It's our birthday! Today we begin our annual Fall fundraising campaign by Celebrating 35 Years of Timeless Education!

With more than 45 students, a dozen experienced and passionate staff, a well-defined yet adaptable curriculum, and an inspired, research-based educational model, Blue Mountain School is right where we want to be in this moment. We've been working hard to get to this point, and we thank you, our family, friends, alumni, and neighbors, for helping us get there! 

Our birthday wish is to raise $10,000 for our scholarship fund by November 15th.
Help our wish come true by making a donation or pledge now. Click the button below to donate online, or if you would like to send a check or make a donation in person, you can send an email with your pledge.  

Over the next two weeks, we will be sharing more with you about our Fall 2016 Campaign, so keep your eyes open for emails and for messages on our Facebook group

Until then, let's get the party started with the November issue of the Indigo Messenger!

Shelly Fox
Shelly Fox
In 2009, when BMS made a significant transformation from being a parent cooperative to having a full-time administrator and Board of Trustees, a simultaneous and fundamental need arose. Throughout the school's history, from 1981 forward, there were threads of common values from year to year. To accurately identify, draw out, and articulate these threads became of utmost importance if the school was to survive and thrive through this important shift in organizational structure and identity.

Those involved in this process will remember that it took place over the course of several months during animated meetings at each other's houses over shared meals. There was excitement, but there was also a prevailing sense of responsibility to be faithful to the origins of Blue Mountain.

The real turning point happened when Dr. Kristan Morrison, a Professor in the Department of Education at Radford, led an active brainstorming session. Each of us present choose words that we felt described the school, wrote the words on pieces of paper, and then arranged the words into groups on the floor. During that session, we broadly identified the common values that had historically drawn people to BMS. Many of the words and phrases that make up our school's values, were written on those pieces of paper eight years ago.

These values are much more than just words. They help to inform and guide everything at Blue Mountain School -- from how we teach our students, to how we structure our calendar, to how we fundraise, to how we govern our school. These values draw us together and guide what we do at BMS and beyond.

We Value Community & Diversity

We celebrate diversity in our membership and in the world. We explore Wisdom Traditions and cultural celebrations, engage in service learning, and work to contribute positively to both our local community and the larger global community.

We Value Relationships and Balance

We nurture loving, respectful relationships and seek emotional balance. We take responsibility for ourselves and work to develop our understanding of others. We also engage in activities that foster self-awareness, encourage our unique enthusiasms, and demonstrate healthy living.

We Value a Reverence for Life

We promote environmental stewardship by participating in nature-based activities and by exploring the connection between all living things, to establish a genuine sense of wonder and responsibility in our students.


The Lunas
Holly Haworth
Holly Haworth

Stores as the Foundation of Education
[Stories] are all we have, you see,
all we have to fight off illness and death.
You don't have anything
if you don't have the stories.
Their evil is mighty
but it can't stand up to our stories.
So they try to destroy the stories
let the stories be confused or forgotten
They would like that
They would be happy
Because we would be defenseless then.
  -Leslie Marmon Silko
Stories are our way of knowing. They are the threads that stitch us into the world, and to each other. Imagine the first stories of our ancestors, who began to communicate with complex mouth sounds to one another the subtleties and nuances of diet: which plants were edible or poisonous; which medicinal, nutritious, and healing; and where they grew, what was ripe, what they looked like, how to find them. And the stories before that, of our ancestors' ancestors, written in ochre and charcoal pigments on cave walls. Representations of elk, pronghorn, bison -- the animals they hunted, animated by the flickers of torches, so that the people saw moving pictures, the first films. And so from the start, stories have sustained us in more ways than one.

We live and die by stories, make our maps with them. They are a bridge from us to the Other. "The Universe," writes Thomas Berry, "is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects." And so we have told stories in our six thousand languages in order to know or imagine those other subjects, the vast array of expressions that matter and the life-force make; we tell them in order to see the nearly invisible wholeness that is the web of creation-to know our part within it, or, if not to know then to guess at it. And all the world's old cultures knew that the stories preceded us, so in their stories the animals have stories, too.
Stories are going extinct, along with ten million other things. That is why we need to keep telling them. I believe in stories as the foundation of education and learning. In his essay "The Politics of Storytelling," William Kittredge writes the following:        
The poet C.K. Williams once came to Missoula and spoke of "narrative dysfunction" as a prime part of mental illness in our time. Many of us, he said, lose track of the story of ourselves, which tells us who we are supposed to be and how we are supposed to act. We live in stories What we are is stories. We do things because of what is called character, and our character is formed by the stories we learn to live in. Late in the night we listen to our own breathing in the dark, rework our stories, and we do it again the next morning, and all day long, before the looking glass of ourselves, reinventing our purposes. Without storytelling it's hard to recognize ultimate reasons why one action is more essential than another.
We have to tell stories, and tell more of them, knowing that the transformations of the planet are now largely the result of human stories. Knowing that stories transform us.

Golden-Black Koalas
Shelly Sherman
Shelly Sherman
While we were living in Kansas years ago when my husband was teaching in the education department at Emporia State University, Greg showed me a room in his building that was full of vintage learning devises. There was everything from a tool called Dial an Answer (a strange box of cardboard wheels with questions and little answer windows), to big, ancient overhead projectors, to SRA reading programs. All of these outdated learning tools were being thrown out, and the room would be used to house the latest educational tool: a brand new computer lab.

I suppose I've dated myself here in this post, but I have thought about that room many times through my years as a teacher. I wondered whether those tools made a difference for the learners who had used them. I wondered if one tool was better than others. I wondered if the cost and energy put into their creation was worth their impact.

I have had a front row seat as many children in my care have learned many important things over the years. I have taught using computers, smart boards, tablets, and other modern tools, and while these tools can make it easier to communicate different kinds of messages, they haven't changed the messages themselves. We can use a computer to write our story, but the computer doesn't affect the quality or character of the story. That is up to the experiences of the author. Children who are given the tools of relationship building, community, autonomy, introspection and mindfulness learn how to share their voice with their world. These are the tools that impact the choices students make and what they want to continue to learn.

Some of the timeless tools being used by the Golden Black Koalas this last month include creativity, ingenuity, cooperation and problem solving. We worked all month on The Global Monster Project. In classrooms around the world, students built their own monster based on the precise descriptions of each class involved. (We designed the wings!) As part of the project, we also practiced geography by mapping all of the classes involved, and we worked on communicating using a modern tool by Skyping with a class in Illinois.

Rainbow Jellybean Worm Snakes
Hari Berzins & Jenni Heartway
Hari Berzins
Jenni Heartway
One of the most used areas in our classroom is the block area. In these days of accountability and increased demand on young children, many first grade and kindergarten classrooms no longer have a place for students to build daily. The blocks sometimes come out once a week for "Free Centers" but aren't available during other times. In many homes, blocks have been replaced with tablets and television. The skills gained from playing with blocks are as important today as they were 35 years ago when Blue Mountain School opened its doors.

First there are the benefits of building alone. When students build with blocks they're learning about balance, hand-eye coordination, and physics.When students work with classmates to build, they're learning cooperation, problem solving, and pre-reading and writing skills (by telling stories about what happens with their structures).  
Having blocks in our school also gives teachers another window into child development.It's always exciting to watch children gain skills and move through developmental stages -- whether it happens to be reading, social interactions, spelling, drawing, or building.

Harriet Johnson describes the typical stages of block play in her book, The Art of Block Building, which is now over 80 years old.While the first stages are often happen at home, we sometimes get to see younger siblings engage in this type of play during pick-up and drop-off time.
The first stage is simply carrying blocks around.  

Next the children build by making rows on the floor or stacking blocks vertically.  

The third stage is called bridging. Two blocks are placed on the floor, and a third block is placed on top.  

Next students begin to make enclosures, like fences or walls.  

The fifth stage is characterized by decorative patterns and symmetry.  

In the sixth stage, children begin to name their structures, and the structures start to relate to their game they are playing.  

In the final stage of block building, children begin to build structures that resemble buildings they know, and their play is focused on interactions in these structures.One way we support this in our classroom is by having a block journal that allows students to look through famous and local structures and to document their own buildings.   

Building with blocks is an important stepping stone for many children.   We are so fortunate to make space in our days for students to have this experience!

Flying Rainbow Turtles
Stefi Schafer & Tammie Sarver
Stefi Schafer
Tammie Sarver

WOW, 35 years! Blue Mountain School has been in existence for 35 years!

We have been teaching children for a long time, and just like the children, Blue Mountain's grownups have been learning,  too. One of our goals is to educate children in a way that will encourage them to be life-long learners. Even after graduating from school, we are all still learning about the world and the people in it, just like the youngest members in our Blue Mountain community of learners do every day.

In early childhood education, even things that seem mundane and simple to an adult can be amazing and novel learning experiences for our students. While we do plan carefully to provide children with opportunities for social emotional learning and for literacy, math, and science, there is soooo much more going on in our class. And some of those things may not even look like they are learning. For example, when a three-year-old attends school for the first time, she may not yet know how to say good bye to her parents or to trust other adults to take care of her. Her lesson is to practice building relationships with new people and to expand her world.

When a young friend finally masters putting on his own coat and  shoes, he is growing his self-confidence while also practicing gross and fine motor coordination. Washing hands teaches about staying healthy ("Bye bye germs!") and conservation ("One paper towel is enough."), and when a group sits at circle during Show & Share, classmates are not only having fun playing with each other's toys, they are also practicing public speaking, good listening skills, and how to be respectful. What may look like lunch is also an opportunity to think about diversity: Some people like pickles and some don't; we all have different tastes, and that is okay.

Just like BMS has undergone change and transformation by getting bigger and growing up over these past 35 years, so are our students. They enter the early childhood program wide eyed and sometimes a bit overwhelmed by all the newness, and they leave eager and ready for the next step of their journey in learning.

Yoga & Physical Education
Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy
In yoga, we have begun to look at the stories and origins of the asanas (postures) that come from India.

The first story we shared is about Utkata-asana, which is sometimes called chair pose. Utakata begins by standing in Tadasana, mountain pose, with hands by your sides. Then stretch your arms upwards, joining palms, and bend your knees, and look straight ahead. (We image we are sitting in a chair.)

The Story of Utkata-Asasa

Utkata means high, mighty, or superior. The great epic Ramayana tells that Rama's wife, Sita, was captured by Ravana, the king of Lanka. To rescue his wife, Rama made friends with the bears and monkeys. The mighty leader, Hanuman, the great monkey, crossed the ocean and landed in Lanka. HE found Sita but was captured by Ravana's soldiers.

Brought before Ravana, the monkey decided to teach the proud and wicked monarch a lesson. Using his magic power, he made his tail grow very long. He then coiled it into a high seat and sat upon it, looking down at the king. Angrily, Ravana ordered his servants to move his thrown to a higher place. Instantly Hanuman's tail grew, and his seat grew even higher. Furious, Ravana ordered his throne to be moved even higher. But still Hanuman's seat rose higher still.
Enraged, Ravana ordered Hanuman's tail be set on fire. Instead, Hanuman set Lanka on fire and rescued Sita.

In the coming weeks, we will be learning more stories like the one for Eagle pose, where Garuda was born with the body of a man and the head, wings, and claws of an eagle. We will also learn the story of Tree pose and the magic tree that was destroyed by the desire of humans. Stories bring light and fun to so many things, and we will continue this tradition as it has been done for thousands of years in yoga!

Lore Deighan
Lore Deighan

As promised in the last newsletter, here are the projects that have begun in each of the classes...

The Flying Rainbow Turtles have been working through the colors of the rainbow, beginning with red. We discussed the color red and how it makes us feel, and the kiddos drew with red markers in their sketchbooks and wove red yarn into their classroom weaving. We continued with orange and yellow, and now we are working on artwork incorporating all three of these colors, a work of warm colors. We all think it is kind of ironic (or silly in their words), to be working with and talking about warm colors when it's getting cold outside. This discussion is a great transition into exploring our cool colors as the seasons change. Brrrrr!
The Rainbow Jellybean Worm Snakesare currently working on weavings. I am so impressed with how well they are doing with this project since it can be a bit challenging for young kiddos. I have been inspired watching as the students work through their frustrations and figure out the pattern.....under, over, under, over, don't forget to loop around the end. I observed students who thought there was no way they would get it, begin to work at a fast pace with amazing precision. There has been such a sense of accomplishment in the air, and the weavings are turning out beautifully!
With Halloween on the horizon, the  Golden Black Koalas continued to work on their masks . We began the project by talking about different occasions and reasons that masks are used and then looking at masks from around the world. We discussed the different materials used to make masks before deciding to use plaster cast as our medium. It has been a messy process, but I think the students really enjoyed using this material. Mask making is always a fun project, and I can honestly say that each and every kid in this large class seems excited about their project!
The Lunas just finished their first project of the year - making sketchbooks. They made both the front and back covers by finding images in magazines to wrap around pieces of cardboard and then folded the pages, poked precise holes, lined it all up and began stitching. The process sounds easy enough, but really it was quite involved. BMS parent Agatha Grimsley visited the class to share her love of bookmaking and teach us a binding technique, which each of the students did very well with. (Thank you, Agatha!) I was thrilled to see how excited and proud the students were to make their own sketchbooks. A few students were even hesitant to draw in the books because they were so beautiful!

Contemplative Studies
Last month I wrote about mindfulness and ended with:

"Perhaps this month we can keep a focus on "awareness." By ourselves, with our children and other family members, let's commit to become more aware. Listening without judgement is a good starting point."

How has it been going? Listening without judgement is not easy. I think the trick is to recognize when a reaction is coming up and replace it with reflection. It is very good to practice this by yourself. With compassion, watch your own drama and thoughts arise. Then reflect on the fact that it might not be only as you see. Maybe there is another perspective.

So this month, let us all develop a practice of nonreactive reflection.

Afternoon Electives

Press Corps with Tammie

The first two issues of The BMS Times are hot off the presses! You can pick up a copy in the office. Our first issue featured interviews of our Corps members as well as art, comics, and puzzles, and the second issue wast packed full of Halloween fun. As we continue the Press Corps, we will be giving our staff assignments (just like professional reporters!), and we will be learning more about the production side of the paper.
Field Guide with Lore

I have so enjoyed taking kids out into the woods over the past 5 weeks to explore the plants, trees, rocks, mushrooms, lichen, moss, falling leaves, critters, and everything else wonderful that a nice stand of woods has to offer.  The students have enjoyed sketching in their journals, learning about the flora and spotting the fauna, finding hidden treasures, and simply playing in the woods making gardens and climbing trees. It has been such a meaningful experience to see these wonders through their eyes and spend time in this incredible part of our campus every day.

The forts from summer camps past are standing all throughout the forest and I have watched as certain kids are drawn to specific parts of our woods, be it the small rhododendron thicket, an old stump covered with moss and lichen, or the fallen log over the creek. They are truly connecting with nature.
One child even had a profound experience of "becoming  one with a tree"......she truly felt that the tree was calling her and that once she put her arms around it, everything became still and they connected.  I love it. 

And as our time together as an afternoon elective group nears the end, we are working on making pages about our findings to begin a Blue Mountain School field guide.  This was my original intention in forming this class, but I discovered that simply being outside in the woods with the kiddos was a wonderful learning experience in so many ways, and we all found it hard to want to be inside working on the pages. The woods were calling.  But alas, we are turning some of our findings into pages, but with all the diversity of plants and trees in our woods, it is simply just the beginning. 
Bonsai & Nada Yoga with Jagadisha
Our class continues to meet to learn about how to care for our bonsai and to practice sharing music together. I am enjoying the opportunity to spend more time with this group of students and to more deeply explore our topic.

Forest Kindergarten
Jenni Heartway
Jenni Heartway
Amazing discoveries abound in the woods lately! 
The students have been interested in taking what they call,  "Creek Walks," where we walk down the middle of the creek until we find something that interests us.

We found many red efts while wandering, and a few larger salamanders as well.
One of most exciting finds was a very active box turtle.  

A recent treasure was a new place the youngsters named Twistland, after the twisty rhododendron growing there.  

Revisiting familiar spots as the season changes, giving names to natural landmarks, and simply enjoying the outdoors together empower students to care for and love this amazing world around us!

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
Nov 1-15: Fall Fundraising Campaign
Nov 7:
Original Works art fundraiser orders due
Nov 9, 11, 18:
Forest Kindergarten Session 2
Nov 22: Thankful Celebration 12:00 pm
Nov 23-25: Thanksgiving Break 

Orders and payments for the Original Works art fundraiser are due back to school by November 7.

Please make checks payable to Blue Mountain School.

Even if you don't order, you can still get a sheet of stickers for free. See instructions in the green packet that was sent home. 
Board of Trustees

The next meeting of the Board of Trustees is Thursday, November 17, at 5:30 in the enrichment room. The public is welcome to attend.  


In Gratitude We Thank
Lori Kaluszka and the Jessie Peterman Library for hosting a library outing for the Worm Snakes.

RIFF (Reading in Floyd is Fun) for visiting us and bringing us books to take home.

Department of Natural Resources for facilitating The Luna's field trip to the Buffalo.

Judy Gigante for a donation to the scholarship fund.

Agatha Grimsley for working with The Lunas to make sketchbooks for art class.

David Kessler for donating materials for The Lunas.

Eric Wolf for being a turtle expert for the Flying Rainbow Turtles.

Bob Sheehy for bringing his bees to visit.

Sahnzi Moyers and Ben Vernasco from the VT Department of Ornithology for working with The Lunas.

Eva Dyer, Jennifer Crotts, Demi, Mo, Chris Carter, Terrie Wood, Andy Volker, and Sinkland Farms for contributing to our Halloween Celebration.

Apple Ridge Farm for hosting our Fall enrichment field trip.

Linda Johnson for helping in the classroom.

Beegle Landscaping & Lawn Care for taking great care of our grassy areas.

Citizens Telephone Cooperative for donating internet services.

Clark Gas & Oil for keeping us and our water toasty warm.  



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.
Going Krogering?

With all the wonderful and farm fresh food in Floyd, it's hard to imagine spending much time in Kroger, but if you find yourself there, please help the school earn a little extra for the scholarship fund.

Link your Kroger Card to BMS with the Community Rewards Program. Our Organization Number is 84005.

Blue Mountain School 

470 Christiansburg Pike, Floyd, Virginia 24091