Indigo Messenger


As the weather turns cold and stormy and we all cozy up indoors, it's a great time for kids to participate in our Friday Enrichment Program. It's not to late to sign up for the second session, which begins November 2. Over the course of six classes, students will practice self-expression using art, photographs, and words, and then they'll tie everything together to create a section for the upcoming BMS Magazine.  


For the younger set (ages 2 to 5 1/2), we are now offering an Early Childhood program on Fridays from 9 to 1. This program is on a punch card system, so you pick the days you want to come. Try it out for free! 


Check out the website for more details about the programs for both the early childhood group and the older kids, and be sure to check out Lore's piece below where she showcases some of the art work done during the first Friday session!
Stay tuned to your email and our Facebook group for more information and pictures from school.

Shelly Emmett
Shelly Emmett


So far this school year, I have been grateful many times for our staff, all of whom returned to their teaching positions this year except for Jamie Reygle, who remains on our Board of Directors. Now, my gratitude continues even though this month two of our teachers stepped down from their positions.

Ezekiel Fugate, who taught science to our Upper Elementary and Middle School class for the first part of the year, decided that he needed to step back from his position for the remainder of the year. He and his wife, Vanessa, are in the process of transitioning from living in Charlottesville to living in Floyd, but are both committed to teaching positions in Charlottesville at this time. They also operate a farm in Charlottesville, which they will be moving here later in the year. Because of these factors, traveling to Floyd to teach at BMS one day a week proved to be difficult. The timing for teaching here this year just isn't quite right! We'll look forward to seeing Ezekiel again in the future, once he and Vanessa have completed their move.

Vicky Town, who taught drama to all of the students and history to the Upper Elementary and Middle School class, recently decided to step down from her position for health reasons. Vicky is ending her time with us in a big way, though, by directing many students in the first school play we've had in several years.

I am grateful to both Ezekiel and Vicky for their unique contributions to our staff and the students. We will all miss them, and we wish them well!

And I am grateful to our remaining staff, each of whom contribute an essential part of the whole that is Blue Mountain School. Change can surely be challenging, but with such a thoughtful, skilled staff I know that great things await us in each moment.

One such great thing is that Inge Terrill, a former BMS teacher and parent, has returned to teach science to our Upper Elementary and Middle School class. Inge currently works at Apple Ridge Farm as the Educational Coordinator, and she also works at Harvest Moon. It is fun having Inge back at school again; if you have a student in her class, you may (or may not!) want to ask about some of the strange facts Inge has shared!

Thank you for being with us, Ezekiel and Vicky, and welcome back, Inge!  

The Unknowns:
Math and Language Arts
Jonathan Vandergrift
Jonathan Vandergrift


The class finally met a milestone this past week - we arrived at consensus for the class name, The Unknowns. The previous name, The Bearded Dragons, was merely a place holder until the students could pull together and identify a name which they feel represents them. It truly shows the class pulling together as a team and beginning to become a unit. Now finding a name for the class's pet bearded dragon, that may take a little while...


We also just completed reading our first novel as a class, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. I really enjoyed reading this story with the students. Each week we spent time discussing character development, changing conflicts, and plot progression as we moved through the book. While most had read the book prior to this class, the students still showed great enthusiasm for the assignment and were very eager to share their perceptions of the story. If you haven't read the book, I highly recommend it as a great way to share a remarkable, moving story with your child.

The Unknowns: History
Vicky Town
Vicky Town


We had a lot fun this month working on our American Revolution unit. We made our timeline and also acted out the events leading up to the revolution. We played several colonial games including Fox and Geese, Blind Man's Bluff, and Nine Men Morris. The group really enjoyed the story of the battles of Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill. We had a great time running the "minute man" relay although we still couldn't do it in a minute!  


At the end of the month, we celebrated with a Colonial Faire. The students designed brochures to advertise a colony, and they tried to get Corey and Miranda's class to sign up for their colony! Also during the Faire, the visitors were treated to a play designed by our group to teach about the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party.


We finished by singing and dancing to Yankee Doodle Dandy although we didn't do the full 190 verses! Then we all went outside for colonial games and a look at our natural-dyed wool. 


Our ongoing project of creating our own history books has been an outstanding success. Each book is so unique----please drop in to admire them!

The Unknowns:
Ezekiel Fugate
Ezekiel Fugate


My short stint at Blue Mountain was full of learning, laughter, and community.  Our class became more familiar with the natural world around us, and I became more familiar with the students, families, and staff.  This time bolstered my excitement to move to the Floyd community; my wife and I can hardly wait to finally settle there.  I feel honored to have had this sneak peek into our future world. Thank you to everyone for welcoming me with open arms!  

Here is a brief overview of what our class covered over the past several weeks.

The overarching theme of our class was systems because I believe that the ability to think holistically, as opposed to reductively, is an essential skill for the complex world in which we live. We also focused on the immediate world around us because I believe any science should be firmly rooted in immediate experience. These two perspectives informed all of our studies.


On the first day of class, each student chose a sit spot, a special place from which the students could observe the ongoing changes in a specific area and a place in which students could center themselves and learn to be quietly outside. I was amazed at the students' affinity for these spots.


Our studies began with the basic structure and function of ecosystems. We reviewed the roles of producers, consumers, and decomposers, and we took a close look at each of these categories for the area in which we live.


We then moved into the specific roles of producers by focusing on trees, which can be seen as individual systems that are members of larger ecosystems. We discussed the basic anatomy of trees, the process of photosynthesis, the basic requirements for trees, and the various ways in which trees can be identified. The students adopted a tree at their sit spots. We talked about why leaves change color in the fall, and the students watched and documented this transition firsthand in their trees.


We considered the life cycle of trees and other plants, from seed to death. We researched different types of seed dispersal mechanisms, and we collected seeds from the surrounding area to see if we could determine which dispersal mechanisms they used. We also looked at basic seed anatomy. In the forest near the school, we saw how dead trees are actually teeming with life. We discussed decomposers and their importance to nutrient cycling.


The scientific method was introduced, and the students worked together to design experiments for their seeds. We were unable to complete these experiments, but the students grew some beautiful little sprouts!


Further refining the scale of our studies, we investigated plant and animal cells, and we considered how cells are both individual systems and the fundamental building blocks of all life.


I hope the remainder of the year is as fulfilling as the first part was.  
Red-Eyed Tree Frogs
Miranda Altice
Miranda Altice


We've had FOUR new additions to our classroom in the past month! The Red-Eyed Tree Frogs are so excited to welcome Teddy the guinea pig, Yin Yang the Siamese fighting fish, and Thorn and Mad Scientist the Fire Belly Toads. What responsibility to take care of a small mammal, a fish, AND two amphibians whose diets are all completely different.

In science, we've been moving steadily along with our astronomy studies. Over the past couple of weeks we've been VERY dizzy "frogs" while practicing rotations and revolutions of planets and moons and keeping up with the distances between each plant. Sir Isaac Newton, whom we've dubbed "Sir Funny Hair," took us on a trip down motion lane, teaching us about centripetal and centrifugal forces. One of our classroom experiments was to use a bolt, a string, and one's hand to show how the sun (your hand), and Earth (the bolt) were connected by the Sun's great gravitational pull (the string). This has led us into our studies of our moon, and finally Earth! Mountains have been a big focus: how they are made, the parts from the base to the top, and the varieties across the globe.


Speaking of the globe, on geographical planes we dove head first into the massive continent of Asia!! This corresponds beautifully with Ms. Virginia's morning language studies in the book, Three Cups of Tea. The "frogs" have begun using the Asia pin map to help them learn the countries within Asia, as well as the different parts of Asia and its neighboring islands (north, south, southeast, east, and west). And since we are learning so much about countries and continents this year, what better way to travel than to have a passport! Each child has their own passport, picture and all, and will be using these throughout the year to document the countries they have studied, either with the class or outside of class. If they receive six stamps for one country then they become an ambassador (or "expert") of that country. As much as these kids seem to love projects, I feel this one is going to be hugely popular and will encourage them to study up, learn a foreign dance or words, eat some foreign grub, learn a foreign craft or skill, visit an exhibit at a museum... the list goes on!

The world of math has proved to be very individual since we are all human and learn at our own pace. The Massive Numbers in Place Value game is incredibly popular, as is the Stamp Game for regrouping in subtraction (the most popular material in the classroom... so much so that we have now added an additional stamp game to our math shelves!), and multiplication. Learning geometric figures has been a lot of fun, especially since we've narrowed it down to the lovely tri-laterals... aka triangles. Next up, quadrilaterals! The pictures included are of some Frogs working on their chosen math lessons.

Ice Kids
Corey Avellar
Corey Avellar


Another amazing month!



We have been up to our antennas in bugs. Check out our bug riddles in the hall, or better yet, look at them below! We have been finding bugs and bringing them into the classroom to observe them. Recently we counted our class pets, and it turns out we have 29 creatures living in our class room with us. We have 2 crested geckos, 2 gerbils, 3 fish, 2 slugs, and 2 worms per student. Our worm journals are coming along and looking great. Now we are moving from bugs down deeper in the earth to dinosaurs and fossils. We will not be getting a pet dinosaur in our class though (they're extinct), so no worries!

Click the bug riddle to find out the answer.


Sandy Gorillas: All About Numbers
Stefi Schafer & Winter Koeppe
Stefi Schafer
Winter Koeppe

Winter and I incorporate numbers and counting across the curriculum. In October,  

we counted in foreign languages: German, Spanish, French and Chinese. We practiced our ASL skills by using our hands to show "how many." During Circle we sang lots of counting songs, "5 Little Monkeys Swinging in a Tree," and "Farmer Brown had 5 red Apples" are just some of the songs we sang.


We used our math skills to count how many people are in the classroom, how many kids, adults, boys, girls. This gave us opportunities to talk about concepts such as less, more, few, many, all and none. Counting friends and discussing differences and similarities was a great extension for our SEL philosophy.


We went on a leaf walk and collected leaves of various colors and shapes. The Gorillas then promptly classified the leaves and sorted them by size: small, medium and big. This was done in a democratic way. Each child picked a leaf out of the basket and proposed a category, and the rest of the children then had a chance to agree or make a case to re-categorize the leaf. In the end we came to a consensus. There are 12 BIG leaves, 11 medium and 12 small leaves. This means there are fewer small leaves and the same number of big and little leaves.


Literacy Learning: Cultural Exploration Through Literature
Virginia Klara

Virginia Klara

After immersing ourselves in the history and culture of the High Seas during the US Colonial Period in conjunction with listening to the MagicTreeHouse fantasy book, Pirates Past Noon, the Red-Eyed Tree Frogs were ready to investigate a different time, place, and genre of books. So, using literature, we began to explore the high mountains of Asia, following the drama of Greg Mortenson in his book, Three Cups of Tea (Youth edition).


I chose this book to expose the class to modern non-fiction and to help the children consider what it would be like to live in an isolated location where the social norms differ greatly from their own. Since this group of children has recently learned to read and write, our students rapidly grasped how different their society and their lives would be if most of their peers and parents were illiterate.


Besides following Dr. Greg's story about building a school in a remote area of Pakistan, we investigated what it would be like to be a boy or girl in a Muslim culture and what we would do in our daily lives and for recreation in an area with extremely limited resources. We considered what foods our diet would consist of if we lived at a high altitude, how high altitude affects the human body, and what would we likely do for work when we became adults if we stayed in Korphe, Pakistan.


We looked at our School's image on GoogleEarth; then we saw the pictures and landscape of the Korphe CAI School. We compared our town and local landscape to the little village near the glacier, in the shadow of the world's 2nd tallest mountain, K2. We considered whether the Balti people would have access to electricity, clean water, schools, adequate food, medical care, and building supplies.


One day, we held class outdoors, like the children of Korphe did before their school was built. We allowed ourselves few supplies in order to feel what it would be like to attend school in an impoverished region. We learned that we needed to memorize many things because we did not have books or notebooks.  

We found that writing on small slates and in the dirt made it more difficult to learn to read and write. Even though we had prepared to be outdoors on a mild autumn day, we felt the chill when the clouds closed in. The girls, draped in headscarves similar to those worn in public by Muslim girls, did not like the extra privileges and attention that the boys got in school in an Islamic society.


Collecting Pencils for Peace

The Red-Eyed Tree Frogs immediately related to the plight of the school children in poor, isolated communities, after viewing the website, Pennies for Peace. We want to send resources to a school in a developing area where there is great need for even the simplest school supplies.


We are now collecting Pencils for Peace in the basket on our classroom door. We know that many pencils go unused and just get shoved into desks, backpacks and drawers.

Lore Deighan
Lore Deighan


A lot has happened in the art room in the past month, and currently the work from 5 classes is jammed into every nook and cranny of that room.  However by the time you actually read this, most of the work will have been sent home during parent teacher conferences. This is a new approach to keeping the enrichment room more open and clean for mindfulness practices--unlike last year when I tried to hide a whole years worth of artwork in one room, so that I could sent it all home together at the end of the school year.  So along this note, as most parents have had a chance to read and reflect upon their students artwork through the recent conferences, I am going to focus this newsletter on what the 5th art class at BMS has been doing this year - the Friday Enrichment Program.

It's nice having a small class of students at the school on Friday. There is a very calm, relaxed feeling to the day, and it has been a pleasant experience integrating kids from within the school with new children who primarily home school.  I have encouraged the kids who do not attend BMS daily to connect with the school and feel that it is theirs to share.  It is a space for fun and creative learning and a safe place to make friends and build community, and I have felt this happen over the small course of 6 weeks. 

Initially for the first session I wanted to explore how humans in ancient cultures expressed themselves through art and had planned to look at multiple cultures and times.  We began by looking at cave wall paintings from 40,000 years ago!  The kids enjoyed talking about these ancient art forms, but as we compared them to the art and symbols of our Native American ancestors it became apparent that a majority of the kids were fascinated by Native American culture and this is when the class really began to take form.   


For the next 5 weeks we looked at Native American art and culture - sharing arrowheads and pottery some of us had found right here in Floyd, discussing the value of making our own everyday objects from the resources around us, what it would have been like to have to make everything for yourself rather than going to a store to buy it, where their colors came from, tanning hides, making beads, cloths, instruments, homes, etc...There was so much to learn, and I enjoyed doing so right along with them.  We really had a great time, from tanning paper bags to creating art made from nature using no man-made materials; it became an exploration of ideas and a real focused yet free time to make art together. 

So I am now looking forward to the second session of the Friday Enrichment Program.  The session will have two different art components. First, I plan to work with the kids turning recycled trash into robots and other forms of recycled art and throughout the process inspire the kids to put their experience of making art into words. Then, Winter Koeppe, will explore the use of black and white in creating graphic art. These projects will be translated into stories, poetry, and short articles in the second half of the program, where students will be focusing on writing with Hari Berzins and creating pages for BMS's magazine with Johnathan Vandergrift.  I envision this as being a fun, engaging, hands on project and hope to see returning faces as well as new students. 

Thank you for sharing your children with me.


The pictures below are collections of art from each student in the Friday Program with their decorated names in the middle - a project I did with the entire school to welcome in the new school year by discussing our names and acknowledging who was in each of our classes.


Yoga and Movement
Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy


Intention Boquet: A Family activity


We did an activity in Miranda's Elementary class this past week that could be a fun contemplative family ritual. The activity is called Intention Bouquet. To do this activity at home, you will need flowers or leaves, a vase, a quiet space, and all family members. You can start with a check in to see how everyone is doing or how everyone's week went. You go around in a circle and everyone shares something. Then have a discussion about what intentions/goals are. Gear your discussion around intention/goals for family balance and cohesiveness. You can ask yourselves some questions such as: Why are intentions important in life? What are goals? How can we accomplish goals? How can these strengthen our family?


Pass out the flowers or leaves and sit in silence for a few moments, without distraction, and think of a goal or intention for yourself for the week, themed around family. After everyone has had time to think, each shares his/her goal for the week and places the flower in the vase with all the others, symbolizing everyone supporting one another in working on the goals/intentions. Place the flowers somewhere everyone can see. A week later come back to have a check in and discussion about how the goals went this week.


This can be done even with preschoolers. Establishing family rituals is an amazing way to create family balance even if the little ones do not understand fully the goal part; the simple check in can do wonders to start things off.

Adapted from Great Group Games by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor.
Performance Arts
Vicky Town
Vicky Town


The Sand Gorillas have been acting out folktales, and their favorites include the Grumpleteaser and Caps for Sale. If you walk by their class you'll hear them roaring and stomping and having a great time!


The Ice Kids have been working on the skills of articulation, observation, breathing, stillness, cooperation and ensemble building, creativity, ad libs, and taking turns. They have finished creating a salon piece for the younger class called the Lion and the Mouse.


The Red-Eyed Tree Frogs have been having a lot of fun learning about silent films and the Keystone Cops. They have been working on a "silent film" using a strobe light and physical comedy. Other skills stressed are entrances and exits, articulation, memorization, observation, diaphragmatic breathing, ad libs, and improve. The class also had a great time learning about theatrical make up. They enjoyed learning about the tools used and the way light affects the application and color choices of the make up. The boys REALLY enjoyed applying beards and mustaches!  

The Unknowns, too, have been really having fun learning about stage make up! This year they are using scripts and learning the beginning of text analysis and blocking.


The all school play has been a real joy to work on! The entire school--from 3-year-old Everett to 12-year-old Jerrin--are involved. I have been really pleased with the level of commitment everyone is showing by coming to rehearsals on time and learning their lines! I am especially impressed with how the actors have learned to coach each other and rehearse on their own in order to use our time together effectively!  


Join us Nov 2 at 6:30 p.m. at Zion Church for Mayhem in the Museum. Admission is free.

Contemplative Studies
Jagadisha Rotella
Jagadisha Rotella


Moody Cow Meditation


I thought I would share an activity that we have been working on from the book, Moody Cow Meditates by Kerry Lee MacLean (also author of Peaceful Piggy Meditation). This has been a book I have read and shared with all the classes. As the kids get older we are able to have deeper discussion about our moods and thoughts. The book describes a cow that gets very angry about all the bad things that happened to him one day. He completely lost his temper, gaining him the name 'Moody Cow,' and his Mom brought grandpa over. Grandpa shared an activity with him that we do in class. There is a jar of water which represents the mind. There are some sparkles that represent all the angry, sad, etc., thoughts we have. The kids take some sparkles, their unhappy thoughts, put them in the water and watch them until they settle to the bottom. By the time the water is clear again, we notice how we have tamed our negative thoughts, even if its just a little. Sometimes at the beginning of class we just shake the jar to see all our many thoughts floating around all the time. We sit in quiet watching them for a while as they settle. We listen to the bell after this to help too.


If you have a snow globe at home, they work well for a moody cow jar. If you want to make your own you can get the book, or we can get you some instructions. So please ask me if you are interested.

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: History
Unknowns: Science
Red-Eyed Tree Frogs
Ice Kids
Sand Gorillas
Literacy Program
Yoga & Movement
Performance Arts
Contemplative Studies
Parent Reminder
Board Notes
Parent Collective
On the Calendar
Nov 1: Board Meeting
Nov 2:
Session II of Friday Enrichment Program Begins
Nov 2: Early Childhood Friday Program Begins
Nov 2: Mayhem at the Museum at Zion Church
Nov 5:
All-School Meeting
Nov 21: Half Day & Thankful Celebration
Nov 22-23: No School 

Chess Club
: 3:15 Thursdays

Parent Reminder

Blue Mountain School will follow the Floyd County Public School's (FCPS) inclement weather  announcements regarding cancellations, delays, and early releases. Please note that when F
CPS has a 1-hour delay, BMS has no delay, and when FCPS has a 2-hour delay, BMS has a
1-hour delay.

If there is any doubt about the school's schedule during inclement weather, please call the Floyd County School Closing Line at 745-9495.

Please be sure students are dressed appropriately for the weather and for an active school day. Students will spend time outside every day in weather that is warmer than 30 degrees, including light drizzle or snow.
Board Notes
At October's meeting the Board voted to create an Advisory Council to serve as a resource for the Board going forward.  A task force was also created with the objective of formulating a scholarship donation plan to be used in approaching prospective donors. Motions were passed to continue both the Friday Enrichment Program and the PEAPS program, with some changes to the latter.  The upcoming Board Development Meeting was discussed, which has been scheduled for October 26th. 

The next regular Board meeting is on November 1st at 3:30pm at the school. The public is welcome. 
From the Parent Collective

What a beautiful day the Barter Faire turned out to be! Lots of friends, old and new, plus great music and food! We are so glad to have revived the Barter Faire and look forward to watching it grow and evolve.


Many thanks to the fabulous vendors and volunteers who helped everything come together, including (but not limited to!):  


Agatha Grimsley, Jayn Avery, Barbara Gillespie, McCabe Coolidge and Plenty!, Darbi Jewell, Ananda Underwood, Aaron Vaughn, Ashley Morales, Shanti Miller, Liz Shukwit, Katie Phillips, Lucy Lamanna, Lara Davis, Jonathan Vandergrift, Tanya Cook, Jamie Reygle, Angela Kessler, Aaren Nunez, Elisha Sigle, and Andrea Goodrum.


Please send any comments and ideas for next year's Barter Faire to Cassie Pierce.

In Gratitude We Thank

The Alliens for donating part of the proceeds from their farewell concert to the scholarship fund.

The Unknowns
for donating funds they raised last year, so their class could purchase a new computer for the magazine project.

Rebekah Hicks, Linda Johnson, and Martha Taylor
for volunteering in our classrooms.

Linda Swers for donating a table for the art room.

Jonathan Vandergrift and Andy Volker for providing emergency technical support.

Marcus Morales for donating a heater and continuing to provide handyman help.

Aaron and Anne Vaughan for donating bug and tree books to the Ice Kids.

Carol Ginger for donating craft and office supplies.

Cassie Pierce for donating environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies and for organizing the Barter Faire.

The Unknowns for inviting the Ice Kids and Red-Eyed Tree Frogs to their awesome Colonial Faire.

CERC for donating to the scholarship fund in memory of Milton Gralla.

Naomi Scott for helping lead the natural color dyeing project.

Aaren Nunez for helping with the natural color dyeing project.

Sam Steffens for donating the wool for the natural color dyeing project.

Zion Friendship Cafe for donating school supplies to the Ice Kids.

An Anonymous Donor for paying the school's mortgage.

Wilder Publications for donating to the scholarship fund.

Sheriff Zeman for allowing the Unknowns to interview him and for visiting with all the students.

All our friends who helped make the Barter Faire a wonderful success by donating, volunteering, selling, trading, playing, dancing, eating, drinking, chatting, and enjoying!

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.

Shop Amazon



Blue Mountain School 

470 Christiansburg Pike, Floyd, Virginia 24091