it's a time for planning, preparing, and savoring some restful moments prior to the busyness that spring brings. For us at Blue Mountain School, it is a time for consolidating what we've learned so far this school year, and also a time for celebration.

As you know, we recently had a successful Floyd Feast, with over 50 people attending, and over $4,000 raised for the school. Thank you for everyone who helped make this possible.

Coming up, we have a few things that should be a lot of fun, too:
  1. On Monday, February 14, we are having our Valentine's Day Celebration, in which parents, grandparents, and other special people are being invited to our 'Special Person Tea';
  2. Later that week, on Friday, February 18, we are going on our annual ski trip. This is a lot of fun and ridiculously cheap. Please consider coming along; and
  3. On Saturday, March 5, it's time for Mardi Gras. This was a huge hit last year, and should be a lot of fun this year, too. Please do both yourself and the school a favor, and come along. Bring your friends, too!
This is your school, and these are just some of the ways you can be a part of it. The more involved you become, the more of a family we are.

Mardi Gras

From the Director
Shelly Emmett

Shelly Emmett
Shelly Emmett

This month we had great fun at Floyd Feast, a fundraiser for the school graciously hosted by Natasha Shishkevish and the staff at Natasha's Market Cafe. The event was attended by supporters of the school, school parents, staff, board and community members. Though we missed those who were not able to attend, the event was a success in more ways than one. Bringing in over $4,000, the hard work that Jamie Reygle and the Feast committee did in planning the affair obviously paid off. But something else was accomplished at the Feast - it was an opportunity for us to share with our wonderful community a current picture of Blue Mountain School that includes many elements of the school's rich history, along with the elements of a more defined educational model and organizational structure, and the increased sustainability that these things bring.


I am sharing here the reflections that I shared with the attendees of Floyd Feast, hoping to communicate the vibrancy of our school as we look to the future with the certainty that Blue Mountain School is growing into adulthood with grace and character, and that the school will continue to be a presence in our community for years to come:


"Anytime that I am able to step out of the office and spend some time with students, I am reminded of how unique a place our school is, and how much value it brings to our community. We all know that time with children can put lots of things into perspective, and last week I had one of those moments when I stayed outside with our early childhood class, while their teacher, Amy Myers, was helping one of her students inside the building. The rest of the class was hard at work in the sandbox, and when I asked them what they were working on, they looked at me like they were surprised that I couldn't tell. "We're getting snow to sell at the Farmer's Market!" they said. With four buckets full of snow piled up, and more being filled, the group of 3- and 4-year-olds were well on their way to reaching their goal. These were kids whose imaginations and actions were in alignment - and they were all working together peacefully and purposefully.


"Thankfully, great moments like this happen in all of our classes, no matter the age group. As you all know, kids at Blue Mountain School are encouraged to cultivate their imaginations, to take action with their imaginings, and to do so in the context of being a part of a bigger group of people - their families, classes, and communities. And while ideas and educational methods have come and gone at our school over the course of its history, the idea that Blue Mountain School should be a place where kids are offered opportunities to explore the world through imagination paired with action, has been a tenacious one - it has stuck.


"Some of you may know that our school is preparing to celebrate it's 30th anniversary next school year. As I'm standing here, looking out at this great group of people who have come here tonight to support our school and thinking about those who have supported us all along the way but who are not here tonight, I am aware that each of you have contributed something to our school's growing process. Maybe you planted a seed, hammered a nail, fixed something that was broken, built something new, donated to the school, came and spoke with the kids, taught a class, served on the board, served as a staff many roles, each one integral in getting us to this point.


"As we look to our 30th birthday, we can celebrate our ability to evolve and change, while still holding on to the important pieces that make us who we are. This school has grown organically, out of the needs, imaginings, and hard work of so many people along the way. I am awed by the thought of all of those friendships formed, all of those families connected, all of those children able to see that pairing imagination with action is a powerful equation. How about that for an important life lesson? One plus one equals...whatever you can dream up!


"So thank you to each of you, for all that you've done or are doing to ensure that Blue Mountain School remains an important part of our community. We are grateful!"

Class Reports
Shannon & Hari's class

Shannon Atkins
Shannon Atkins

From Shannon:


"Why do we have to learn this?" Maybe you can recall hearing this question, or maybe you remember asking it in some learning context. At BMS, we try as often as we can to prevent this question, by making the learning fun, engaging, and relevant to our students. One way we do this is through cooperative, project-oriented learning.


A growing body of research, and our own observations as learners, parents, and teachers, convince us that learning by doing engages the learner with the subject, and provides context, both of which help learners retain the skills and information used in the project.


The middle school class has spent many of its science afternoons over the last month working on a group of environmental service learning projects inspired by the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge. The Challenge asks students to identify environmental problems in their community that other communities might also face, to create measures to address the problem, to measure the change that they make, and to share their results.


Based on class research, interviews with community members, and brainstorm sessions conducted last year, the OxyMorons created three teams (with super-cool names, of course) to meet address three local environmental issues:


'The rEcyclists' are addressing the problem of electronic waste by designing, promoting, and conducting an electronic waste collection event. The team will partner with Goodwill Industries and Dell Computer to reuse or recycle computers and computer accessories deposited by Floyd residents. Stay tuned for more information about collection times and sites.


'SeedsDeeds' will select and use a variety of local media to inform the community about the environmental benefits of local and organic agriculture, and about the buying options local consumers have. They will conduct surveys to determine the impact of their public awareness campaign. Watch for friendly young folks with clipboards around town!


'The Extreme Stream Team' plans to improve local water quality by designing erosion control measures at a recently constructed site near the school. The team will take before and after measures of erosion to observe the impact of their intervention.


These projects present the OxyMorons with authentic goals, and the according opportunities for authentic challenge, success, and failure.

We applaud our middle schoolers for their project.


Inge's class
Nature's Ninjas

Inge Terrill
Inge Terrill

Since we have missed a lot of school lately, I do not have a lot to report about the Nature's Ninjas class.  What I do have though, is some really wonderful winter-related poetry written by the Ninjas to share with you. 




Winter snowing hardly

Igloos falling apart softly

Never snow too softly

Two snowballs in the face

Ever seen snow or are you too young?

Run in the snow

Snowmen getting built

Now get off my house

One of you go get your own sled

Women in their rocking chairs

Men chopping wood in winter

At recess, go away or you'll get a snow ball in your face

Now a snowball fight

Singing softly in the winter

Wow, my present, yeah

Ice is breaking in the winter

Now get a sled and get going

Got to get hot cocoa

Ice skating in the winter

Cedar is throwing a snowball at Japha

Ever seen snow up to your ear?

- by Kaia



Snow and wind

Hot chocolate and marshmallows

Warm clothes and boots

Snowflakes fall from the sky

The branches are bare

Snowmen are everywhere

Christmas tress and presents

Children having snowball fights

Snow angles on the ground

Stockings hang over the fire

Sleds sliding down the hills

Now I have the chills!

-by Layla and Sola



As the snow is on my toes

It is on my nose

-by Jonah



Sleigh bells

Snow flakes









-by Tai





Snowball fight





Dress warm



-by Cedar



Snow, wind and sleds

Snowflakes falling from the sky

Its icy all around

It's very chilly too

You can even make snowmen

There is even a cozy fire inside

That's one reason why I like it inside

My nose is cold whenever I go outside

I like my scarf when I go outside

-by Indya


Corey's class

Thumbs-up Kids

Corey Avellar

Corey Avellar

To see a larger version of this report, just click on it:
Thumbs-up Jan
Jamie's class
Community connection

Jamie Reygle
Jamie Reygle

January has been a productive month in Service  Learning.  Every class has either commenced a project, Or - in the case of the Oxymorons - are moving forward on the projects they were planning.


We have three groups working on three separate projects with the Oxymorons: local foods, erosion management, and eWaste recycling. This month, we had some special guest come in to discuss strategies  with the teams:

eWaste team
Stacy Haifield with members of the eWaste team
            • Stacy Hairfield (pictured) talked with the eWaste team about how to best run their program;
            • Jeff Walker spoke with the erosion management team to help them determine what materials they would require; and
            • Jon Emmett worked with the local foods team on the surveys they would be doing.

A special mention must go to the Thumbs-up Kids, who raised money last year by selling bumper stickers. They decided they wanted to  donate their money to a clean water cause, just as the erosion management team realized they'd be needing materials for their project. In an  almost unanimous decision, the Thumbs-Up Kids elected to donate the money to their schoolmates! So far, that money has bought a silt fence and grass seeds, and will soon be purchasing a roll of hay.

walking the dog
Nature's Ninjas walking Turkey


Meanwhile, Natures Ninjas had their first outing with the Humane Society this month. They are working on 'loading the clicker' with the dogs at Stefi Schafer's place. 'Loading the clicker' is the first part of clicker training, where the aim is to get the dog tuned in to the clicker. It goes a little like this: click-treat;  click-treat; click- treat. Believe me when I tell you that the dogs were very fond of
the kids by the end of our visit!


Finally, the aforementioned Thumbs-Up Kids have started a sand trap project. A sand trap is a tool to study the small wildlife in an area. You lay down some sand, put a predetermined quantity of a variety of possible critter diets on the sand (as in the photo below), and place a

sand trap treats
Sand trap treats

box (with a small opening or two) over it all. Then you come back to see what's  been  taken, and how much, and what the tracks look like.


Service Learning really is a lot of fun!


Lora Leigh's class
The Painted Word

Lora Leigh Giessler
Lora Leigh Giessler

Our Creativity in Celebration and Gratitude


During the short month of December, and into the New Year, we focused on two projects: paper lanterns and thank you cards.


In preparation for our annual spiral walk celebrating the Return of the Light at the time of the Winter Solstice, we made paper lanterns, representing our Inner Light, to carry into the spiraling center. Our creativity has many expressions, takes many forms and offers many uses. During this project it was apparent that the students enjoyed creating something that they knew would be used in a ceremony, thus heightening their awareness of how art is used in cultural celebrations.




Following our Winter break, we discussed gifts and acknowledged the generosity that our school has received from the many businesses and individuals in our community. We brainstormed ideas of symbols we could use on a card to express appreciation for their support. The most common symbol used was a hand representing the giving of ourselves in service. It was heartwarming to witness the enjoyment the children carried, with the idea of giving something they created, in appreciation to those who have given.


To all who have offered a helping hand to Blue Mountain School, we thank you!



Lily S.






Lily M.





Sarah's class
The contemplative in every day

Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy

Although there is a special spot every week (when it doesn't snow or ice during the winter!!), where all classes practice yoga asanas, breathing, and quiet reflection time, the contemplative model permeates other aspects of our school and classrooms.  It is especially true in our second year integrating the progressive, contemplative educational model at Blue Mountain School.


As part of our teacher meetings every week, our director, Shelly encourages individual and group reflection time. This includes interactions in the classroom, how we as teachers are reflecting our model, and how are we as individuals doing nurturing our own selves so we can be truly present, connected and engaged for students in the classroom.


Lora Leigh Geissler, our long time art instructor, shared a story of a recent art class where a challenging interaction between a few students turned into a discussion of needs and conflict resolution which involved the whole class. She was able to take this moment out to listen to the childrens' needs and guide them in a safe environment before her lesson. Lora ended this conflict resolution and discussion with a mindfulness activity where each student said one positive thing about each child in the class. The class was even able to finish the art project they were working on!


Linda Lantieri, Social Emotional Learning author and lecturer, has often stated that without cultivating concentration, clearing the mind of extraneous thoughts (such as unresolved peer conflicts), and being comfortable and confident with oneself, it is difficult to be engaged in learning. We know that Social Emotional Learning moments are just as important as the lesson plans and creative endeavors at Blue Mountain. They go hand in hand with the learning material.


When children are confident, undistracted, have a positive home environment, and are nurtured by people who love learning, they can be in awe of the world around them, and learning happens naturally.

Kari's class
Music to our ears

Kari Kovick
Kari Kovick


The Nature Ninjas in music class: We are getting ready for a song on our xylophones. Every child gets to play one, and then we rotate
Indya Cedar Q&A
Indya and Cedar are playing a question and answer game with the drum. One plays a "question" for 8 beats, and the other "answers" for 8 more. Kari is counting the beats in the background.

William Gabriel marimbas
William and Gabriel get their turn on the big new tenor/bass marimba that Kari's husband Michael made.
Bear Hunt
Nature's Ninjas perform 'Bear Hunt', with xylophones.

Thank you
We hope you enjoyed reading the Indigo Messenger, and 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