If you missed Mardi Gras this year, you missed an incredible party! Great music, food, and friends...it can't be beat! We hope to see you all back next year.  

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

Elementary Direction
Shelly Emmett
Shelly Emmett


I enjoy talking with people about what we do at Blue Mountain School, in part because I am fascinated by how a school like ours can flourish with more than fifty K-7 students in our rural Floyd community. We face myriad challenges as a small independent school that is solely supported by tuition and donors and receives no public funding. There are many areas for us to focus on as we work to strengthen and sustain our school.


One of the most rewarding challenges for our school is the act of breathing life into the values that make our Contemplative Progressive model unique. Blue Mountain Elementary School is a humble place, a collection of small, aging buildings constructed largely by parents and community volunteers. But inside these buildings, something revolutionary is happening every day, and it is guided by the following tenets of our model:


Contemplative Education

Blue Mountain School helps students develop their awareness, concentration, and insight. We strive to use mindfulness practices that illuminate the innate wisdom found in all human beings and cultivate a growing sense of peace and wonderment in everyday life. As a Contemplative school, we believe in practicing specific mindfulness techniques and strategies to increase our awareness of ourselves and our surroundings. This reflects the Contemplative belief that discipline and practice facilitate learning and growth.


Progressive Education

Blue Mountain School promotes Social Emotional Learning and critical thinking through experiential activities and creative expression in a collaborative, project-based curriculum. As a Progressive school, we support and encourage our students' participation and input in their own academic growth, as is developmentally appropriate. This reflects the Progressive belief that freedom and choice facilitate learning and growth.


Education as Revolution

Many people would agree with these ideas on paper, but bringing them to life can be another story altogether. These ideas impact everything from our schedule, to our calendar, to whether or not students have homework, to why we don't have grades. They impact balancing Social Emotional learning with academics. They impact lesson plans and assessments. They impact whether or not we have explicit rules for kids to follow, and which ones. At our school, we are overturning some basic assumptions about children and education and ourselves. This can be uncomfortable at times, but the endless opportunities for discussion and growth make the discomfort worth it.


This is where the revolutionary part comes in--by bringing to life a model that sounds great on paper, and actually making it great in real life! So don't let our humble appearances fool you; valuable lessons are being learned inside. 

High School Happenings
Ezekiel Fugate, Katie Phillips & Judy Mann
Ezekiel Fugate
Judy Mann


Ezekiel says...


February is always a challenging month because of the cold and the insatiable urge to get outside. Despite February's bad rap, I have come to deeply appreciate it because it contains some of the first signs of spring (if we're paying attention). The robins arrive in droves (or waves or rounds, depending on who's doing the group naming); the maple buds begin to bulge; the woodcocks arrive and begin their courtship dances; and the skunk cabbage flowers (some of my favorites!) emerge from the muck.  Hoorah, spring is springing, slowly but surely!    
The high school students and staff have been hard at work and play this month, both in the snow and at school.  Geometry students studied kites and then designed and built their own.  Algebra students continued learning to program and started learning to graph.  Spanish students fell in love with Mr. Bean and tackled indirect objects.  The culinary arts class whipped up some incredible meals, including the best bread pudding I've ever eaten.  Electronics students continued working on their robots (yes, they're designing and building robots).  We hosted Jennifer Greene, who shared a fun and eye-opening workshop on the nature of water.  She definitely taught us to see water with new eyes.  And more!  The next time you see a high schooler, grab him/her and ask about what we've been up to.  Or come see for yourself!

Here are a few items from the Spanish class:

En el mes pasado, los estudiantes del clase de espa�ol aprendieron el pret�rito y los verbos reflexivos.  Tambi�n ellos aprendieron mucho vocabulario.

En el mes pasado, tuvimos mucho nieve. Tuvimos casi dos pies! La escuela no fue abierta para cinco d�as. Despu�s de la nieve, estaba templado y soleado. Este es una representaci�n del cambio clim�tico. "Calentamiento global" no esta una situaci�n muy claro.  Me gusta llamarlo "clima castica". La clima esta cambiando r�pidamente. Una d�a nieva dos pies y despu�s de una semana esta sesenta grados.    

Durante el mes pasado, los estudiantes participamos en un evento sobre agua. Se�ora Jennifer Greene ense�� el clase desde diez y media hasta dos de la tarde. Aprendimos mucho sobre los propriedades de agua, especialmente la importancia de mantener la calidad de la agua que bebemos.   

Katie says...

The girls in the Artemis class are rockin' and rollin' on the Abobe Suite!  We have touched on Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator.  All three amazing programs that can help just about anyone get their ideas out there. The students are creative, engaged and lightening fast learners - I can hardly keep up!  It is a joy to teach them and watch their ah-ha moments, often right alongside mine. 


Judy says...


The writing class continues to find their voice through short story writing, debate, and dramatic reading.


Each student has written at least one short story and we are compiling them into a collection and having them bound. We are currently doing a short unit on Edgar Allan Poe and each student made a Poe poster. We held a Poe poster contest and all the teachers and staff voted on which poster was their favorite. Some students became editors and wrote newspaper articles from Poe's time period. Others wrote poem and creative essays, and one student even wrote a song.  


Poem by Jackson Wages 


Great men can make influences


Nelson made more than influences
He made some of the bests
So all the rest

could all be equal

to who was called the best 

Great men can make influences
Mandela saw
and went against the unjust law
That prevented equality
that kept the national quality
at a low
But he worked slow
to make the oppressors go

Great men can make influences
When Nelson died
it shook the world
Lots of his people cried
some may have curled
Great men can make influences

Brien Egan and Inge Terrill
Brien Egan
Inge Terrill


Brien says...

We have had a cold February and have stayed busy and warm on our short month together. We've been working on algebra concepts and terminology and inverse operations in mathematics. The Demigods have also been exploring some Fermi math problems such as how much would it cost to send a Valentine to everyone on Earth. A Fermi question requires students to first develop estimates of physical quantities to arrive at an answer and then to use real world facts to zone in on an answer.

Throughout his work,

Enrico Fermi was legendary for being able to figure out things in his head using information that initially seems too meager for a quantitative result. He used a process of "zeroing in" on problems by saying that the value in question was certainly larger than one number and less than some other amount. He would proceed through a problem in that fashion and, in the end, have a quantified answer within identified limits

In a Fermi question, the goal is to get an answer to an order of magnitude (typically a power of ten) by making reasonable assumptions about the situation, not necessarily relying upon definite knowledge for an "exact" answer.

  • A Fermi question is posed with limited information given.
    • How many water balloons would it take to fill the school gymnasium?
    • How many piano tuners are there in New York City?
    • What is the mass in kilograms of the student body in your school?
  • A Fermi question requires that students ask many more questions.
    • How big is a water balloon?
    • What are the approximate dimensions dimensions of the gym?
    • What measurement must be estimated using the dimensions of the gym?
    • ... and the list goes on.
  • A Fermi question demands communication.
  • A Fermi question utilizes estimation.
  • A Fermi question emphasizes process rather than "the" answer.
In English, we are finishing up the Red Pyramid and have been looking at mythology and constructing our own myths to explain phenomenon in the natural world just as the original creators of myths did. We also spent some time learning the nuances of prepositions and working with them. We created a theme for our Colored Pencils magazine, which will be "Myths and Legends," and we have been doing a great deal of work on organizing and planning as well as getting advertising to help pay for publishing. We are still taking submissions, so please encourage your child to make something to include in our children's literary magazine.  
Other recent developments include our creating relief maps of China as we begin to analyze its geography and move towards learning its history.  Our two oldest students, Yeshe and Leah, have embarked on their independent projects. They will both be graduating from the elementary school at the end of the year. This project serves as a bridge for them to get used to the operations of the high school and to help foster independence and an understanding of business skills. They have created a small chocolate business plan and were the ones who created the chocolates all of us shared for the Special Person's Tea this past Friday.  We are very proud of their accomplishments and look forward to their success. 

In other news the trip to Charlotte is shaping up nicely with the most likely date being May 16th and 17th.  We will go to Carrowinds for the day for their educational program, camp and then go to a museum in Charlotte the next day before returning home.  Look for information about future fundraising soon!   


Inge says...


The Demigods are as lively as ever, and the warmer temperatures of late have been very welcomed. The students can get outside more during breaks and not be bouncing off the walls in the tiny trailer so much!


For Science, we have been studying about honey bees in an attempt to figure out why they are not doing well, why there are colony collapses occurring all across the country, and what people can do to help. We have talked about creating some honey bee gardens on the school's property in the spring and about visiting Spikenard Farm Honey Bee Sanctuary to see what they are doing to help bees and other pollinators.


For Geography, we have been using the book Virginia (From Sea to Shining Sea), which describes the geography, plants and animals, history, economy, language, culture and people of the state. Each student has had their own copy of the book to use in the classroom to read from start to finish. From it we are finding out more about the state we live in. We even quizzed ourselves on the content of the book to see how well we retained the information! 


For Health, we are currently watching and discussing the ideas in a film about grounding (also known as "Earthing"). The film explains why it is important to go bare foot outside, lay on the ground, and walk in a creek bed as much as you can to "plug in" to the Earth. Don't be surprised to see the Demigods going bare foot on the playground this spring; and ask them to explain why!

Dragon Tamers
Virginia Klara and Inge Terrill
Virginia Klara
Inge Terrill


This Land is Their Land by Virginia 


The Dragon Tamers have been exploring and expanding their knowledge about the United States.


Each child chose a state, researched its location, geography, topography, and unique aspects, and shared the findings with classmates. Ask your child about which state he or she is the class expert.


Now we are expanding our USA studies into the country's regions and discussing familiar icons (Statue of Liberty, Golden Gate Bridge, Grand Canyon, Kansas wheat fields, and the like). The class is singing Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land. Its lyrics connect our studies to the organizing songs we heard at Blue Mountain High School on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.


One day our discussion veered to the freedom to the rights and responsibilities of US citizens. What are taxes? And what is this money used for anyway? Is going to school a freedom, a right or a responsibility?


We shared the book, Heartbeat, in class over the past several weeks. Written by a contemporary American author, one of our favorites, Sharon Creech, this novel helped us identify feelings associated with the arrival of a new baby, the aging of grandparents, and changes in our friends as we grow up. Powerful and thought-provoking for all. Maybe you saw our Apple Art Exhibit inspired by Heartbeat.


Now we have followed author Sharon Creech into another short novel written in a poetic journal style. Some of the DragonT amers enjoyed meeting the protagonist Jack last year in Love that Dog. The cat lovers among us reacted to the title of the new book, Hate the Cat, which uses journaling and poetry writing to reflect on things that affect us in our homes, neighborhoods, and schools. Everyone has enjoyed reading and hearing poems written by other school-aged children.


Just for fun... When you encounter a fascinating, super-long word with your child, make a game of finding words hidden within the long word. We listened to some of Edgar Allan Poe's poem, "The Bells," and easily found 40 words in the word, tintinnabulation!


Science & Virginia Studies by Inge


It was truly a pleasure working with all of the students in the Dragon Tamers class in January and February while Miranda was gone. With all the starts and stops of this semester so far and folks being gone on vacations, etc., there was not as much continuity as I would have liked, but we made the most of it. Now that Miranda is coming back, I realize how much I will miss working with these wonderful students!


In science, we learned a lot together about honey bees. Through the use of the internet (videos and websites), dvds, books and magazines, we discovered so many interesting facts about these fascinating creatures. About half of our food supply comes from plants that are pollinated by honey bees. Because of the decline in their populations, it is pretty scary to think what life on earth would be like without them. They are the modern day "canaries in the coal mines." They need our help to survive. Ask a Dragon Tamer what you can do to help honey bees!


This semester I resurrected one of my favorite student projects... the infamous lapboards. Each student got to choose a topic of their own to study independently, and the only criteria was that the topic be related to science somehow. They were to research the topic on their own at home and construct a lapboard (also called a lapbook) to share with the class during a presentation. They have one more week to finish their projects. I can't wait to see what they have learned and made! Stay tuned for more information about their lapboards.


We also spent time studying Virginia. It is our home after all, so why not learn more about it? The students learned all kinds of fun VA facts. What is so interesting and different about Virginia? Ask one of the Dragon Tamers!   


One morning, as we were sitting in a circle together on the floor, I ask the Dragon Tamers if they knew what it meant to hold something as sacred. We talked about that for a while and then I asked each one of them what they held as sacred from nature. The stories and ideas they shared were wonderful. The following pictures came out of that discussion.


Jenni Heartway
Jenni Heartway


A Very Special Tea


This being my first year at Blue Mountain School, I was a little unsure of what to expect from the Special Person Tea.   When I first brought the subject up with my students, they were very clear with me about their expectations for the event.


"We're going to have a campfire."




"And smores."


"And popcorn."


So following their lead and vision for this tea ended up being a wonderful learning process for all of us. We had already created a fire circle at the top of the area we call Stick Mountain. We began talking about other things that we might have at our tea, and they became excited. We experimented with different types of wild foraged tea, and decided that our most flavorful option was pine needle.


They quickly realized that the trail, which was fine for us, was not the best for all of our guests. We spent a more than a few days moving logs, trimming briars and making our trail easy to navigate. Unsure of what exactly the weather would be, the students collected (and sorted by size) firewood and stored it under a tarp near the circle.


They assigned jobs to themselves such a fire tender, seating committee, game leaders and one person was in charge of chime for helping our guests find their "still spots" in the woods.


On the day of the tea, the seating committee realized it was a bit ambitious to carry up all the benches they had planned, so we decided to use blankets and have one bench for our elders. The students were excited and nervous on the day of the tea.


"I've never planned a party before."


"I feel like we're forgetting something."


"I'm afraid something will go wrong... "


BUT, of course, they pulled it off beautifully. What a wonderful, special event! They were so proud of their work and happy to share a space that has become so special to them with people who are very important in their lives.

Swinging Beetle Bugs
Stefi Schafer & Ashley Morales
Stefi Schafer
Ashley Morales

The SBB's made the most of the days we spent together in February by creating valentines and invitations to the Special Person Tea, getting acquainted with the loft, and learning some new and very big words like: predict, pattern, order, budget, microscopic and recipe.


In circle we practiced making patterns with stomps and claps. One person would stomp and clap a pattern, and the rest of us would repeat the pattern. For table work we made patterns with colored cubes.


The SBB's took ownership of the classroom by combing through catalogs and making suggestions for new items to order with the money in our budget.


We learned that very small things we can't see are microscopic. We also learned a lot about snowflakes and the unique qualities inherent in them and in us as well (no two snowflakes are the same and no two fingerprints are the same). We now have a working microscope in our class thanks to Stefi.


We revisited the word recipe when we made ice cream. This was a fun and super exciting activity that resulted in a delicious dessert after lunch!


The writing center was a busy place this month with all the valentines and invitations going out to special people. The SBB's got a lot of practice writing their own names as well as the names of loved ones.


Tiamon's momma was kind to introduce our class to their faith, Baha'i, through a story and an activity making bird feeders. This was in celebration of Ayyam-i-ha.


As there was much interest in making an elevator, we spent time painting our boxes and assembling a pulley system. As with lots of projects, this one proved to be a bit more challenging than originally anticipated. The fact that Ashley and Stefi could not help build an elevator that would hold a kid was disappointing to say the least. We had many suggestions to use "metal and duct tape" and even to "make it electric," but alas, we are preschool teachers and not engineers. We did the best we could.


Spring is on the horizon, and we can't wait! Plenty of new and exciting adventures to come!

Yoga & Physical Education
Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy


Character and Emotions


The focus of yoga this quarter is character and personality for the Demigods and Dragon Tamers. The two youngest classes focus is feelings and emotions. The 1st and 2nd grades are exploring both personality and emotions. We have been starting our classes with check/ins and exercises exploring the questions: Who am I? What is character? What are my personality traits? Which ones are strengths? Which ones do I need to improve upon? Which ones are influenced by others?


In one activity we chose however many chocolate chips we wanted ( yes, I placed a limit!) and then shared with the class that number of traits. It turned out to be a great sharing and listening activity. Before the activity we refreshed our vocabulary on personality traits to widen our scope . The youngest classes also have been widening their vocabulary of feelings and emotions. During check ins and activities , Preschool , kindergarten, and the 1st-2nd classes sometimes like to explain a situation that happened to them that brought out a 'positive' or 'icky' feeling. They are learning how to name the emotion and expand their vocabulary of 'good' or 'positive'. Last week we shared one positive and one emotion that doesn't feel good that they felt at school that week. Many kids were more than excited to have their guest come for the special person tea. Most of this age group could explain it with 'happy' or 'good' with an occasional 'excited'. We learned some new words like: wonderful, joyful, ecstatic, jubilant, and elated .


We also participated in a service learning project with the Go Give Yoga Foundation. They send yoga teachers and other people who work with kids to Haiti to teach yoga to children affected by the Hurricane. In addition to teaching yoga they give emotional support , teach art, give snacks and hot meals too! We made valentines for the kids that explained who we were, where we come from, that we also do yoga, etc. They accept donations for the work they do and our kids and families have raised over $56 for the organization. I was amazed at the generosity of our kids the first day when I announced they accept donations. The valentines and donations will be sent out March 14 so they can be delivered and send with the next round of volunteers visiting Haiti. If your family wants to participate with a donation there is an envelope on the bulletin board outside the office along with more information about the work the Go Give Yoga Foundation does. Thanks so much!

Lore Deighan
Lore Deighan


Mardi Gras Masks and the Exhibit.....

We had a blast making masks that were sold at Mardi Gras to help raise money for the school. It was difficult for some of the students to accept that this project was not going home, but we talked about making art to support the school and how in return that helps all of us!

And if you haven't gotten a chance to get by the Jacksonville Center, please do by the end of March to see the wonderful installation your child had a part in creating.  Their work has gotten a lot of compliments from the public, and I am sure they would love to see it up!

Contemplative Studies


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
Elementary Direction
HS Direction
Dragon Tamers
Swinging Beetle Bugs
Yoga & PE
Contemplative Studies
Parent Collective
Parent Reminder

Huge thanks from the Parent Collective to everyone who helped make Mardi Gras 2014 such a great night!

Watch this space for future volunteer opportunities, or contact your Parent Collective representative if you'd like to join.

Elementary: Misty Harris
High School:  Cleo Keller 
Make sure to sign up for conferences, which are being scheduled for the week of March 10.

The Board wishes to invite all interested individuals to join our various committees. Please contact Kristan Morrison (or check out the school website under the Board tab) with questions as to what those committees are and what they do.   


We are also looking for individuals who are interested in serving on the board for the next two years starting in May. Please also contact Kristan with your interest in this. We need both parents of high school and elementary school students, as well as grandparents or other community members.


Lastly, Board meetings are on the 2nd Wednesdays of each month (although the meeting for March had to be moved to March 19th), and we invite all interested people to attend and get involved!


A huge thanks from the Board to all individuals and companies who donated time, services, location, or goods to the Mardi Gras event this past weekend. We could not possibly have such an event without all of you and your help!  Biggest thanks to board member Jamie Reygle for his expert coordination of the event once again this year.

In Gratitude We Thank

Joey Kaylor
for plowing the elementary school parking lot after the big snow.

Arthur Rodriguez
for providing computer support.

Madeline Emmett for designing the elementary school summer camp flier.

Jennifer Greene
for hosting a workshop on the nature of water.

Christi Pugh, Linda Johnson, Warren Lapine, Katie Roberts, Craig Green, Jeri Rogers, Virginia Lepley, and Heather Donice for helping in the classroom.

Lucia Gruber for donating to the scholarship fund through sales at Fancies and Follies.

Warren Lapine and Angela Kessler for paying the elementary school's mortgage and for donating to the scholarship fund.

Wall Foundation for paying the high school's rent.

Special Person Tea guests for being important parts of our students' lives.

And everyone who volunteered for, donated to, performed at, worked at, and attended Mardi Gras!



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.

Blue Mountain Elementary School 

470 Christiansburg Pike, Floyd, Virginia 24091

Blue Mountain High School  

PO Box 943, Floyd, Virginia 24091