Indigo Messenger


Welcome to the March newsletter for Blue Mountain School.


It seems to many of us here at the school that the world is spinning faster and faster: so much is happening for everyone, that it's hard for many of us to remember to stop every now and then, take a deep breath, smell the darling buds of spring, and spend a little time in contemplation.

But one thing we all know is that it's worth it. That one quiet moment of reflection can stop the world in its tracks. An eternity rests in the tiny space between every breath.

This coming month is Earth Month. And on Monday, April 23 we celebrate Earth Day here at the school with an all-school work day, including our semi-annual Adopt-a-Highway excursion down Christiansburg Pike. Also this month we have Skit Night, a yard sale and a car wash - which are all helping to raise funds for the Purple Platypuses and Rainbow Monkeys go to Washington DC.

And then, next month, we have our 30th Anniversary Reunion!

We invite you to make some space on your calendar, take some time out from your busy schedule, give yourself a great big deep breath, and join us for one or all of these activities. We are a family here at Blue Mountain School. Be a part of it!

And stay tuned to your email and our Facebook group for more information and pictures about activities happening with our school.

Shelly Emmett
Shelly Emmett


This month we'll be celebrating Earth Day with our students and parents on Monday, April 23rd. In the morning the Purple Platypuses and the Rainbow Monkeys will participate in the bi-annual Adopt-a-Highway cleanup of Christiansburg Pike, while the 3-4-5's and the Fire Cheetahs/Fire Kids work on cleanup projects around the school. In the afternoon, we will welcome parents to join us for a short walk to a treasured spot on our neighbors, Walter Charnley and Rosemary Wyman's, land. This special place has a big, wonderful tree with a fun swing in it--and has already provided many joyful moments for our students. Near this tree is another special place, called The Garden of Emotions. We want to introduce our students to The Garden of Emotions, so that they may benefit from visiting it as needed. On Earth Day we'll spend some time talking about the Garden, cleaning it up, and planting some new plants there. Here is a description of the garden, written by Rosemary:

The Garden of Emotions
In the little spot down in our woods that I have designated as a garden of Joys and Sorrows is open to everyone. All visitors are invited to unburden themselves of any heaviness or let their joy be expressed in this place.

There are five main elements of this Garden:

First is that it rests on Mother Earth and is supported by the trees growing around it and the water that washes through it when it rains. (Maybe the children can spot where the stream of storm water flows through, even on a dry day. They might also be able to name a couple of ways in which the trees are "protecting" or "supporting" the garden.)

The second is the little wooden statue of the woman. She represents the spirit of the Mother, who can lovingly witness all our feelings. Her expression is neither a broad smile nor a frown. It reminds me that I strive for equanimity. (Maybe the children can find out a little about what this quality is.) Inside me, I try to be alike in pain and pleasure. If I can be alike in pain and pleasure, I will not be dependent on outside circumstances and people for my sense of well-being and happiness.

Third is the Wall of Sorrows where I choose to lay down stones to represent my anger, sadness, loneliness, hurt. When I pick a rock for the wall, I name the sorrow (like: my child is sick, or my dog Punkin died) that it represents and I ask the earth to hold it so that I don't have to keep that heaviness in my body where it might cause me physical pain or make me sick. (I used to keep a random pile of rocks near the wall to choose from, but now they are almost gone. Children can bring rocks to the garden any time, even if they don't have a particular sorrow. Someone else can use the rock at the right time for them.) Also, if someone has a BIG sorrow, I recommend looking elsewhere on our land for a big rock to bring. As you carry it from the spot where you found it, remind yourself over and over: I can make it through this, I can do this. And then be very intentional about laying that big sorrow down for Mother Earth to hold for you.

Fourth is the Curtain of Joys where I like to hang all sorts of things to represent my joy. These joys (like: my child is well and happy, or I have a new granddaughter, or the BMS community had a walk-a-thon on the land) and then I select something either from home or the woods to weave into the netting between the trees. I used to keep a little container of odd earrings and little treasures to use for this purpose down by the statue of the woman, but I either used them up or the deer moved them! (We could collect more and put them in a container for everyone to use.)

Fifth is the way we care for it by tidying up the fallen sticks, picking pine needles out of the curtain, or adding spring plants and silk flowers to the area. I find that when I clean up that little area and plant things there or add bright silk flowers to it, the place feels energized, loved, and therefore I am more attracted to using it. I like that the BMS children are curious about this little garden. I have been neglecting it for some time and look forward to energizing it with them on Earth Day.

Please invite anyone (child, staff, parent) who would care to join us to meet at the Garden of Emotions on Earth Day around 1pm for a little conversation about how we can all use the garden and a little service of tidying and planting. If anyone would like to bring a rock for the wall, either for their sorrow or for general use, great. If anyone would like to bring something like a feather, a flower, or an old earring that no longer has its match for the curtain, either for their joy or for general use, wonderful. But these things are not necessary to enjoy our time together. Thank you BMS for continuing to enjoy these woods and fields!

Purple Platypuses & Rainbow Monkeys: History
Vicky Town
Vicky Town


We've just finished our unit on African American History! We learned how to analyze primary source photographs and read primary source material, performed our own play about the Underground Railroad, read and told escape stories, danced to the music of Duke Ellington, and watched clips about Buffalo soldiers and the Tuskegee Airmen.

The Elementary School students created a word quilt and wrote secret coded letters as if they were conductors for the Underground Railroad.

Meanwhile, the Middle School students designed a treasure hunt game about the civil rights movement. They wrote the clues and hid them throughout the campus for the Elementary School students to find. 



Both groups are in the throes of a Jeopardy quiz bowl game--a hotly contested game! This is a playful way to keep these new facts fresh in their minds!

Finally, each group danced, drummed and shared their research project with the class. We heard poems about slavery, the Tuskegee airmen, and Obama's election, and stories of the sit-ins, Buffalo soldiers, and sailors trying to stop the Slave Trade. Each piece really captured the sound and style of the era! Bravo!

Purple Platypus & Rainbow Monkeys: English
Jonathan Vandergrift
Jonathan Vandergrift


This past month, the Elementary and Middle School classes have been putting great work and passion into their literary projects. The Middle School students are finalizing their short stories, and the Elementary students have each started writing a children's picture storybook. All have been extremely excited and proud to share their stories. This enthusiasm has been truly infectious throughout the classroom, and has made teaching at Blue Mountain a pure pleasure.

Last week, we were very fortunate to have Mr. Warren Lapine as a guest speaker for both classes. As a person who owns and runs a successful publishing company, Warren was able to explain and provide great insight into publishing literary works.

The students were engrossed with Warren's explanations about how a story gets printed but were extremely impressed with his past work with the rock band KISS. Warren's time and contribution to the classroom is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

The Elementary students have started a new project, which includes the participation of BMS Director Shelly Emmett. Based on the children's picture storybook, I Wanna Iguana, the students wrote a formal letter to Shelly requesting a class pet. As part of the process, Shelly will respond in kind - but likely will want her concerns to be addressed before agreeing to allow the class to have a pet. This lesson has given the students the opportunity to learn how to organize ideas for a personal letter, and to include a greeting, body and closing. Additionally, they learned persuasive writing and how to submit a formal request.

Fire Cheetahs/Fire Kids
Corey Avellar
Corey Avellar


The Fire Cheetahs have had a great winter; although we really wished for more snow! Some of our favorite things we did this winter are:
  • Summit's gerbils having new baby gerbils. They are grand-babies to our Romeo and Juliette;
  • Writing in our gerbil journals and being surprised with new shelves;  
  • Monkey bars;  
  • Making a phone book;
  • Making maps;
  • Playing with magnetic dolls;   
  • Playing games with Vicky;
  • Getting homework;    
  • Playing outside;
  • Art class with Ms. Lore;    
  • Getting a Christmas coloring book present from Corey;
  • Elimination game;
  • Dylan's birthday;
  • Service Learning;
  • Cutting out pictures and decorating hammer song posters;
  • Drawing Star Wars;
  • Doing pottery in Yoga;
  • Inky "Ii"s and Oval "Oo"s;
  • Paintings;
  • If Poems;
  • Climbing trees;
  • Making the maze with Jamie; 
  • Acrostic animal poems;
  • Playing with Lego;
  • Upside down "U"s and Unique "U";
  • Making tissue paper flowers;    
  • Counting by 2s, 10s, and 5s;
  • Making Tall Tale Books;
  • The clock on the floor;
  • Mrs. Corey's get-well card;
  • Mr. Jonathan, Ms. Rebekah, and Ms. Lara substitute teaching;
  • Yeshe coming in and telling her story;
  • New Math books;
  • Daring Ds with Jonathan;
  • Outside time playing soccer with Jamie and compost and wood chips;
  • Celia coming back from her long trip;   
  • Playing Star Wars with Edwin outside;
  • When we saw the Purple Platypus class show us their magnetic projects; and 
  • Scoring against Jamie in soccer.
So far this spring we have been writing "cause and effect" story books, counting money, doing lots of drawing, and writing spring Cinquain poems.

Cinquains have five lines:
  1. Title (noun) - 1 word
  2. Description - 2 words
  3. Action - 3 words
  4. Feeling (phrase) - 4 words
  5. Title (synonym for the title) - 1 word
The Fire Cheetahs, however, altered our spring Cinquains, to reflect learning: nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs.  So our Line 4 is 2 adverbs, instead of 4 words of feelings. (To see a larger version of these images, just click on them.)


The 3-4-5s
Stefi Schafer
Stefi Schafer

All The World is a Stage

The 3-4-5s have discovered puppetry. Initially they just used the puppets as they would stuffed animals, "an empty doggie" as one friend said. The next step was to figure out how to get a hand in there and make the puppet move. Soon the children used the puppets to interact with friends, walking around the room with a puppet on each hand; some imitated the corresponding animal noises, others showed their friends "hey look it's a fox... that is a ballerina..." after a couple of days I set up the play stands and posed the question "do you guys want to do a puppet show?" "YES, YES a show, a show!" it soon echoed through the class.  



Then the questions and problems came. Who is doing the show, I wanna do the show by myself, I am the dog, I want to be the dog, there isn't enough room, why is the curtain there, and so on. As a group we discussed solutions. The children decided that we needed to take turns, that there would be players and audiences. And the kids quickly brought chairs to sit on for the "watchers."  



Initially each puppeteer simply had a monologue and there was no connection between the characters, I began to pose questions such as "What is the dog doing, how does a ballerina move,.." the next step was for me to guide and narrate the story. As usual there where threats and danger and heroes and success in the dramatization. The story line went something like this, an animal such as dog or fox scares/threatens the ballerina, or duck, and then another character comes and makes the "bad" animal go away.


Then the next batch of performers went up, it took very little prompting for the players to give up their puppets to the new cast and become the audience. After a few go-arounds the actors/audiences completely self-regulated their respective roles.




To an outsider this would have looked like complete chaos, but for the children it was an opportunity for lessons to abound. They had to negotiate the roles each person would play, how that person/ puppet should behave, and what it could and couldn't do. For example we unanimously made the rule that the puppets could only bite the other puppets but not the person that was playing it. The kids had to be patient and compromise as they waited to have their turn. This activity allowed each child to participate according to his or her character traits and preferences. Some friends were happier to be a member of the audience, some enjoyed that they could be a bad dog in this play and a nice puppy in the next, a few wanted to be in every play and others became directors or got involved in the set (putting the fabric back up time and time and time again) In the end, each child had a chance to explore various roles and learn how to get along. If you asked the children what they did with the puppets, the simple answer is, "PLAY!"

Virginia Klara
Virginia Klara


For Parents of 3-4-5s and All Young Learners


Parents often ask me, "What can I do at home to gently encourage my child in learning how to read?" Here are a few things parents and caregivers can do to help children of all ages become comfortable and confident with reading.


First and foremost, read to your child every day, from infancy through the pre-teen years. While the youngest children primarily enjoy the comfortable togetherness and the inflections and cadence of your voice, read-togethers also help preschoolers see that print has meaning. Since children of all ages look to you as a role model, when you read with a child or let him or her see that you read for relaxation (as well as information), you are demonstrating that reading can be an enjoyable, worthwhile activity.


Parents who take the time to read what their teens and pre-teens read will know about what interests their child and some of what is influencing the child's thinking. A shared book is good fodder for conversations with older children.


When a young child asks you to read a favorite story again and again, you are retelling a story that the child finds interesting or comforting, while allowing her or him to notice that you tell a story in the same way each time you read it. If you point to the text sometimes as you read, the child can begin to comprehend that the written symbols (that they may know as letters) correspond to the words you say. He or she will notice that, when reading (English) you always track the squiggles from the top to the bottom of the page and from left to right in a line.


If a child wants you to read a book with complex text, relax and just look at and talk about the pictures. When a child is having trouble paying attention or loses interest in a story, casually close the book and move on to another activity. You will keep reading a pleasurable activity if you know when to stop reading.


Make connections between things that the two of you have read about and what you are seeing or doing. For example, you might say, "Oh, look that kitten is gray-striped just like the one in the story we read." Bringing such ideas to a toddler's consciousness will help him or her to make connections between images in books and the things of real life, while exemplifying that what we read about is pertinent to our lives.


When you run errands and drive from place to place together, talk to your children about the print you find in context. Make it a game to point to and name the letters and numbers they can see on big traffic and display signs. Ask children who are learning the alphabet to show you the letters they recognize in menus. When children begin to ask, "What's that say?,'"embrace the teachable moment and show how you sound out the letters to read the word. After a while, youngsters will start to "read" words that they see repeatedly. Don't be surprised if the logo of a favorite brand is the first symbol recognized.


(The 3-4-5s playing with the letter "B.")

Lore Deighan
Lore Deighan


Recently my love for this school and the students has been reaffirmed by my sadness at having to miss classes. Between rearranging my days with the kids to foster the special work Howard is bringing to the school (if you don't know what I'm talking, about ask a teacher!), the March respiratory funk  that so many seem to have, and conference week, I have gone almost three weeks without doing art with the kids. And I feel it. I miss them. But as with so many experiences in life, sorrow brings positive affirmations. I really love Blue Mountain School. As a new teacher and member of the BMS community I feel nurtured, supported, encouraged and challenged. The time that is spent to support the staff professionally and emotionally is incredible and valuable. I leave every staff meeting with a sound feeling of commitment and caring for the students, and the staff retreats always inspire me to be a better educator and human being. And I see these experiences trickle down into how we approach and care for your children. We are a community: we experience, respond, grow and change together, and I truly believe this is one of the most valuable things we can offer our youth.
With that said, I do have one little art anecdote to share. Since I missed making art with the students so much, I just had to come in and take over Miranda's class one day to cover the elementary students faces with paper mache (to see larger versions of these images, just click on them)......

And we had a blast!

In closing, I want to thank everyone at the school who has made this experience such a positive one: my fellow teachers, Shelly, the parents, and most importantly, the children!


Service Learning
Jamie Reygle
Jamie Reygle


As always, we're keeping busy in Service Learning. Let's have a look at some of the things we've been up to: 


The 3-4-5s
One recently completed project was with decomposition, in which we buried a number of objects (plastic container, plastic bag, chip packet, banana peel, apple pieces, orange peel) for a few weeks, then dug them back up again. We discovered that the food items got all smooshy and started disappearing, while the packaging items stayed pretty much the same.


This is part of a larger focus on environment that we have had with the class over the past couple of months. This has included a trip to the transfer station, a test for leaks in the school's toilets (we found one!), and composting.


Fire Cheetahs
The Fire Cheetahs are an active group, who seem to love spending time outside, even when it's cold.

This has led to a lot of outdoor Service Learning activities. We spent a number of weeks developing a maze for The 3-4-5s. To begin with, the students were responsible for every aspect of the maze: design, materials, construction. In our last class, however, they asked me to design the maze, and we finally got something that actually functioned as a maze. To see them work towards this point was a delight, as a lot of processing and teamwork was necessary. 


As you may know, the acorns that were collected in the fall all dried out. So none of them came up when we potted them. In an effort to compensate for this, we visited the Oak Grove recently to dig up some potential oak trees. Some of these are now budding, so we should soon see what we actually did dig up. If they  survive, we will probably transplant them somewhere towards the end of the school year. If you have any suggestions as to where, please let me know.


The Fire Cheetahs also recently set up composting at the school, and the whole school is participating in this project. You can see the progress of this over at the composting bins by the basketball court. We are layering leftovers with leaves, hay, and wood chips, and should have a reasonably sized compost pile by the end of the school year. This should enable the students to utilize that compost at the beginning of the next school year.


Purple Platypuses
As you probably know, our main focus has been the Washington DC trip. The students are working on a collaborative anti-war art project that they would like to present to the President. As much as that may it be possible to actually meet the President, we have applied to visit the White House, where we can hopefully offer the project.


The other critical element of the DC trip is fundraising. As the weather warms (if this is possible!) over the coming weeks, the bulk of the class fundraising activities will be taking place. These include:

  •  Skit Night at the Sun Music Hall on Sunday, April 1st;
  • Yard Sale at Finders Keepers on Saturday, April 21st;
  • Car Wash at Circle K on Saturday, April 28th;
  • Bake Sale at the Artisans Market on Friday, May 4th; and
  • Bake Sale at the Farmers Market on Saturday, May 12th.   

As you can see, this is some fairly intensive activity. Any support you can provide during this period would be greatly appreciated.


Rainbow Monkeys
The Rainbow Monkeys have taken on a real leadership role in Service Learning. After requesting to come on the Washington DC trip with the Purple Platyupuses, this group has been responsible for the bulk of the fundraising so far.


While fundraising may not immediately appear to be synonymous with service, consider what the students have been doing to raise money-you will note that in every instance service has been given. Here are some examples:

  • Child care for Mardi Gras parents;
  • Bake sales;
  • Working around the house;
  • Making salt pots.

The other project the Rainbow Monkeys are working on is the I know where my food comes from, do you? t-shirts. The linoleum has been cut, the testing has been done, and they've now printed around half a dozen t-shirts (and sold one!). The money raised from these will go firstly towards buying more paint, and then towards a good-yet to be determined-cause.


Contemplative Program
Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy


Being and Working Together in Yoga

The theme for the past month in the contemplative program has been being and working together. We have been exploring deeper ways to cooperate and work together through movement and games. The Rainbow Monkeys and Purple Platypuses have had a few days of team building activities outside with Jagadisha, who teaches team building at Apple Ridge Farm. And we have had a special guest visiting who is a play expert: Howard Moody, who teaches at Omega Institute. Howard has been taking time with the kids to explore safe, fun, imaginative, cooperative play and games.  


These two classes have also been exploring partner yoga and creating fantastic group yoga stories with interesting poses, and they have exposed the students to world stories about the importance of group cooperation. Some of these stories include Three Monks No Water, by Ting Xing Ye, which is a story of three monks living together, hoping each one of the others will haul water from the spring. A fire in the temple tests just why each has responsibilities to the whole. Another story told was The Quails and the Hunter, a story adapted to many traditions. This version tells the story of a group of quails that is constantly hunted. One day the leader suggests the group escape out of a large net by flying up at the same time to push the net off. We are so dependent on each other and our community! 


During our P.E. days, we went through some fun fitness obstacle courses that got our blood pumping. Then the kids got inspired to create their own courses. Leah had us hula hooping and walking on the high wooden stumps on the playground: 




The 3-4-5s and Fire Cheetahs have been exploring cooperation and some new yoga games and stories (of course!). I had lots of fun creating stories to illustrate how we need and depend on one another. Most revolved around animal friends needing each other in sticky situations or why some animals exist in packs, flocks, herds, etc. I also told The Quails and The Hunter story about the power of truly working together as a group when trouble is near. (as described above)

We created human down dog tunnels and each got to crawl through and we also colored mandalas to quiet music. I was surprised at how quiet it got during this simple activity! 


Here is a sweet song we have been learning. It is sung to the tune for If you're happy and you know it:


You can live a life of magic if you want to,
you can live a life of magic if you dare,
all you really have to do is be you through and through
and the power of the universe is there! 


In Savasana (relaxation), we sometimes listen for: 

  • butterfly sneezes,
  • caterpillars coughing,
  • trees smiling,
  • clouds passing by, and
  • gnomes laughing!
Vicky Town
Vicky Town


Miss Stefi's class continues to listen and participate in stories. They are also beginning to create small pantomime scenes.


At our spring fling, Corey's class shared their musical version of Sleeping Beauty and did a great job! They are hard at work on their next play, called Contagious.

Also performing at the spring fling was the Elementary class. They created a wonderful piece called Anansi and the Moss-covered Rock . We had a great time making the scenery and adding funny bits to the play.

Middle School continues their work creating monologues from shoes they brought to school. They are beginning to use scripts, and we had a great class performing comedic monologues. Their next unit will be costume design, and each person will choose a play and create several costume designs for the piece. Great job Maggie for performing your poem at the spring fling!


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
PPs & RMs History
PPs & RMs English
Fire Cheetahs
Service Learning
Contemplative Program
Parent Reminder
On the Calendar

April 1: Skit Night
April 9-12: Spring break
April 21: Yard Sale
April 23: Earth Day
Parent Reminder
Be on the lookout for information about an all-school meeting in April!
Board of Trustees

The Trustees are please to welcome Warren Lapine to the Board!

There are still a few openings on the Board, so please contact someone in the office if you or someone you know is interested in joining.

The BMS Board of Trustees met on March 7, 2012. 

At this month's Board Meeting we discussed plans for the upcoming 30th Anniversary event scheduled for May 19th as well as the recent success of the Mardi Gras fundraising event.  We also reviewed recent developments in our mortgage loan application process and decided to move forward with the appraisal of the property.  We reviewed current financial reports and began review of the proposed budget for next year.  The Board also discussed the need for an organized parent group, and put forth suggestions on how to get parents involved.

The next meeting will be on April 7th, at 6:00 p.m.

In Gratitude We Thank

Sarah McCarthy and Jagadisha Rotella for help with the salt cellars fundraiser for the D.C. trip.

Warren Lapine for talking with the Purple Platypuses and Rainbow Monkeys about publishing.

Jim Shortt
for providing legal assistance.

Wilder Publications for donating to our scholarship fund.

The Volkers for donating flowers for the 3-4-5s' garden.

Walter Charnley and Rosemary Wyman for preparing the trails and fixing the swing on their property, which they graciously make available to us.

Rebekah Hicks, Linda Johnson, Tree Gigante, and Winter Koeppe-Martens for their continued classroom support. 



Blue Mountain School 

470 Christiansburg Pike, Floyd, Virginia 24091