Indigo Messenger


It's incredible what we can accomplish when we work together! Thank you to all the parents, grandparents, friends, students, and staff who came out on Earth Day to help us create a Gratitude Garden, clean up our Zen Garden, snazzify the Sandy Gorillas' front garden, plant flowers, install a fence, shovel mulch, fix a flat tire, and pick up trash on our adopted highway!


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

Shelly Emmett
Shelly Emmett


Last week, we had the opportunity to host Todd Scholl, a teacher who works for the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement for South Carolina. Todd came to our school to learn more about how mindfulness and Social Emotional Learning practices impact school culture, especially for teachers. His assessment of BMS reinforced our owns beliefs about the positive impact that a school like ours can have on the lives of students, teachers, and the community. 
What I appreciate most about Todd's reflections are that they highlight the areas in which we shine, so that we can build on those as we tend to the areas where we need to focus our attention on evolving and growing.

Here is what Todd had to say about Blue Mountain School: 
"Over the past two days, I have had the privilege of visiting Blue Mountain School in Floyd, VA. The school practices a contemplative progressive model. This is a school where the teachers are truly empowered to do what is best for children. The teachers are given the gift of freedom and autonomy. In fact, they are expected to model that for their students. The emphasis is on building relationships and TRULY developing the whole child. 
This is a school that LIVES the best aspects of educational theory rather than paying lip service to it and bowing to the pressures of standardized testing. This is a school where the administration, teachers, and parents demand that students be treated as individual human beings rather than sets of data. This is a school that studies the latest brain-based research and ensures that the delivery of instruction reflects a deep understanding of that research. This is a school that allows children to be children. They allow students plenty of time to play, to interact, to be silent, to express themselves creatively, and to go within to develop awareness, inner peace, and a sense of connection to each other and their community. 
This is a school that isn't afraid for things to look a little messy or chaotic because it is absent of fear and anchored in love. This is the kind of school I've always dreamt about, but never knew existed. This is the kind of school that every great teacher I have had the chance to meet would thrive in. This small school in rural Southwest Virginia has a lot to teach us about teaching, learning, and awakening the best within us. I feel like I just woke up from a 2-day dream, but I have the photos and video to prove that it was very real and very inspiring." 
The Unknowns:
Math and Language Arts
Jonathan Vandergrift
Jonathan Vandergrift


The Unknowns are near the finish of one of their long term projects - magazine publication. Over the past school year, the students have been spending numerous hours developing and writing material, working with local businesses, learning publishing software InDesign and PhotoShop, and most importantly improving their ability to work as a team. That's not to say that they didn't have some hard days trying to ensure everyone's voice was heard and counted. But in the end, they have started learning how to develop consensus, which is no small task for a pre-teen. We are set to publish our first edition of Colored Pencils in mid-May, so be sure to pick up your copy at one of the local businesses in downtown Floyd. Also, many thanks to our publisher Warren Lapine; we couldn't have done it without his support.


In Math, we have started introducing words like "probability" and "prediction" over the last few weeks. Each day, the students participate in an activity that involves throwing dice twenty-five times, applying the results to a mathematical operation, and then plotting their answers in a chart. Depending on the operation, the plotted answers on the chart show a pattern that is predictable based on probability of the dice. For instance, the students have learned that when you have two dice and add the numbers, seven is the most likely sum due to there being six possible combinations; whereas, all the other sums have five or less. Don't worry parents; I have no intention of taking the kids on a field trip to Vegas to show them how to apply it to craps!


The Unknowns: Social Studies
Hari Berzins
Hari Berzins


We are ever so grateful for the community support around our TEDxFloyd project.

Check out the program.

Also, the Livestream will be up for another week.

The videos are being edited now and we hope to have them ready before the end of the school year.

Look for this week's Floyd Press for coverage of the event.

Thanks, Floyd!


Red-Eyed Tree Frogs
Miranda Altice
Miranda Altice


This month we've been learning an enormous amount about our Kingdom Animalia by dissection.  


For our first dissection we started small and investigated owl pellets. We found so many different kinds of bones in the pellets! We narrowed down the type of owl each group was dissecting by analyzing the texture and make-up of the pellet itself and by gently picking apart the tiny bones encased inside. Inside the pellets were bones from moles, shrews, birds and rodents. We had a great lesson about the various names of bones and how intricate Nature has been in creating each and every animal.



Next we dissected an earthworm.... A BIG earthworm (none of the Frogs had ever seen one this big)! During their exploration, the students learned about the external and internal anatomy of an earthworm. Did you know that an earthworm has five hearts and instead of a brain it has a tiny bundle of nerves called ganglia?! 


On our list of dissections for the rest of the year: frog, giant grasshopper, seastar, crayfish, and a perch!

Ice Kids
Corey Avellar
Corey Avellar


Sorry we missed last month's news letter. We have been so busy! The all-school theme for the last 2 months of the year is kindness, and the Ice Kids have really been enjoying our kindness projects. To go with our current study of animal species biomes, we have been reading stories of animal kindness posting some of these stories hallway wall. We have also been posting acts of kindness done by Ice Kids, by friends, and by people we don't know. To wrap up our April Kindness projects, put quotes about kindness with our own art and hung them in our new Gratitude Garden, which we made during the BMS Earth Day celebration (with lots of parent help!). It looks beautiful, even if we say so ourselves.


Our animal species and biomes studies have been really fun, too. We are working on classification, basic physical traits, web of life, life cycles, adaptations, camouflage, conservation/ecological value, and lots of fun facts.  During our Ocean Biome unit, we wanted to explore the size of some of the biggest sea creatures. This fits so well with our measuring unit in math. Each Ice Kid picked a whale or shark, and we studied information about the animals. We learned how large each creature is were in feet. But, how big is a foot? We all looked at our feet, and we decided they are all different sizes. Is Anya's shark measured by her feet or mine? Would the shark be different depending on who measured it? We decided that a foot has to be the same size all the time, so we took out our rulers and figured it out. Then we grabbed our whale and shark pictures, rulers and flags and headed out into the school yard. The Ice Kids teamed up to measure the sea animals and marked the distances with flags. Dylan's Blue Whale is 100 feet long, and Anya's shark is 11 feet.  Come check it out; it is so cool!


Sandy Gorillas
Stefi Schafer & Winter Koeppe
Stefi Schafer
Winter Koeppe

Interpretations of Spring Flowers


Spring has been on our mind for some time. This year it took time to find signs of spring since every time we noticed plant shoots, it snowed again. Finally spring had arrived at Blue Mountain School. The children noticed the little purple Hyacinths and picked them for the classroom. We took the opportunity to make our next show and share theme "Spring." Many friends brought in daffodils, and I picked some forthysias by the driveway.


We quickly noticed several things about our flower collections:

  • The colors most represented are yellow and green.
  • All flowers had something green, but some had purple and brown.
  • Not all daffodils look the same. Some have a bell or trumpet look, others are "kinda fuzzyish," some are white, and one was orange in the middle.

We finished our discussion that day by reading a book about dandelions. We learned that while dandelions are also yellow and green, they are not daffodils. Some grown-ups even say that dandelions are weeds and not flowers!   

For the next few days, the flowers reappeared on our tables at lunch, giving the children more opportunity to examine them. We found some more examples growing in the yard and added them to our collection.


The next step in our exploration was to bring out selections of paint: green, yellow, a little brown, and purple. The flowers were placed in the center of the table as a model, and we encouraged the children to paint a still-life.

What should we do next? Well it was only logical: plant flowers! We participated in our Earth Day celebration by planting flowers by the chalk board in the yard and in our flowerbed right outside our door. The Gorillas also had a chance to choose flower seeds to plant for a secret project that will come in early May....

The more I looked at the floral still life paintings the Gorillas had created, the more I realized that this could become a great project! That's when I saw it: a large wooden circle abandoned on the playground. All it needed was some primer and 16 flowers painted on it!  

When show and share time came around again,  the theme was flowers. As we looked at and discussed all the blossoms that came in, we again increased our floral vocabulary and knowledge. Did you know, some flowers grow on trees but some are just out in the grass? To further expand our understanding. I went to a local floral shop and picked up a few more flowers to choose from. Thank you Sue's Flowers for donating to our cause!


We then asked each child to choose a bloom they liked and paint it onto our Flower Wheel.    


To wrap up our flower investigation, the Sandy Gorillas watched the movie Linnea in Monet's Garden, a story about a little girl and her love of the famous impressionistic painter of flowers. Our ultimate plan is to have a permanent art installation on the outside wall of our building to mark the great flower project of the Spring 2013!

Lore Deighan
Lore Deighan


Did you know that there are five giant trash vortexes in the ocean, the largest being estimated at two times the size of Texas?!  Every day thousands of pounds of trash are dumped into the ocean, and 90% of that trash is plastic. Marine debris, especially plastic, kills more than one million seabirds and hundreds of thousands of mammals and sea turtles each year.  So what can we do?  We can start by recycling, take it further by reusing, and perhaps most importantly try and reduce our use of plastics.  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!  And that is just what we have been doing in art class in honor of Earth Day and our beautiful Oceans. 
The kids were all very sympathetic and concerned as we talked about and looked at some devastating images of the multitude of trash floating in our Seas.  We discussed what we can do to reduce our impact on the Earth and it's beautiful waters, and then we...dun dunna na... MADE ART!

We reused (or as I like to say, up-cycled) plastic bottles, bottle caps, styrofoam egg cartons, old sponges, old toothbrushes, buttons, tissue paper from Christmases past, packing peanuts, etc... to create a beautiful sea scape, a colorful school of fish, adorable jellyfish and other creative sea creatures.  It was a fun project intertwining Earth consciousness and creative material exploration, and many people got to see it on display at the Floyd Eco-Village Earth Day celebration.  Yayyy Earth!!!!!!!

Now with only 6 art classes left for the school year I am planning to milk them for all it's worth, pushing kids to truly immerse themselves in their work and reflect upon all that we have learned, explored and accomplished this year in the art room.  It is a fun time - the weather is beautiful, colors are budding and blooming and energy and enthusiasm is high.  I hope to get outside and enjoy nature through art in the coming weeks and plan to enjoy every moment I have left with these kids this school year!
Yoga and Movement
Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy


Kindness Project

As many of you know, we have been participating in a school-wide Kindness Project to heighten our awareness of kindness and its positive impacts on our lives. Children have been participating in, witnessing, and receiving acts of kindness.  


With the Sandy Gorillas and Ice Kids we have been reading stories about kindness and noticing acts of kindness around us. Some stories we have shared are: The Brave Little Parrot who tries to put out a forest fire with drops of water; The Small Bowl of Rice, about an abandoned miserly rich man who is rescued by a simple man in the woods who graciously shares his one bowl of rice and cabin; The Rainbow Fish, and Uncle Rye and the Moon.   


Uncle Rye and the Moon was read to all the classes, and it is a story told in many traditions. It is in the great book, Zen Shorts by Jon Muth. I thought I would share it with you. Uncle Rye was a simple person (and a bear) who lived alone in the mountains. One day a robber (who happened to be a raccoon) came into Rye's house and started going through his belongings. The robber didn't see Uncle Rye, and when Rye greeted the robber, he was so startled he almost fell over. Rye smiled at the robber and shook his hand. The robber didn't know what to say. Rye never lets anyone leave empty handed, so he looked around to give his guest something. There was nothing to give. Rye took off his tattered robe and gave it to the robber. The robber thought Rye was crazy but took the robe and ran off into the night. Then Uncle Rye sat down and looked at the bright beautiful moon. "Poor man," thought Rye, "all I had to give him was my worn robe. If only I could have given him this brilliant moon."


The Red-Eyed Tree Frogs and The Unknowns have been having fun doing a secret appreciation project. The kids have been creatively writing notes thanking a teacher or staff person. The students tell the person how wonderful they are with poems, words, colors, and sometimes drawings, and then the students secretly put the messages somewhere the recipient will see it. So far we have surprised teachers with messages in supply cupboards, with billboards on classroom walls, and with notes (and flowers) in cars. The recipients have been surprised and honored to be appreciated!

Music & Movement Education
Lucia Gruber
Lucia Gruber


 This April was a fabulous month to leave the classroom behind and practice MuME outside with singing, dancing, drumming and being with nature as it awakens.


Inspire - Get inspired

Birds are calling us to awake our singing voices and sing with them. We do voice improvisation to the tunes of well-known songs.Objects inspire us to a new way of seeing and acting: movements and dances, interpretations of sounds. A tennis ball becomes an utensil for a relaxing massage. We experience a change of perspective.   Listen - Get heard

From the turbulent tutti to an expressive solo to silently tuning in to the other students. We listen to songs of our favorite genre and learn from the experience of disliked melodies. We experience the power of respect.


Grow - Let it grow
Learning new songs and experimenting with rounds helped us grow our self-confidence in music and experience our personal skills.


Move - Be moved
We play a musical instrument and feel the beats that are starting to make our bodies move. We dance a dance that is played and sung by classmates. We physically experience the influence of rhythm and melody.


Support - Receive support
Slacklining is a challenging sport but with help from our classmates, it is easy to walk the complete length of the shaky strap. We experience reciprocal support.


Give - Receive!

Contemplative Studies
Jagadisha Rotella
Jagadisha Rotella


Mindfulness through Creativity


Each day in class we do our practice of listening, breathing deeply, and sitting meditation. Now we are taking this awareness into creativity. The intent of this project is to incorporate mindfulness into whatever we do, whatever action one takes on life. I have been stressing focus on awareness during their creation rather than the result or techniques. This has been difficult as most students thought we were simply having fun with clay.


We have been creating pinch pots and slab containers with clay. We will then be planting various grasses, wild plants, and moss in their handmade vessels. The project extends to creating sacred space in our home. So I would encourage parents to help their kids create a clear, uncluttered space for the creation when it comes home. The beauty of this is that it is alive, needs to be cared for and reflects back a sense of calm with connection to nature. All great ingredients for mindfulness!

After completion of this personal project, I plan to have each class make one of these mindfulness tools as a class project with discussion, planning, listening to each other and working together for the one goal to have one in each class. Let's see how it goes!  

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: Social Studies
Red-Eyed Tree Frogs
Ice Kids
Sandy Gorillas
Yoga & Movement
Music & Movement
Contemplative Studies
Parent Reminder
Board Notes
Parent Collective
On the Calendar
May 22: All-School Meeting (3:30-4:15)
May 27: Memorial Day - No School
May 30: Last Day of School (9:00-11:30); End-of-Year Celebration & Potluck (11:30-2:00)   
Chess Club: 3:15 Thursdays
Parent Reminder
Make sure to register soon for next school year and for summer camp!   
Board Notes
Greetings from the BMS Board of Trustees!  If you'd like to be part of the board, now is the time. We are accepting nominations for membership through May 6. Please contact Carol if you would like to nominate yourself or someone you know.

The Board met on April 10 with a full agenda at hand.  Our meeting kicked off with words of gratitude to CERC for their generous donation to our Scholarship Fund.  Know somebody in CERC?  Tell them how important Blue Mountain School is to you and how much you appreciate their donation!    
We continued the meeting with updates on TEDxFloyd and with exciting details about Blue Mountain High School, which is opening this fall at the Floyd Eco Village. We also learned about an all-school survey through IDEA, the Institute for Democratic Education in America, that will help us make sure the school is meeting the needs of our students, parents, and staff.  Please keep a look out for the survey, your participation is key.

Our next meeting is May 8 and is, as always, open to all.
From the Parent Collective
Thank you to the Earth Day volunteers!  I know some folks wanted to help out, but had prior commitments. Don't worry, the perfect opportunity will present itself for you to lend a hand (think end of year festivities)!
In Gratitude We Thank

All the BMS Community Members who helped with TEDxFloyd and the BMS Earth Day Work Day.

Martha Sullivan, Gustin Prudner, Ashley Morales, Elisha Reygle, and BMS Board Members
for volunteering at the Floyd Earth Day event.

Todd Scholl for visiting and helping spread the word about BMS and our educational model.

Linda Johnson and Martha Taylor
for helping in the classroom.

Robert Montague for working with the Chess Club.

Wes Wenger
for working on a new puppet show with the Unknowns.

Katie Roberts for sponsoring a student for one day of summer camp.

Ryland and Michelle Acree
for donating a computer monitor.

Slaughter's Garden Center for donating flowers for the outside chalkboard area.

Bob Sisk
for donating copy paper.

CERC for donating to the scholarship fund.

Polly Disharoon for designing the summer camp flier.

Ashley Morales and Shirleyann Burgess for donating books.

Josh Fenn for donating office furniture and supplies.

Kristi DeCourcy and Dennis Dean for donating petri dishes to the Red-Eyed Tree Frogs.

Sue's Flower Shop for donating cut flowers for the Sandy Gorillas flower wheel.

An Anonymous Donor
for paying the school's mortgage.

Wilder Publications for donating to the scholarship fund.

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Blue Mountain School 

470 Christiansburg Pike, Floyd, Virginia 24091