Indigo Messenger


Thank you all for making Mardi Gras a complete success! We've already started planning for next year, and we hope to see you and all your friends in 2014!

For a great write up of the party, check out this article by 2012 Mardi Gras Queen Colleen Redman: Mardi Gras Mambo Rocks the EcoVillage

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

Shelly Emmett
Shelly Emmett


This month, we had one of my favorite events at Blue Mountain School: our Special Person's Tea. This is an event where students invite someone who is important in their lives to join them at school for a tea party.  In preparation for the Tea, the students in each class worked on invitations, decorations, and different kinds of activities and entertainment for their guests. Many of the students dressed up for the occasion, too.  


Visiting the classrooms during the Tea, I noticed how proud, excited, and thoughtful the students were in each class. The event was a success, with kids and guests enjoying the time together. 

The Special Person's Tea underscores what is, in my view, one of the most important traits of our school. We place a high value on relationships here; we know that self-awareness is a necessary component for learning, and we know that positive relationships between students and teachers open the doors for learning. At our school, we also know that students who relate well to others will have many of the tools they need to create the opportunities for themselves that they wish for, both at school and once they are out in the world as adults. We also see that school and life are intertwined and want to honor the important role that families and community members play in educating the students we all care about.

Thank you to our staff, students, and volunteers who helped make our Special Person's Tea a success!


The Unknowns:
Math and Language Arts
Jonathan Vandergrift
Jonathan Vandergrift


This past month, I showed the Unknowns how to apply their literary analysis skills in areas other than novels and short stories. I used a medium I knew would get them excited about the lesson - television. Specifically, we analyzed TV commercials similar to how we have been dissecting books. By taking what they've learned about themes, settings, and characters, the students observed multiple commercials in class and then had frank discussions breaking down the elements of the thirty-second videos. We also were able to introduce a new term, target audience, and talked about how target audiences are used by both literary authors and commercial producers. It was also very clear the students understood that they are not the target audience for a 1984 Time Magazine commercial which included the offer of a free "touch-tone" phone. During this part of the lesson, the students were more interested if I ever had a "touch-tone" phone.


In the area of mathematics, we are beginning an introduction into statistical concepts. Students are measuring the height of everyone at school and determining if age, gender, and a list of other factors are related. The students are also learning how to calculate the mean and median from a set of data and when to use one over the other. I'm very excited about this project and how the outcome will play out, especially if the students can demonstrate that the number of hours you sleep dictates your height.

The Unknowns: Science
Inge Terrill
Inge Terrill


This past month flew by so quickly, and with my absence from school because of laryngitis and the flu, it's all a blur! Let's see if I can recall...

Well, for Science we continued our study of the human heart, blood and its function, and the path blood takes through the heart and the rest of the body. We will briefly cover signs of a heart attack for men and women before we move on to study our body's major muscles and how they work.


The students and I brainstormed one afternoon about who we could have come speak to our class about the healing arts in Floyd. We came up with a long list of people because there are so many folks in our small community who practice alternative medicine and the healing arts. We were not as successful coming up with a list of people to choose from who could speak to us about Floyd's watershed, landscape, and unique physical features. If any of you have suggestions for us in this regard, please pass it on to one of the students or to me, Hari, or Jonathan. Your help would be greatly appreciated.


Skip King was kind enough to fill in for me on the Monday I missed due to illness. On that eventful day, Skip took the students out on a nature hike looking for early signs of spring. Specimens were collected and photographs taken. They even collected skat!  


Skip also worked with the students to identify bones and muscles in the body. Large, detailed colored posters were provided. The terms flexion, extension, proximal, distal were discussed. Students were given x-rays to discuss and identify structures.


For Geography, we played the "find where your fellow classmates live" game. The students critiqued each other's directions (i.e., whether the directions were easy to follow or not and what would have made them better). It was a good lesson in what is needed to give someone directions that are easy to follow.

The Unknowns: Social Studies
Hari Berzins
Hari Berzins


It's exciting to see TEDxFloyd take shape. The Unknowns have engaged in discussions around budget, ticket prices, finding speakers, writing speeches, inviting the audience, and even thoughtful dialogue in response to TED Talk viewing.


One special moment came after the entire class shared their first drafts and big ideas for the talks they will give at TEDxFloyd. Sunny struck a chord with her big idea that the media is polluting the minds of children. The discussion that followed was thoughtful and respectful. Several students agreed with Sunny and several disagreed. Will said, "This reminds me of a TED Talk I watched this week." I got goose bumps. Will shared the talk with the rest of us, and we examined the other side of Sunny's opinion. I'm excited by these moments when we can come together with diverse beliefs and stay present and open to new opinions, thereby gaining understanding.


It is this diversity of experience, opinion and lifestyle that we seek for our TEDxFloyd program. It is the coming together of a community in real dialogue that gives me the feeling that what we are doing is important


February has been full of brainstorming, discussing, and planning. We have a full month of classroom guests and field trips scheduled for March. Our speaker program is coming together though there are still speaking spots available. Please contact us at if you'd like to speak at TEDxFloyd. For an overview of the theme, read my article in last month's newsletter


Plans are in the works to have a live webcast of the event at a satellite location, so that we can include another 100 people in this special experience. Mark your calendars for April 27, 2013.


If you haven't already, please like our Facebook page, and share it with your networks. Also, sponsorship opportunities are available, both in-kind and cash. For more information, please send email.


Here is a nice essay about preparing for the "Talk of Your Life." No pressure. :)

Red-Eyed Tree Frogs
Miranda Altice
Miranda Altice


Spring... is obviously not here yet. But our Valentine's Day Special Persons Tea Party was a breath of fresh air, and boy did the Frogs work hard! During the weeks leading up to it, we worked diligently on how to set a formal table setting, using table manners, planning decorations and gifts, and how to serve the delectable snacks from Blackwater Loft, classroom-made yogurt (while learning about good bacteria), and miso soup for studies in Japan. I must say, I am so proud of how well the Frogs did in presenting themselves to their special persons, and in turn the special persons had so many positive things to say about the Frogs!

In science we have been learning a lot about the classification of living organisms. Learning the difference between a Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species may sound like a mouthful (and may cause dizziness), but the Frogs never fail to amaze me at how well they can pick things up! Exposure to classification can start a lot earlier than many may think, and the point is to show that not only are there enormous varieties of life, but scientists have to put them in different groups in order to help them to understand how they function. This also helps the children to understand the major differences between a vertebrate and invertebrate beyond the fact of backbones. What makes a mammal a mammal? What makes an echinoderm and echinoderm? And why does mold have it's own phylum? So for many of the Frog parents who may be witnessing their child speaking simple Latin, have no fear... It's only science!

Perhaps parents may have been hearing a lot about (hopefully not during dinner time) our bacteria that we have collected and are growing and analyzing? Our experiment was to collect bacteria with sterilized cotton swabs and gently rub the collection onto our agar in a range of petri dishes. Our collections were from different places in the classroom, the bathroom (ew), AND most importantly our hands. The idea - and the "problem" from the scientific method - is to figure "What kind of soap is most likely to kill the most bacteria on our hands after washing for 20 seconds?" So far we have gotten some pretty disgusting ideas! The results will be given soon, and we will also be able to see how much bacteria is growing on our classroom table, our pencils, fingernails that are chewed, touch-screen computer, and even the upstairs toilet seat and bathroom door handle! We have seen some results... and they're not pretty! Perhaps now i won't have such a hard time convincing them to wash their hands? 
Ice Kids
Corey Avellar
Corey Avellar


February was quite a month!


Family tea, some chemistry,

Dinosaur extinction through volcanic  


Forms of matter, scientific chatter,

Solid/ liquid /gas, weather is a blast!

 Poetry on the wall, measuring how tall.

All the things we do,  

We would like to share with you!


The highlight of February for the Ice Kids was also the messiest! We made dinosaur dioramas with volcanoes. We discussed what we thought might happen if we mixed vinegar and baking soda in our volcanoes. We also hypothesized about how different colors of food coloring would affect our volcanoes, and we tried mixing differing amounts of the ingredients to see the different effects.  


After all our volcanoes erupted, we wrote up our observations, which you can read below. Look for matter mobiles coming soon!

To see a larger version of a student's volcano notes, click on it...


Sandy Gorillas
Stefi Schafer & Winter Koeppe
Stefi Schafer
Winter Koeppe

As the Sandy Gorillas continue to learn about their world, so does their teacher. During our mid-winter break, I was fortunate to be able to attend the 57th Annual Virginia Association for Early Childhood Education conference in Reston, Virginia. This conference offers a large variety of workshops and seminars on topics ranging from basic art activities and classroom management to cutting-edge brain research. Being in the presence of over 1,500 people who share a common passion to teach young children is truly invigorating and always renews my commitment to the field of Early Childhood Education. This year I not only attended the conference, but I had the opportunity to co-present with two incredible women on the topic of parent relationships.


As I talked about the importance of positive relationships with parents, I realized just how lucky I am. I work at a school that allows and encourages me to foster relationships with parents and students alike, a school that has a clear understanding of the importance of family and community and that encourages parents to be involved in all areas of the running of their children's school. Listening to the workshop attendees, it became clearer and clearer that my Gorilla parents totally rock!


Throughout the weekend, I attended several workshops and seminars, and it became obvious to me that the principles and the learning philosophy applied by BMS are ahead of the game. Several of the conference sessions dealt with the child's brain and the importance to engage all of the brain, left and right hemispheres as well as the connections between the "old" and cognitive parts of the brain. This is right in line with the book The Whole Brain Child, which BMS teachers are discussing in staff meetings and which is being used in the mindful parenting group. There was a also movement course that stressed the importance of cross-lateral movement to improve--you guessed it--brain development! I hope I remember some of the Brain Dance, so I can share it with the Gorillas.


A session I attended that dealt with stress and empathy also aligned beautifully with BMS's ideas about education. The speakers, Marie Masterson, Ph.D., and Katharine Kersey, Ed.D., are two of the greats in early childhood development and education. They have authored several books and are regularly published in various professional journals. And I, the Sandy Gorilla pre-k teacher at BMS, in the little one stoplight town, had the honor and privilege to listen to Marie and Katie speak and to ask questions and pick their brains! (Can you tell I am a groupie?) Here is one of my favorite tips from the talk. You can find more on Marie's website


Practice the art of "Presence." Being present with your child means staying tuned in to emotions, really listening, putting aside distractions to focus on conversation, shared activities and time together. Let him or her take the lead to read a book, snuggle, share an activity or take a walk. Get to know their feelings and thoughts. They can finish sentences like: "I like it when...." or "I wish that..." By really listening, you are giving to your children a gift of Presence that they will pay forward to others - and back to you.


There were so many wonderful topics to explore at the conference, that it was hard to choose. But when I saw a seminar about superheros, I knew I had to attend. The Sandy Gorillas continue to show strong interest in superheroes and the ensuing, often seemingly aggressive, type of play that goes along with it. The seminar shared some great ideas on how to better handle my Super Gorillas, and it affirmed my belief that there are many lessons to be learned about how to best meet student needs. If you would like to learn more about this topic, I have some great handouts from the class.


Knowing how important play time, my friends and I decided we needed a break from the conference work for a bit of recess time. We visited Takoma Park Cooperative Nursery School, a small school in Maryland. It was great to see how others set up their classroom, and we got some awesome ideas to bring back to our own schools!


Finally, I saved the best for last; Bev Bos was the last presenter of the conference. Everyone wanted to hear what she had to say, and I had to reserve my seat an hour before her talk was even scheduled to start. What an inspirational teacher! During her talk, I heard some scary facts: 40,000 schools in the US no longer have recess and many new schools are being built without playgrounds. But I also heard good news: NASA has added the following prerequisite for employment: "having tinkered as a child." Bev spoke repeatedly about the importance of play and mentioned Original Play. (Some of you may remember BMS students had several workshops in Original Play last year.)  


At the end of my trip, it was very clear to me what a great and wonderful place BMS is and how truly blessed we all are to have this institution of learning in our life.


Every stage of development is complete in itself.

The 3-year-old is not an incomplete 5-year-old.

The child is not an incomplete adult.

Never are we simply on our way.

Always we have arrived.

Enjoy now!           

-Joseph Chilton Pearce 


Literacy Learning:
The Red-Eyed Tree Frogs Love Guests & Visitors!
Virginia Klara

Virginia Klara

The Red-Eyed Tree Frogs classroom was enlivened by guest speakers and honored visitors throughout February.


In conjunction with our poetry unit, (centered on the book, Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech), BMS alumni parent Colleen Redman visited us to share her poetry and inspirations. Colleen, who has had books and poems published and who also writes articles for The Floyd Press, shared several poems about her muse, the moon. She encouraged us to loosen up and use our imaginations in creating poetry.


Colleen admired our poetry wall and listened to each child read one of their own poems as she recalled her days as creative writing teacher in the school. Her visit included many thoughtful questions from the children and smiles all around. Thank you, Colleen!


Scientist, world traveler, and all-around handyman, Lester Gillespie, came into class to tell the children about the 14 months he lived in Antarctica. He described the environment and the frigid, challenging living conditions of the scientists who live and work at the South Pole. His work was measuring atmospheric CO2 levels at the Pole, 40 years ago.


Lester is the only person I've ever met who has been to Antarctica. He even has a glacier named after him! The Red-eyed Tree Frogs gifted Lester with their focused attention and a family of origami penguins. We heartily thank Lester and his dear partner, Martha Taylor, who helps us during math hour several times a week.


Lore Deighan
Lore Deighan


We're switching gears in the art room as each class is beginning to evolve and shift into new territories and projects.


We had fun last week with a new toy that I am happy to be borrowing: THE PROJECTOR. It is a great tool for sharing and looking at art with the kids. In the ICE KIDS and RED EYED TREE FROGS classes I was already planning to jump into self portraits to use in wrapping up our color studies. However, in response to their interest in the projector itself, I spontaneously took individual pictures of them, projected each one, and had the kids trace their portraits. They all enjoyed this fun experience, and I'm now planning to continue some color studies with their portraits but also allow the project to lead us into some self-reflection and self-expression through portraiture. I love how one project idea opens doors to the next as I strive to achieve a fluid evolution of ideas and balance of skill teaching and expression through art in the classroom.


And speaking of evolving projects, I began down the path of drawing with the SANDY GORILLAS with some guided drawings using the elements of shape, but from that exercise we have now branched into a practice of working on a piece of art over a long period of time. So many of the Sandy Gorillas make a few marks and call it done (this is age appropriate). So after exploring drawing concepts a few classes back, I was a struck by how much paper we used and how many pieces I had that while valuable in process, were quickly "finished." I began to think about how most all of our work this year has been one day projects, and I decided that working on a piece of art for multiple weeks may be valuable in both product and process for these kids. So that is where we are at the moment. I sometimes guide the kids with specific shapes/lines to draw (working in those elements of shape still) and other times just let them explore a new material on their work as we create a multi-week, multi-media work of art.


The UNKNOWNS seemed to thoroughly enjoy class last week as we looked at many different types of drawings (with the projector!) and discussed drawing in general. One film I was able to share with them that they were particularly taken by was a clip from Ukrainian artist Kseniya Simonova who draws in sand on a light box, telling stories through evolving pictures. If your kids haven't told you about this please ask - they all seemed very impressed by it. Then we began with our first drawing exercise; blind eye drawings. The Unknowns had fun drawing each other in a quick manner while looking only at the subject, not the paper. This is a fun exercise geared towards shifting drawing into the right brain. I plan to continue with drawing exercises that access their right brain--imaginative, spatial, and intuitive--and  to focus on helping them to draw what they see, not what they think they see. Drawing is seeing, and as easy as that sounds, it takes practice to truly see the world around us.


Thanks as always for sharing your kids with me!
Performance Arts
Lucia Gruber
Lucia Gruber


February was the month for strengthening the aural sense and expressing the heard physically.

The students could deepen their skills and knowledge through experimenting with the physics of musical instruments. As a consequence they could find out why our instruments have different timbre, pitch, character and tone duration.


We practiced different basic rhythms, combined with introducing a language to quickly communicate rhythms. So these rhythms could be played together and adjusted while playing. The Unknowns got their first experience playing together as a musical ensemble, including singers amongst them.


The Red-Eyed Tree Frogs also focused on learning new rhythms and leading the group in these rhythmic games.


The younger students were immersed in the multitasking experience of coordinating the group's choreography while also dancing themselves in sync to the rhythm at the same time. 

Contemplative Studies
Jagadisha Rotella
Jagadisha Rotella


It's great to be back! My trip to India went well and was a success.


Before I left, our contemplative class was beginning to explore music as mindfulness. This subject is called Nada Yoga, and I have been involved with it for many years. Side by side with our core practices, we will be continuing this exploration for a month or so.



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
Unknowns: Science
Unknowns: Social Studies
Red-Eyed Tree Frogs
Ice Kids
Sandy Gorillas
Literacy Learning
Performance Arts
Contemplative Studies
Board Notes
Facilities Committee Update
On the Calendar
Mar 1: Friday Enrichment Program Session 3 Begins (Rescheduled)
Mar 21: Spring Celebration (2:00-3:00)
Mar 26: Half Day (9-12:30)
Mar 27-28:
No School -  Staff Work Days & Parent Conferences
Mar 29-Apr 7:
Spring Break!

Chess Club: 3:15 Thursdays

Board Notes
At the regular Board meeting on February 13, the group was visited by a guest speaker, Doug Smart, who gave a talk on fundraising. Following the talk, the Board received a report on the success of Mardi Gras and discussed scheduling a debriefing meeting to begin preparations for next year's event. Updates were given on a security proposal being developed by staff and on the upcoming TedX-Floyd event. After a quick discussion of school finances, the Board focused on the new high school. A motion was passed to hire Joe Klein as the director of the high school, with specific details to follow.

On Friday, February 22, the Board met again for the last of three development workshops with Andy Morikawa and Hugh Balough. At the workshop, the Board conducted a regular board meeting with comments and suggestions for Andy and Hugh about ways to improve Board processes and communication. During this meeting, the Board approved the summer camp rates, began discussion of the lower school's 2013-14 budget, and approved a proposal to create an Administrative Manager position that will oversee administrative issues for both the upper and lower schools.

The next board meeting is Wednesday, March 13 at 6:30pm at the school. Everyone is welcome to attend. 

Facilities Committee Update 
The original school building built lovingly many years ago by community members is in need of tender loving care to restore it to a fully functioning and comfortable space. Among other things, the building has plumbing and heating issues, and the roof is in need of replacement. In addition, we plan to have a new class next year, and we have an immediate need for two temporary classroom spaces to prepare for Fall 2013.

hese spaces will be temporary because the long term goal is to work on a new site plan and design for a building to house the entire school as we grow. The existing buildings will be repurposed to best meet community needs when the new building is completed. The Facilities Committee will be working with all stakeholders (that means you!) on developing this plan for improving our school campus. The community's help will be needed to bring these plans to reality.

Until then, the school has some immediate needs. If you have any of these items or have ideas on how we can get them, please let the school know


Current Facilities Wish List:    

- 2 office desk chairs

- Sturdy, kid-sized classroom furniture

- Shelving

- Two temporary classroom spaces (e.g., yurts or trailers). Each space needs be 350 - 450 square feet.

- Cash donations are always welcome!  Please put "facilities" in the memo line to target the funds to this area. 


If you would like to join the Facilities Committee (you don't have to be on the Board to join a committee) or help with some of the restoration work needed on the buildings, please let us know.  


Contact Shelly or any Board member for information on how to contribute.


Thank you for thinking of Blue Mountain School.

Peace and Blessings from the Facilities Committee.   

In Gratitude We Thank

Agatha and David Grimsley for loaning Lore a project for art class.

Cassie Pierce and Angela Kessler
for donating food for our hungry bird friends.

Linda Johnson and Martha Taylor
for volunteering in our classrooms.

Wesley Wenger
for working with the Unknowns to create and perform their puppet show.

Lester Gillespie
for sharing his Antarctica adventures with the Red-Eyed Tree Frogs.

An Anonymous Donor
for donating a microscope to the Red-Eyed Tree Frogs.

An Anonymous Donor
for paying the school's mortgage.

An Anonymous Donor
for supporting a student for a year of Chess Club.

Terry Crawford
for supporting two students for one day of the Friday Enrichment Program.

Ezekiel Fugate
for supporting a student for one day of the Friday Enrichment Program.

Gibby & Michael Waitzkin
for supporting a student for a week of summer camp.

Dick & Diane Geissler
for supporting a student for one day of the Friday Enrichment Program.

Kristan Morrison
for donating to the general fund.

Wilder Publications
for donating to the scholarship fund.

And a special thanks to everyone who helped make the 4th Mardi Gras Costume Ball a success!

Republic of Floyd, Blue Mountain Brewery, Emily Williamson, Warren Lapine, Mickey G's, Oddfella's Cantina and Tapas, Kanta Bosniak, Jonathan & Kerry Vandergrift, Tiffany Trent, Rowan Chantal, Red Rooster Coffee, Punkee Herbals, Gibby Waitzkin, Crafty Weeks, Pete Dye River Course, Lore Deighan, Susan Slate, namaste photography, Sarah McCarthy, Apple Ridge Farm, Eric Bolling, Vintage Cellar, Floyd PFLAG, Wilder Publications, Across the Way Productions, Doug & Alicia Fisher, Woods Wear, Kristan Morrison, Blue Heron Pottery, Anne Vaughan's Designs, Christina Behrens, Riverstone Farm, Floyd Yoga Jam, Premier Championship Sports, Floyd Tattoo & Arts Gallery, Joelle Shenk, T.W. Trimming, Lynn Mace, Miriam Brancanto, Wenona Scott, Healing Tree Wellness Center, Greg Ward, Buffalo Mountain Kombucha, Kai's Krew, Floyd EcoVillage, Hotel Floyd, Ed Cohn, SpoonFight,
Lagniappe, Opening Act, Helping Hand Transit, 101.5 FM, Brecc Avellar, Andy & Carol Volker, Shelly Emmett, Justin Grimes, Naomi Smith, Theda Anderson, Mama Sam & Pama Sam Steffens, Virginia Klara, Stefi Schafer, Terri Tishman, Cassie Pierce, Barb Gillespie, Kim Schwenk, Jack Wall, Kamala Bauers, Elisha & Jamie Reygle, Ashley Morales, Inge Terrill, Tanya Cook, Tobie Blankenship, Linneya Cooley, Madeline Emmett, Tommy Bailey, Andrea Goodrum, Alan Kaplan, Jodie Norton, Shirleyann Burgess, the Sandy Gorillas, the Ice Kids, the Red-Eyed Tree Frogs, the Unknowns, and Tom Ryan.

Shopping on Amazon?

We encourage everyone to support local businesses whenever you can. However, if you find yourself shopping on Amazon, please use the link below, and a portion of your purchase will go into our scholarship fund.

Shop Amazon



Blue Mountain School 

470 Christiansburg Pike, Floyd, Virginia 24091