Indigo Messenger


And welcome to the new look Indigo Messenger. Thank you very much to Katie Roberts for redesigning it.


This is the final newsletter for the school year. As we finish up this year, we are given the opportunity to contemplate both where we've been and where we're going.


This has been the second year of Blue Mountain School's contemplative-progressive approach, and we feel that we've really begun to establish it. It takes a while to move from theory into practice, and it looks to us that we're moving into a space where we can clearly define not only what a contemplative-progressive school should look like, but more importantly, how you get there.


And it seems that we're not the only ones who are confident in the direction the school is heading: enrollment for the next school year is already nearly full. That's not something any of us have been able to say here for a long time!


Stay tuned to your email and our new Facebook group to see what exciting new directions the school takes over the break!


Thank you for being a part of our family for another year. 

Shelly Emmett
Shelly Emmett


At our recent end-of-the-year staff party, we each shared a word to reflect our personal experience of the past year. My word was 'joy'.

It's been a good year. Many of our current students are returning, and new students are registering (even without advertising), so that we can consider a wait list for each of our four classes. Our Board of Directors made progress on the task of obtaining non-profit status and other important goals. Jamie's coordination of our fundraising efforts was financially fruitful and helped us to become more widely known in our community and elsewhere. Sharing the office with Kari was fun and beneficial to me as well as the school in general. Christy's bookkeeping skills helped us get a better grasp of our financial situation. Our two volunteer Lindas were wonderful helpers to the Thumbs-Up Kids and Nature's Ninjas. And, of course, our teachers-Amy, Corey, Hari, Inge, Jamie, Kari, Lora, Sarah, Shannon, and Virginia, each added something special and unique to our school community as it continued to grow and develop.

Of course, the year was not without its challenges. We had a lot of snow days, making it difficult to plan and get into a rhythm with school in the early part of the winter. We had a well-publicized health crisis that momentarily raised our collective anxiety level and brought a new awareness of illness and health to our school community. Extreme rains throughout the spring have caused some flooding in our main building. And the school continues to struggle with the task of operating in our wonderfully small, rural community in a way that is financially sustainable.

But from my perspective, the successes and opportunities that this year presented far outweigh the challenges. I am grateful for the opportunity to grow and learn in the environment that is Blue Mountain School, and feel fortunate to be able to sum up this year with that word: 'joy'.  


Hari Berzins & Shannon Atkins
Hari Berzins


From Hari:


Dear OxyMorons and Parents,


 Teaching is among the most rewarding of professions. Thank you for showing up day after day to learn with me. I assure you, I have learned at least as much as you this year.


 Last week, we journaled in response to, "If I really think about it, the things I learned in Hari's class are..." Responses included:

"Vocabulary can be fun!"

"That I hate Columbus."

"How to make movies using Moviemaker and Audacity."

"Figures of speech."

"About Hitler's Germany"

"That I can actually finish a novel."

"Not all novels are good."

"That Hari is really patient."

"How to spell better."...   


 I wrote too. What I learned was that spelled out rules aren't necessary. Our classroom agreements worked to remind us of what we all agreed to on our first day together. (Thanks, Shannon.) Since we all knew our agreements, we were able to talk about whether or not we were functioning the way we had agreed.


 I learned (again) that when students play with concepts, they retain them. For example, the OxyMorons have gotten really into four square, and will often ask for a longer break to continue their game. The day I decided to bring the lesson onto the court was an ah-ha for me. (We teachers have to reach students when they are totally engaged.) These guys wanted to keep playing and they got to as long as we reviewed vocab as they played. Each round I'd call out a prompt: "Name something luminous," "Something that would cause you to look gaunt," and so on. Players had to call out a response when they hit the ball or they were out. The words that we reviewed on the court stuck. As a joke, in days that followed they would start calling vocab questions when it was time to come in. "Gaunt: thin and boney," Linneya would yell. Now we are playing an entire-year word review, and everyone knows the meaning of gaunt. Lesson: work with students where they are. Grab their interest and weave learning into as many settings and activities as possible.  


 Another lesson: Let students in on my emotions. In many classrooms, and to many students, teachers seem to only exist in the classroom, with no real life other than to lecture, discipline and give grades. As a public school teacher, I made an effort to tell students who I was, what I did for fun, and to make connections with each student. That was a good start in relationship building, but I never exposed my feelings to my students. This year, I did. We talked a lot about feelings and what was causing them. At our morning class circle, we have been checking in on a feelings board. (Thanks, again, to Shannon.) As we check-in, we share why we feel that way. "I'm feeling sad today, because my dear friend Laura is in the hospital fighting cancer. It seems like cancer is winning." Saying that to my class and seeing the empathy on their faces was a wonderful feeling. We have built a strong circle this year, thanks to vulnerability. Modeling vulnerability is a powerful way to teach kids to be in touch with their feelings and in turn to communicate their needs to others. Being vulnerable in front of a classroom of tweens and teens has helped me to feel more centered, and thereby more connected and empowered. It's an interesting paradox: let go of the need to be "in charge", replace it with honesty and vulnerability, students respond with respect and empathy, and I am "in charge."


 The model that we are striving toward at BMS is a model for personal growth and connectivity. Imagine a future generation negotiating the boardrooms, courtrooms and dining rooms with compassion and vulnerability. Seeing my students in action this year makes me know it is possible.


 I have grown tremendously as a result of this work and have made friends I suspect I will grow with for a long time. Thank you for welcoming me into such a vibrant community.



 So much love,



P.S. News Flash:

Congrats to Layla Emmett for placing 4th in Land's Sake's essay contest with her essay about deer overpopulation.


Congrats to Nature's Ninjas' Gabriel, River, Jonah and William for their hard work and gigantic reading leaps this year. You guys are super readers!!


Nature's Ninjas 
Inge Terrill
Inge Terrill


For better or worse, this is the last issue of Nature's Ninjas' Notes.  Our class has come a long way since the beginning of the school year.  What started out as a class of independent people, many of whom felt like outsiders in the group, ended up being a cohesive group after all - a group of friends in the end.  This was definitely a work in progress all school year, learning slowly about one another, figuring out how to work together, what they like and dislike, and spending more time together outside of school.  It is so wonderful to watch them now supporting each other in class and playing games together during recess.  It is no wonder then why their second chosen class name is "The Friends" - after their journey together, that's what they finally became.


We had a fantastic, fun filled 100 days of school celebration last month.  We had special activities all day long relating to the number 100.  Ninjas did 100 jumping jacks, counted out 100 jelly beans and pennies, blew 100 bubbles, and bounced balls 100 times.  They even tried to run around the building 100 times.  (We didn't get close to that one!)  We baked a cake together and decorated it especially for the celebration.  Everyone got to eat

a piece of cake while reminiscing about their favorite parts of the school year.   

Another fun activity was using Virginia Nathan and Linda Johnson as models for two special drawings.  Both models were outlined on large pieces of paper.  Linda's drawing was colored and decorated as a person 100 years into the future and Virginia's outline was decorated as a person from 100 years in the past.  We will have them displayed on the last day of school.  Come check them out during our last day celebration.


For the past several months, we have been learning about the major biomes of our wonderful planet Earth home.  So far, the Ninjas have studied about the world's oceans, deserts, rain forests, grasslands, and polar regions.  The last two biomes we are studying are closer to home - temperate deciduous forests and fresh water.  Look around our classroom and the stairway of the main building for the latest images and writings on what we are studying.


More Ninjas have finished workbooks recently.  Kaia has finished her Spelling Skills book and Tai his Math Skills book.  It is wonderful to see the pride in their faces when they announce to me that they have finished their books!  It is a lot of work to complete these books and everyone is still plugging away at them.  Congrats Ninjas!!  Way to go!!


Hope everyone is enjoying Spring despite all the crazy weather!


Thanks everyone for a truly remarkable school year!!



Yours truly,


Inge Terrill


Thumbs-Up Kids
Corey Avellar
Corey Avellar


To see a larger version of these images, just click on them:



Silly Monkeys
Amy Myers
Amy Myers


Greetings from the early childhood classroom!

We have had a wonderful beginning to our spring with warm weather and rain as well, to enrich our outdoor experiences. This is the time of year I am very thankful for the parents that allow their children to get dirty playing in the mud. Chocolate pudding and mud pies are so fun and yummy!

Our class has come a long way, it seems. At this point in the year, I am really noticing the ability to voice our needs and take a little space when necessary. This has created a smoother day for us all and allowed us to really deepen into collaborative imaginary play. Our themes have been healthy and elaborate, with amazing constructions of the toys and objects in our classroom.

Our circle times have been geared towards the season changing into spring time, with rhymes and poems about planting seeds, farming, and rain. We have continued to play games that the children know as well as counting and circle time sharing. Confidence in speaking, and listening skills, have also really improved by this time of the year.

One of our finger plays that the children enjoy about the rain:
"Pitter patter pitter patter look at all the rain, knocking on the window sills and knocking on the pane. Sounding like the pitter patter of little fairy feet, running down the garden path and running down the street. Washing everybody's house, washing everybody's shop, pitter patter pitter patter when's it going to STOP! "

We have really enjoyed having Sam in our classroom, helping us transition through our days and assisting in craft projects. Together, we dried flowers for Mother's Day cards that we painted and glued. Those of us who were able, also made tissue paper bouquets and butterflies as well. Sam brought in a wonderful fairy house book, and Shelly lent us hers as well, and together we have been working on creating a fairy house /garden right outside our classroom in the lilacs. Some children have brought things from home, and others have been collecting from around the school grounds. We added five sunflowers, and even some special items from our classroom have made it into the creation. We are going to continue adding more as the rest of the school year plays out.

Thanks Sam, for all the help and energy you have brought with you!!

May has been quite a busy month, with Pet day, clean-up days, and we are looking forward to our Apple Ridge adventure coming up at the beginning of next month. Please join us if you can! 

As the year winds down, my heart fills with warmth for all of our good times and moments of growth we have been able to share together. We have had our challenges, and we have had more smiles than we could ever count. Coming from a teacher with a big heart, it is really true that each child finds their own little place in the heart, and there they will always stay. It is such a blessing to receive these children in for a short time in their lives and then watch them go on.

They truly are the light in all our lives.


The Painted Word
Lora Giessler
Lora Giessler


Story Quilts and the Mosaic Mandala Mural Installation


The end of the school year is fast approaching, and since my last newsletter article on our participation in the Rise Up Roanoke project at the Taubman Museum, much has transpired.


During most of March and early April, I was absent from school due to an unexpected and necessary trip to Portland, Oregon, and health issues, which resulted in many students and myself missing school. Fortunately, Lore Deighan kept art classes interesting and fun.


And so, the art project following our participation in the Rise Up Roanoke ladder installation was an exploration of various kinds of quilt making art forms. During our trip to the Taubman, the children visited the fascinating contemporary quilt exhibition. I thought it would be interesting for them to view different approaches to quilt making as we live in a community filled with traditional quilt makers.


To begin, we talked about our favorite quilts seen at the Taubman and then we looked at traditional quilts via a very inspiring quilt video. To introduce the project I had in mind, I then read "Tar Beach" by artist and story teller, Faith Ringgold, who is best known for her story quilts.


Faith Ringgold's art focuses on her love of family, and we planned to create a story quilt that revolved around the theme of a family memory. The project involved several procedures: idea and design on paper; transfer of sketch to our fabric; printmaking to create a border that related to our subject matter; and the final choice of colored fabric, with some sewn stitches on the border to frame the image.


One of my goals with this project was to have the children experience some of the developmental steps involved in creating an art piece: inspiration, research, concept and design, execution, frustration, problem solving, joy, evaluation ... completion. I was amazed at how many children enjoy sewing!


We have finished the story quilts, and they are on display at the school in the downstairs hallway.


Our final project is a BIG one! We are completing the year with a whole school Mosaic Mandala Mural, which will be installed outside. What a production! The youngest student in the Thumbs Up Kids' class exclaimed last week, "This is exciting!" It is my hope that it will be completed before our last day. The grout will still be drying on the final Wednesday, so stop by the art room on Thursday after our end of the year Celebration to pick up your child's art and see the Mosaic Mural.
























Lily S 

Well Served
Jamie Reygle
Jamie Reygle


What a whirlwind couple of months we've just had! It must be spring.


For Service Learning, it's been a time of consolidation - trying to finish what we started. It's been a lot of fun! 


The Thumbs-Up Kids decided we'd had enough of sand traps, so we decided to build birdhouses instead. And as impressive as it was that this group of five-to-seven year-olds built and painted their own birdhouses, what I find even more impressive is that they paid for the materials.


If you've been keeping up with their exploits, you'll know that the class raised some money earlier this year by selling bumper stickers that encouraged people to slow down on the roads. That money has since gone towards an OxyMorons erosion management project, the aforementioned birdhouses, and the final $25 is to be donated to Plant-for-the-Planet - an organization started by a nine year-old in Germany, that four years later has been responsible for the planting of millions of trees around the world. We also want to plant some trees through Plant-for-the-Planet, but may need to wait until the next school year to do this.  


Nature's Ninjas recently revisited their goals at the start of the school year, and realized that the only topic they hadn't addressed was 'stopping war.' While that may be a difficult task for such a young group of kids, they did what they could by writing a letter to the President. This is what they came up with:


Dear Mr. President,  


We are a class of children, aged between 7 and 9, from Blue Mountain School in Floyd, Virginia. 


We are writing to you because we want all war to stop in the world, and the wars the USA is in most of all.  


War makes us sad because:

        It breaks up families by taking family members away;

        It isn't fair to the people who are fighting, because they have to fight, and they didn't start it;

        We are attacking innocent people who don't deserve to be harmed;

        Some of those innocent people are babies and children;

        It destroys the Earth and natural habitats.


We are asking you to please make a truce with our fellow human beings, who don't deserve this kind of life.



Finally, the OxyMorons. Once we submitted our entries to the Siemens We Can Change The World Challenge, we spent some time reviewing them, to see what we could do to improve on our work. That initially involved finishing off the erosion management project by moving some bales of hay around and generally caring for the site. Considering the amount of rain we've had, it's holding up really well, and will hopefully continue to improve over time.


Once we finished with that, we had another look at our local foods project. We are now starting work on a campaign, with the slogan, "I know where my food comes from. Do you?" We are screenprinting t-shirts with this, and will be selling these at farmers markets in the area. Keep an eye out for them!


Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy


It is not always easy being the teacher who helps our young ones find the quieter sides of themselves. It would be easier to play games with the whole class and make them 'happy'. I know some of your children are so tired of me saying, "Take a deep breath...." However, it really does feel better when we can slow down for even a moment. We did take a break from 'deep breathing' this past week, playing soccer and other outside games during class. The kids had me running around so much, I forgot completely about my own art deadlines for a whole day! What a lesson for being in the moment, what teachers our children truly are!

Life does take a bit of practice to master ourselves. Hopefully, with some tools from these yoga classes and other tools our dedicated teachers share with the students, our children will be able to react with more compassion and resilience to the challenging world around them.

It has been a full year indeed! I have had tons of fun, learned much about patience, and look forward to a break to get some more skills under my belt for next year.

Have a great summer!

To finish, I thought I would share a yoga story that I created  that I tell to the younger classes.

The lost dog and the monkey
(all words in italics are yoga poses)

Once there was a boy name Ashka, who lived in a village where everyone contributed to the well being of the community. Some cooked, others made shoes, some farmed, some were builders, others teachers, etc. Ashka loved to be outside with his dog, Blue, watching everyone work and do what they do. He played , ate, and went to school with his dog. They were best friends. One day when he woke up, his dog wasn't there. He looked all around for it. He looked in the mountains and trees. Blue was missing. Ashka searched and searched for days and still no Blue. Ashka was very sad and upset. He wouldn't eat and couldn't sleep well.

One day his friend, the eagle, came and sat on his shoulder. He could talk to Ashka because Ashka understood the language of the animals. The eagle suggested he should take some time alone to think what to do about this problem.

His parents agreed to let him go on a journey as long as the great eagle went to protect him.

Ashka started on his journey. As he started, he went through a field of
cows grazing and one startled him when he spoke. She told him to go to the top of the distant mountain, where a wise monkey lived who might be able to help him.

He started his journey up the
mountains and started to ascend through the trees. As he walked, his town grew smaller and smaller, and he sensed some fear in himself. His eagle friend flew to a tree and perched (flying eagle). Right then a cobra fell from the trees and landed in front of him. His fear departed as gold dust fell from the trees all over the trail. The snake hissed and told him he was going the correct way. "Do not be afraid," he said. "You are on the right path."

The snake slithered off and Ashka continued. After many hours, he reached a crystal clear pond where the sun was shining beautifully. There were golden toads creating songs and cicadas in the trees.

All of a sudden, the boy heard a deep laughing coming from the trees. The laughing continued until a white faced
monkey jumped off a tree branch and sat next to him in lotus pose. Ahska looked at the monkey as if it were crazy!

"You have come, finally
," said the monkey.

"Yes, I have come a long way to get help from you," said
Ashka. "I am so, so very sad because my best friend, my dog, Blue has disappeared. I am lost without him."

"Perhaps you will find him, perhaps you won't," said the monkey. "Your friend might have gone somewhere that you don't understand, he will always be with you in your heart. "You will be OK ... Just listen."

The two sat by the clear pond in lotus for a long time.  They listened to the wind and they listened to nothing.

After a while Ashka spoke, " I do not understand, but I feel better. Thank you monkey." And the monkey smiled and gave Ashka a big hug.


Music to Our Ears
Kari Kovick
Kari Kovick


May Music News:

This year, I have been inspired to combine two of my greatest loves: music and social-emotional intelligence education, into the music program at BMS. This spring, I have opened the conversation about many important "life lessons" with BMS kids, by reading books and sharing songs on topics that are "up" in my own heart.


On the social intelligence front, I have shared many books and songs about social concepts that are hard for children to grasp. I've come to really appreciate the need for this, especially for children whose individuality is seen and highly valued by the adults in their lives. Respect for the child is very important at BMS! Yet in a group of cooperative learners, having social skills becomes very important, too.


Interrupting can be a very distracting habit in a classroom of strong individuals who have lots of ideas. My Mouth is a Volcano, a book by Julia Cook, explains with humor and compassion how hard it was for Julian to keep his words from "erupting" out of his mouth. BMS kids found it funny to hear his story and surprising to find that they sometimes "erupted" without knowing it! Having cards with stop signs turned up when it was time to listen helped keep the eruptions down. Green "speak with good purpose" reminders on the other side gave one person at a time the chance to speak and be heard. What a relief for us all when we integrated these simple habits into our classroom!  


Likewise, Personal Space Camp, also by Julia Cook, gave the kids ways to understand what it is like for other people when we get too close to their bodies without asking. We used hoola hoops to get a sense of how much personal space people generally need, and also discussed when we might feel the need for more space (when we're around a stranger or "when someone's really mad at me!") or less space (when we are lonely and want cuddles). My Space Chant came out again with this activity, as did a favorite song by Ruth Pelham called Ask for It. It was nice to practice asking for hugs! I enjoyed seeing how comfortable many of our boys are with sharing love and hugs with each other.


On the emotional intelligence front, we explored the topics of boundaries and assertiveness, as well as disappointment. My favorite songwriter, Bob Blue, wrote the wonderful song It's Good to Know How to Say No, which we learned to sing loudly and emphatically, just for good practice. Turns out it can be a lot of fun to say, "No!" It can also help strengthen our understanding of why other people need to tell us "no" sometimes. The book Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! reinforced this lesson. We agreed that it can help us to feel safe to know that somebody bigger and wiser is in charge. Sadness and disappointment (sometimes as a result of hearing "no") are hard feelings to feel, but it's good to know that just being cared about can help soothe that hurt. What Do I Do? is a song that brings that to light.


I am so happy to see that these children have learned many self-soothing skills through their contemplative education at BMS. They tell me how they find a safe place to be quiet and go inside when they are sad, and how the connection to their own hearts brings them comfort. WAY ahead of the curve, these children have learned many skills that will serve them well in life, as well as showing a sensitivity to the world of emotions and a value for the wisdom that lives in their hearts.


I wish for all of us continued growth and joy this summer!


Kari Thomas Kovick, Music Teacher   


We hope you enjoyed reading the Indigo Messenger. Expect another one as the next school year approaches.

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


Thank you,

The folks at


In This Issue
Nature Ninja's
Thumbs-Up Kids
Silly Monkeys
Service Learning
Contemplative Studies

Jun 2: Apple Ridge Farm 

Jun 3: Field Day   

Jun 6: Bike Ride

Jun 8: Bag It 

Jun 9: Last Day of School 

Jun 10, 13, 14: Conferences  

Sep 6: Back to School!   

Board of Directors

The BMS Board of Directors wishes to thank parents and community members for their ongoing support. The Board will continue to meet monthly during the summer to work on a number of projects, including finalizing next year's budget, completing both the 501(c)(3) non-profit and accreditation applications, and ensuring that the school's facilities are compliant and ready for our students in the fall.

In Gratitude We Thank

Students, parents & our supportive community for making this such a wonderful year


Katie Roberts for redesigning the newsletter 


Sarah McCarthy for arranging the Apple Ridge Field Trip  


Cristina Siegel from the Clean Valley Council for presenting Bag It to the school  



Blue Mountain School 

470 Christiansburg Pike, Floyd, Virginia 24091