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February 2011

In This Issue
From the Director
Nature's Ninjas
Thumbs-Up Kids
Silly Monkeys
Service Learning
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We'd love to thank...  

Lynn Gregory
, Rigel Morgan & Stefi Schafer of the Floyd County Humane Society 

for showing the Nature's Ninjas how to train dogs


Suni N. Heflin of Goodwill Industries of the Valleys for her support with the Oxymorons' rEcyclists team project


Sam Steffens and Allison Bowden for volunteering to work with the Sillly Monkeys


Carol and Andy Volker for donating their old stove to the school


Charlie Brouwer for sharing his inspiration with us at his Rise Up Roanoke exhibition at the Taubman Museum of Art 


Summer Mial and Alina Ever for sharing the Dances of Universal Peace at the school  


Jon Roberts and Scott Smith from The Sun Music Hall for hosting the 2nd Annual Mardi Gras Ball


Jane Pixley of Kids and Kritters of the New River Valley for introducing the Natures Ninjas to special needs cats and horses


Ed Gralla and Randye Schwartz for welcoming the Silly Monkeys onto their farm  


On our calendar:


Apr 8: Snow Make-Up Day

Apr 11: Skyline Manor  

Apr 12: C&P Pet Store Trip

Apr 13: Teacher Work Day

Apr 14: Conferences

Apr 15: Conferences  

Apr 18-21: Spring Break 

Apr 28: School Care Day   


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

As spring shrinks back from view, and we find ourselves dealing with health issues, it is a good time to recall the Sufi proverb, this too shall pass.

And with the people we have supporting the school, that is one thing we can be sure of.

The school's board recently voted for their office bearers, and are happy to announce that the President is Bob Sisk, the Vice President is Andrea Goodrum, the Secretary is Theda McCutchan, and the Treasurer is Carol Volker: all very competent people, we're sure you'll agree.

While Andrea, Theda and Carol are current parents at the school who we invite you to get to know well, we thought it would be a good idea to introduce you to Bob, who has not previously been directly involved with BMS. Bob was a teacher, coach, and counselor for 25 years, prior to founding and directing Tekoa - a residential treatment and transitional living facility for adolescents, and in-home services program for at-risk families. He is now a consultant for the New River League of Therapists. Aside from his considerable experience, Bob also brings a strong process orientation to the leadership of the board.

Bob, Andrea, Theda and Carol join Luke Staengl, Katie Roberts, Brecc Avellar, Sam Steffens, Shannon Atkins, and Wenona Scott, with the primary immediate goals to get us tax exempt status, and to develop our fundraising capacity.

We're in good hands.



As part of our Spring Celebration last week, classes took the Marshmallow Challenge, a building project to practice collaboration, innovation, and creativity. Small teams have 18 minutes to build the tallest tower that will support a large marshmallow on top, using 20 pieces of spaghetti, a yard of tape, and a yard of string.

Though you might not see this activity in a meditation class, the intensity of focus the children brought to the project was remarkable.


The beautiful first full day of spring made for a special outdoor circle. After everyone gathered tokens of spring from the campus meadow and woods and brought them to the center, big and little people welcomed the season with dances of universal peace.

From the Director
Shelly Emmett

Shelly Emmett
Shelly Emmett

Later this month, we will begin enrolling students for next school year. The fact that many of our current families are planning to return is encouraging - and as much as we want to open our arms to new families, we will have only a handful of spaces left in the school for new students to join us. But regardless of how many spaces we will have next year, this is a great time to reflect on the qualities and practices that define our school and set it apart from other options.

After almost two years working within the framework of our Contemplative Progressive model, we now have a much clearer understanding of what fits within the model and what doesn't. This deeper understanding will continue to inform what we do for the remainder of this school year and into the next. We are also in the process of formulating developmental and skill-based guidelines, grounded in research, to help inform the lessons and activities that our teachers implement in each of our four classes, which will allow us to be even more deliberate in facilitating our students' learning process.

One of the most clear outcomes of this process has been that despite our staff's varied backgrounds, training, and beliefs, it is clear that we have more in common than not. Finding and holding that commonality to the light will produce a framework that will be a good fit for our students and our staff, and will highlight the uniqueness of Blue Mountain School. Underlying this effort is the clear belief that we want to offer an education to our students that gives them tools, skills, and experiences over facts. Writer Eric Hoffer explains: "In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists." At Blue Mountain School, our goal is to provide an education that shapes learners who are able to rise to the many opportunities and challenges that the future will bring.  

Class Reports
Shannon & Hari's class

Shannon Atkins

Shannon Atkins

From Shannon:    


The middle school class, the OxyMorons, submitted their applications to the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge this month. Here are brief excerpts of the projects from each of the three teams:


Extreme Stream Team
Because we're on a plateau, we have a responsibility for all the water that flows out of our county. We identified a site near our school where erosion was in plain sight. We put a rain gauge in the ground, so we could tell the amount of precipitation. We also laid down two silt fences horizontally on the ground to sample sediment that washed down the rill at our site. Our intervention was to put up silt fences near the top of the slope to capture the mud that would have run down the slope


There was much less sediment on the mud collectors after we put in the silt fences. After we put in the silt fences we got more rain but less sediment. Based on our results we concluded that our interventions helped the erosion site.


According to research from Iowa State University, buying local food reduces carbon emissions by reducing the need for shipping. We asked ourselves how we could get more people to buy local food. We decided that increasing public awareness about places to buy local food and the effects of food distance was the best way, and that a survey was the best way to show what we did.


Our survey revealed that the average number of local food sellers known by people who didn't see our list was 3, in comparison to the people who did see our list, who could name 5 or more. 


We were interested in electronic waste recycling. We all wanted to help with chemicals and global warming so we chose to minimize the electronic waste stream. The problem is that we don't have e-waste recycling places here in our county. We collected e-waste for recycling in the USA by a partnership with Goodwill and Dell.


We designed a survey that discerned what people would have done with their e-waste if they hadn't brought it to our collection. 89% of the 9.6 kg of electronic waste we collected would not have been recycled without our project.
Inge's class
Nature's Ninjas

Inge Terrill
Inge Terrill

This has been a busy month for the Ninjas.  Some of the highlights of this past month include an all school, all day field trip to the Taubman Art Museum in Roanoke; a visit to the Kids and Kritters animal sanctuary in Floyd County; a visit to Skyline Manor in Floyd; and a visit by the Humane Society to the Ninjas class at the school.`


The Ninja's trip to Skyline Manor was bittersweet.  They had fun singing with the residents there and playing along with tambourines, cymbals, and other instruments to the music.  The sad part was the realization that one of our beloved resident friends, Ms. Corky, had passed away since our February visit to the Nursing Home.  She was a cheerful, humorous person who made friends with the Ninjas very easily.  She will be missed.


The Ninjas are still working very hard on their studies (Spelling Skills, Math Skills, Writing, World History, Virginia Studies, and Science).  This month they have been studying about deserts and rainforests.  They have been watching videos about these biomes (large ecosystems) and incorporating what they have learned into art projects and writing assignments.  Several of the students wrote Rainforest Poems.  Some of them are included here for your viewing pleasure.  We hope you enjoy reading them.


Greetings from the Ninja's fearless leader!

Inge Terrill


Rainforests by Tigerlily Kaynor


  A rainforest can be cold at night.

  It rains a lot.

  Never go by yourself.

  Full of fabulous animals!

  Oxygen is there.

  Rainforests are colorful.

  Each animal is so beautiful.

  So who are you?

  There are mosquitoes there.


Rainforests by Cedar Kayrum

  Rainforests are awesome.

  A wet place.


  Nature resort.

  Fabulous place.

  Orangutans everywhere.

  Rain, rain, rain, lots of rain.

  Even the insects are colorful.

  Shreek!  A boa!

  Tropical flowers and birds in the rain forest.


Rainforests by Kaia Kelleher

  Rainforests are very colorful.

  A rainforest can be cold at night.

  It is hot at day light.

  Noisy!  It can be noisy in the rainforest.

  Full of fabulous animals.

  Only place that gets 60" to 100" of rain in a year.

  Reach out for a snake, you're gonna get bit!

  Each animal is beautiful.

  Some rainforests are big.

  There are many parrots in the rain forest.



Corey's class
Thumbs-Up Kids

Corey Avellar

Corey Avellar




To see a larger version of these images, and some artwork her class did in February, just click on them.





Amy's class

Silly Monkeys

Amy Myers

Amy Myers


The first signs of spring are here, and our Early Childhood class has welcomed the new signs of life with many fun activities. We planted our first seeds at the beginning of the month in our colorful buckets that reside on our window sill. We have sunflowers, daisies, and beans. Getting our hands in the dirt felt great, and now watching the little seedlings burst through the soil is quite exciting.

This past week we have been exploring green all around us through nature walks: making a batch of green play dough, and also discovering what happens when you mix blue and yellow watercolor paint. We painted clovers that are now hanging in our hallway. 

Of course, with all the warmer weather and even the rain, we have enjoyed our outdoor time together, playing and exploring. Three truckloads of sand made it into our sandbox, with the help of parents and all the children shoveling. Their hard work was rewarded with many hours of enjoyment of new construction and digging, as well as enjoying the artistic additions that the older classes have left behind.  

Circle time

Circle time


Our circle times have been really geared towards counting and sharing as of late. We are also still enjoying our games that we have learned from previous months. As we shift with the change of seasons, we are learning more songs and poems about rain, warmer weather, gardens and springtime. At this point in the year, we all really enjoy circle time and are able to sustain more material.


In updated news we would like to share that we now have more help in our classroom, from Sam Steffens and Allison Bowden. We welcome them both and are grateful that they can join us in the mornings. We



would also like to thank Carol and Andy Volker for passing on their old stove to the school, as we have missed baking bread and look forward to more baking projects. Thanks to Lora Giessler, our art teacher, for taking us on a trip to Roanoke for the day to see the Art Museum, we had a lot of fun that day and were quite impressed by the ladder sculpture.

Happy Spring!    


Jamie's class
Community connection

Jamie Reygle
Jamie Reygle

Our submissions are in! The three middle school teams worked right up to the deadline to get their entries completed for the Siemens We Can Change The World Challenge, and now all we need to do is wait until May to see how we went. With prizes of $10,000 savings bonds, discovery adventure trips, video cameras and green prize packs up for grabs, there ought to be a bit of nail-biting going on.


It works! Middle School Erosion Management

It works! Middle School Erosion Management


But we're not done yet. Each of the projects needs a little more work to be completed to our satisfaction, so we'll be managing each of these as a class. We need to lay more hay down at the erosion site; better publicize Floyd's local foods outlets; and make the e-Waste collection bins more permanent and more visible.


Meanwhile, Nature's Ninjas are moving right ahead with their animals. Stefi Schafer and Rigel Morgan from the Humane Society came and demonstrated how clicker-type training works on humans: specifically, the Nature's Ninjas! It turns out it works really well, especially when the 'treats' are M&Ms. We had children rolling around on the floor, turning around in circles, yapping - you name it - all with a bit of simple conditioning. We also went to Kids and Kritters to meet some specials needs cats and horses, and started making cat toys. The dog and cat toys the class has been making are being sold by the Humane Society as part of their fundraising efforts, and will be featured at PetEx in Roanoke on May 6 and 7, and at Stand Up For Strays in Floyd on May 21. They would love to have your child come to either of these events as a representative of the Humane Society, so please let me know if your child wants to participate.


The Thumbs-Up Kids made track plates of some of the footprints we found in the sand trap. Not being very expert at either making these track plates or identifying footprints, we have concluded that there was probably a chipmunk in there. There were definitely some other things too, but positive identification at this stage is not a reasonable expectation. We may try that again, in another sand trap, as we still haven't managed to record regular enough data to chart the little critters' comings and goings.


Finally, the school is having Taking Care Of Our School Day on Thursday, April 28. The Oxymorons, and hopefully Nature's Ninjas, will be taking care of more than just our school: we'll also be taking care of our road. As you may have noticed, Blue Mountain School has adopted Christiansburg Pike from 221 to the Friends Meetinghouse. Twice a year - in spring and fall - we don bright orange vests and clean up this stretch of road, and this is our spring date. We need as much adult supervision as possible, so please consider coming along. Let me know if you can!


Sarah's class
Spring Yoga

Sarah McCarthy

Sarah McCarthy



Here are some photos to show you how we do yoga at Blue Mountain School:
Thumbs-Up Kids doing Locust pose

Thumbs-Up Kids doing Locust pose

ThumbsUp Kids doing a Downward Facing Dog variation

Thumbs-Up Kids doing a Downward Facing Dog variation

Hawea Ursomarso doing Warrior

Hawea Ursomarso doing Warrior

Thumbs-Up Kids doing Savasana - deep relaxation on a nice spring day!

Thumbs-Up Kids doing Savasana - deep relaxation on a nice spring day!

Nature's Ninjas doing Full Moon partner poses

Nature's Ninjas doing Full Moon partner poses

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

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

Thank you,

The folks at
Blue Mountain School