Indigo Messenger


Welcome to the November newsletter for Blue Mountain School.

Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you are tired and weary
Because it means you've made a difference.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.

GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.  

-- Author unknown




We have a lot of gratitude to share here at Blue Mountain School. We are grateful for all the businesses that participated in the recent Local Gifts fundraiser (helping us raise nearly $4,500), as we are to all the people who filled up their punchcards with Local Gifts stickers. Be sure to get your punchcards and receipts to the school by close of business on Thursday, December 1st to be entered in the draw to win one of 30 prizes. Winners will be notified on Monday, December 5th.


And please continue supporting the businesses that support Blue Mountain School. 


We are also grateful to all the people who have contributed to the Floyd Feast silent auction on Sunday, December 11th at Natasha's Market Cafe. Please consider this to be your personal invitation to attend. If you do wish to attend, please get your payment to the school as soon as you can. 


Stay tuned to your email and our Facebook group for more information and pictures about activities happening at school.


Shelly Emmett
Shelly Emmett


Regardless of scale--whether you look at world events, national events, or even events here in Floyd, there is no denying that this year has been one that reflects one of the constants that we humans can always count on--change. It's been quite a year so far.

Of course things are no different here at school, as it is a microcosm of the bigger communities of which it is a part. After all, we have some pretty savvy and aware students at Blue Mountain School, and with the Occupy movement gaining momentum through the Fall, our students have noticed that a group of people with a common interest can attract a lot of attention.

They put this noticing into action in early November, with a protest on the office step and in the driveway of the school that really did get their voices heard. Though adults may not consider the common interest of overturning a rule against Halloween candy at school to be as valid as one that seeks to set right a financial system that many consider to be unjust and off-balance, our students certainly did their best to convince us otherwise.

Powered by the desire to enjoy their hard-earned candy whenever they chose, the students had signs, petitions, and best of all, a chant that really could not be ignored. And though these efforts did not cause us to overturn the rule, I must say that it warmed my heart to see kids working together in such a collaborative, convincing, and creative way. All joking aside, our students have amazing gifts that they are offering--and will continue to offer--the world. I am grateful to have the opportunity to be inspired by them daily!

Purple Platypuses & Rainbow Monkeys: Sciences
Miranda Spencer
Miranda Spencer


Thanksgiving break proved to be a great breather for everyone, and in our classroom the break began with a Big Bang!  


The Thankful Breakfast was a fun time for parents to really connect with their kids on what they've been up to throughout the school year so far, and our first Science Space Fair was a great hit with everyone.



It was awesome to see the students so excited to show their parents their space research books and the experiments on the shelves. One elementary student proclaimed: "I stumped my dad like crazy with all of the space work!"  


We heard rave reviews of our around-the-classroom Roman Numerals chart that was handmade by the elementary and middle school students. Parents and students alike were amazed at how we could wrap numbers from 1-9,000 (all written in Roman Numerals) around the classroom with a final zigzag on the door from lack of space. The thousands proved to be a lot of "M's"!  


Thank you to all of the parents for showing your kids how important their hard work in the classroom is to you. The students were VERY excited and the day was a complete success!  


Now our science lesson begins to veer into physics (orbits, force, laws of motion, magnetism, etc.) and into functional geography (the relation of the earth and moon and the formation of the earth and land forms). Normally in our class there are specific subjects that everyone gets so interested in that we are never able to move along at a pace that I initially plan. But one of the beauties of teaching in a holistic environment is that we are able to follow the child. If there is a subject that strikes more interest, then we have the freedom to explore that subject more in depth and with plenty of projects and experiments!


Until next time, Earthlings.


Fire Cheetahs / Fire Kids
Corey Avellar
Corey Avellar

The Fire Cheetahs and Fire Kids made our self portraits this month. We created three pieces of art from our drawings, from realism to abstract. Here are a number of concepts we learned from this project:

Hand-eye coordination - Folding a piece of paper in quarters, half and half again. Using a pencil and our memory of shapes, we practiced drawing the parts of the face in measured places. In other words, the eyes are half way up or down the face. Not an easy task.

Then we made 3 photocopies of each person's drawing, so we could draw each one a different way.

Then we made all the backgrounds water color, by wetting the paper first and applying liquid water color. We learned how the water made the paint spread.

The background painting had to have different looks, basically: nature, crazy colors, and simple one- or two-coloring. This gives off different feelings.

(larger versions of these images can be found here)


We talked about the differences in each style and which one of our own pictures we liked best; how the different styles made us feel; how it is fun to have different styles to look at all around us; and that art is not done incorrectly but is all your own perspective, likes, and dislikes. You don't have to like all art and just because you don't like it doesn't make it bad. So never have your feelings hurt if someone doesn't like your picture, it is just not their style. There are others who will like it, because it is a style they like.

We learned different ways to respond if someone asks us if we like their picture. Also different ways to ask someone if they like our picture, such as, What part of my picture do you like? or What do you feel when you look at my picture?

We talked about how it makes the world more interesting that we all have different style of being who we are, and identified some of our different styles that make us who we are. Also, how our different styles may change over time, favorite color, dress style, etc.    
The 3-4-5s
Stefi Schafer
Stefi Schafer

The 3-4-5s are all stacking it up!!!


Blocks, of course, are a classic toy in every child's life; this is also true in our classroom. In the construction area, children are learning so much more than just simply building a tower.    

  • We are learning about basic geometric shapes: there are rectangles, triangles, and the more exotic arches and semicircles.
  • We are gaining an understanding of concepts of length, size, area and weight.  
  • We are learning about gravity, balance, stability and other principles of physics.
  • We are learning about our bodies: moving carefully as we stack, keeping a steady hand as we practice hand-eye-coordination, stretching up tall to place the block on the very tippy-top.
  • We are learning about solving construction problems such as bridging, making steps or creating enclosures.
  • We are learning to make plans and follow through on them. Sometimes we have to adjust and reconfigure our plan.
  • We are working on sharing our resources and communicating and cooperating with each other while we work with the various building choices.
  • We are increasing our vocabulary as we talk about placement of blocks using words and phrases such as over, under on top, beside, between and next to.  

Recently, we added simple plastic cups to the construction area. Immediately the children began to explore the new construction possibilities and went to work. Initially they built individual structures, getting familiar with the properties of the cups, which are light and hollow and required careful placement and handling. Soon the children worked in teams to stack the cups pyramid style on top of one another. They mixed sizes of cups and pyramids to create tall towers, and they even figured out how to create additional structural integrity by placing the smaller cups inside the bigger ones, making a more stable edifice.   


For Show & Share this week, we all brought in additional items to stack. This encouraged not only the intended sharing of private possessions but required some serious thinking outside the box.  




The individual architects enjoyed the process of construction almost as much as the demolition; stacking things and knocking them down naturally go together!




Lore Deighan
Lore Deighan


If you did not get a chance to come in for our Halloween parade, you missed one crazy costume created collaboratively by all the kids at school.  Throughout the day I was wrapped, glued to, drawn on and pinned with an assortment of materials as the students became artists turning me into "a piece of art" for Halloween. 

It was an especially fun day as I enjoyed all the enthusiasm and creativity that literally surrounded me.  It's always nice to put out materials and simply say "Go" to the children.  So if you missed it, here it is....

Another fun happening in the art room is the new sketchbooks which I gave to each child in the three older classes.  As an artist I have an ongoing sketchbook at all times of my life that I carry with me on trips to other countries as well as trips to the laundr0mat.  I use it to sketch, doodle, write and record ideas about art and the world around me.  It is nice to look back on past sketchbooks and reflect on my growth and development as an artist.  I am excited to offer sketchbooks for artistic ideas and reflections to each student, and I hope to use them as a "space" for the students and I to communicate one-on-one about art and life.  The early learners keep their sketchbooks in class but if you are a parent of an elementary or middle school student, please help remind your child to bring their sketchbooks to school (especially on Mondays). 

Happy times!
Service Learning
Jamie Reygle
Jamie Reygle


One of the things I love about our style of learning at Blue Mountain School is the way we are repeatedly afforded the opportunity to be surprised by our students.

Here are some examples from my most recent Service Learning day:
  • We are looking at ways to raise money for our proposed trip to Washington DC towards the end of the school year. Initially, this trip was just going to involve the Purple Platypuses, but now the Rainbow Monkeys want to join the party. In our most recent class, the Rainbow Monkeys were able to propose over $2,000 worth of realistic fundraising ideas, as well as help prepare a budget for the trip;
  • Meanwhile, the Purple Platypuses participated in a meeting with some class parents, and were able to propose their own fundraising ideas - including selling produce from their own properties, working for the money, and personally asking for donations. One student announced that she had already raised $200 for the trip!
  • On the same day, the Fire Cheetahs started working on their maze. I was awed by their enthusiasm and cooperation. The boys raced off (seriously, they were running) to find sticks, and came back with quite a collection - including bits of wood that would qualify as logs, not sticks. While they were doing that, the girls set to making the maze with a quiet deliberation that was inspirational to watch. Once enough sticks had been collected, all of them worked together - digging, placing sticks, designing various parts of the maze. It was wonderful to watch, and yet the most incredible thing was seeing them resolve potential disputes in the most rational way possible. Our politicians would have a lot to learn from these kids;
  • And finally, The 3-4-5s watched a video of the Stone Soup story. Once it was over, and I suggested to them that we make our very own Stone Soup, the response was so enthusiastic that everyone in the school must have heard them! We'll be making and eating that Stone Soup next week. 

I'm very fortunate to be in the presence of such venerable teachers. 


Contemplative Studies
Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy


The 3-4-5s and Fire Cheetahs/Fire Kids:


We have been exploring a few ideas of what yoga is: moving our bodies, learning about our feelings, and getting to know our magic place inside us.  


Moving our bodies has involved silly warm-ups and practicing fun animal and plant yoga postures.  


Learning about our feelings has involved naming our feelings with the help of a neat activity, How I Feel, during which children pick out a weather sticker to identify with how they are doing. Some choose "sunny and partly cloudy," and for others it's "raining with lightning." All are valid forecasts! We have also been playing Feeling Charades, which has expanded our vocabulary for a wide range of feelings and emotions.


The magic place inside is at the heart of all of us: a place of love, perfection, and calm. We explore this through bowing to ourselves and others, doing postures,  savasana (relaxation) and almost everything we do during our time together!


The rhythm of our yoga time together goes something like this. First we sing an introduction song, Yoga Makes Me Happy, or we ring the chime. Then we bow and do our breathing exercises: peaceful breaths, bunny breathing, and lion breathing. We move into our yoga through story and games.


We have been doing garden and jungle yoga, as well as The Dandelion Seed story, which takes us from seed back to decomposition through different asanas.  


We have explored poses such as mountain, tree, eagle, flying eagle, sprouting seed, spider, monkey, bear, crab, monkey, cobra, locust, dolphin, and blooming flower (a favorite of many)Next comes relaxation, or savasana, which includes lying on our backs in our own space, cultivating letting go, calm and peace inside. We usually focus on letting the parts of our body relax, and we listen to quiet music to help us.  


When we have time we also read together; some books we have read include:


Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein

Each Breath a Smile by Thich Nhat Hanh 

Peaceful Piggy Meditation by Kerry Lee MacLean 

The Feelings Book by Todd Parr 


Purple Platypuses: 


In the elementary class, contemplative time has included breathing, yoga and movement, sensory games, exploration of feelings and how these affect others around us, circle/sharing time, journaling, and exploring calm-down tools to use in difficult moments.


The rhythm of our day looks something like this. First we arrive and center through breathing. Sometimes we read Each Breath and Smile by Thich Nhat Hanh to help us practice the mindfulness associated with breathing. We move into asanas through game and story, and then we move into stillness through savasana, relaxation. During savasana, we practice progressive muscle relaxation, moving through the body to calm each part. Sometimes we use a color body scan to focus on a calm color radiating throughout our bodies.


Exploring our emotions is done through journaling, and How Do I Feel Cards. Journaling in yoga is done in a quiet space where the students reflect on questions like:

  • What am I proud of myself for this week?
  • Did I act respectfully to my classmates and teachers this week? Why or Why not?
  • Am I using the peace place and breathing tools that are introduced? How can I better use these tools?  

With the How Do I Feel activity, we choose a weather sticker that relates to our present emotion inside (sunny with a few clouds or raining with lightning) and write about why we feel this way. We also play Feeling Charades to expand our emotional vocabulary.  


Lately, we have been discussing how our feelings sometimes contribute to actions which do not benefit the community, the class and/or teacher. For these difficult moments, we are learning concrete tools to center ourselves: we have peace places in or around each classroom, and students are encouraged to visit these when they need to calm and recenter; we are also learning how to identify the feeling when we are in a "difficult moment" then take refuge in the breath. The process goes like this: sit down alone, identify your feeling, and breathe in slowly as you count to five, then breathe out slowly as you count to five. (Recently I have been exploring using a mantra, a helpful positive affirmation such as, "I am okay, I am peace," after counting the breath.) The idea is that kids are calming themselves and feeling better, and that we are preventing disruptive behavior with a peer or teacher. We as parents know how difficult it can be to calm down sometimes, so the more we can practice this, the more we can help our children.You could create your own peace place in your home and remind each other to use your tools for calming down, being each other's teachers. Yeah!


Books we read:


Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein

Buddha at Bedtime: Treasure in Your Heart, Stories for Peaceful Children by Sydney Solis 

The Sun in My Belly by Sister Susan of Plum Village 


Rainbow Monkeys:

In the first class of the year, we had a sweet circle time over tea and muffins where we discussed what yoga is, what the kids liked and disliked about yoga, and what they wanted to do this year. We all listened to each other and came to an understanding that we would do yoga and physical education (P.E). Yoga will mostly be done inside, and every second classwe will be outside doing physical activity and cooperative games. I challenged the students to authentically try the yoga out, fully doing the asanas to see how it affects their bodies, hearts, and minds. It takes being truthful, being present, and listening to oneself and others to truly do yoga. The things I am asking are challenging for sure, but the benefits of having a stronger body, confident heart and mind, compassionate outlook, and calmer self will be worth the effort!


The rhythm of our contemplative class looks something like this. We start by bowing to ourselves and all of life. We then do breathing exercises to center and arrive fully. We get our balancing buddies (sometimes they are breathing buddies), which we place on the top of our mat to help us focus. Then we start with some balancing postures: tree, mountain, eagle, flying eagle, flamingo, bamboo. We then move into sun salutes and end with bridge, upward bow, shoulder stand, and fish. We finish with savasana, relaxation. During savasana, quiet music is played (Billy Jonas, Timmy Abell, Tibetan Bells) and/or we do progressive muscle relaxation or I lead us through a color body scan where we pick our favorite color to wash through different parts of our body. Being in a quiet/calm place to release and relax is the key here!  In every class I welcome creative poses or variations by the kids, which makes it more interesting and fun.


We also journal about how we are doing and what is going on in our lives. We play games and read stories from an interfaith yoga story program by Sydney Solis. The stories are about human treasures and values from a wide range of traditions/cultures: Cherokee, African, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Sufi, Jewish, Zapotec, and more.

Literacy Support
Virginia Klara
Virginia Klara


After 2 1/2 months of weekly individual tutoring, Corey and I both see marked improvement in the literacy skills in all the Fire Cheetah Kids. The youngest learners have acquired reading readiness proficiencies while the emergent and developing readers have advanced in their decoding and comprehension abilities. Every one of the Cheetahs has read several books at their level - from co-reading with me using beginning phonics primers to tackling chapter books - and everywhere in between. The confidence and pride of this pride of cats shows when a child announces, "I read a whole book (or even 2 or 3 books) today!"

I find my work with the Purple Platypuses equally as satisfying. Within this group, I specifically assist 4 children in their continued development of reading and writing skills. As I spend part of my time as an aide in Miranda and Hari's classrooms, many other students get mini-literacy lessons from me as well as I circulate around the rooms.

In completing their Universe Books, the students all improved their handwriting, spelling, sentence structure, research, and organization skills. On their way to become better writers, the students had concentrated practice reading in context from numerous astronomy texts and internet articles. A lot has been discovered in our Universe since I last studied this subject in depth. Ask a Platypus about space exploration and you're bound to learn a thing or two, too.
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
PPs and RMs: Sciences
Fire Cheetahs / Fire Kids
The 3-4-5s
Service Learning
Contemplative Studies
Literacy Learning
Board of Trustees

The next Board meeting is Wednesday, December 7, at 6:00 pm. The meeting is open to the public.

Welcome New Trustees!
This month, the Board welcomes two new members: Cassie Pierce and Jonas Goldstein. The Board has a few more seats to fill, so check back next month for more additions.

In Gratitude We Thank

All the businesses that participated in the recent Local Gifts fundraiser

who spent money during the Local Gifts fundraiser

Izzy Avellar for providing childcare during the Local Gifts fundraiser

Andy Volker
for his handyman work for the 3-4-5s.   

Chris Barrett for teaching a soccer class for the Rainbow Monkeys.



Blue Mountain School 

470 Christiansburg Pike, Floyd, Virginia 24091