Later this week, we'll be starting Expedition Blue Mountain -- our Fall Fundraising Campaign. Pack up your compass and canteen, and get ready for a journey you won't forget!

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

Shelly Fox & Heidi Dickens
Shelly Fox
Heidi Dickens
Shelly says...

Welcoming Heidi Dickens, our new Administrative Director, to BMS has provided an opportunity to see our unique school with new eyes and to feel it with a new heart. Heidi's curiosity about how we do things here and her true interest in joining us where we are, have been welcome gifts. Each day, she is working to piece together the story of our school through a kaleidoscope of experiences, studies, and observations and also simply by listening and feeling. Heidi's questions and insights provide an opportunity for reflection, a practice which allows us to try new things and further understand and integrate the old.  

I am excited to see what takes shape for BMS as we transition into Heidi stepping fully into her position, and I transition into my new position as Program Director. The things that I will continue spending my time on in this position include student and family support; staff development, training, and support; curriculum and program assessment and development; and licensure compliance. 

Trusting in the process of inviting someone new to help us further the mission, vision, and values of our school has been an affirming experience so far. Among many other positives, BMS has the valuable foundation of long-term staff and families to provide connection to our past and present and a strong understanding of our roots and purpose as a school to inform our continued evolution.

I look forward to the future of BMS with an open mind and heart, and I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to support its development, along with Heidi and the rest of our staff, students, and families.

Heidi says...

"Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into."  ~Wendell Berry

I turned off Christiansburg Pike onto a tree-lined gravel driveway and rounded a curve to see something strange and wonderful to my eyes--a collection of brightly painted wooden structures stood before me.  So, this is Blue Mountain School?! I don't know that "dread" was the right word, but I did have a moment in which I doubted the wisdom of going through with this job interview for Administrative Director. As an educator who has always had a bureaucratic organization directing and supporting my work with teachers and students, Blue Mountain School looked like El Capitan with "no ropes" to organic, grassroots, collaborative learning organization!  

I come from 20+ years as an educator in the public school sector. I began my teaching career at the middle school level in math and science. During my tenure with public education, I moved from the classroom to central office as a coordinator of gifted programs to a district level technology integration specialist, to a teacher of teachers. In my position as an instructional coach, I focused on designing and developing professional development opportunities for teachers that supported and encouraged meaningful integration of technology and classroom leadership. While working in the Fairfax County Public Schools, I was selected by the Library of Congress for a two-year fellowship as their Educator-in-Residence.

I am grateful for the opportunity to help sustain and shape this space for contemplative progressive education and happy to bring my years of experience in education supporting learners and change to fruition here. I aspire to providing more direction in the near future; however, for now Blue Mountain is my lodestar and Shelly, Carol, and the fabulous teachers and students are showing me the way. For this, I am grateful.

I am still working on making connections with children and their parents.  Please, if I have not met you yet, drop in the trailer to say "Hi!"

Special Pickle Kids
Holly Haworth
Holly Haworth
October is a full month: full of the season's shifting, full of color, of sweaters & quilts pulled from the closets, of friends, memories, and the harvest of the year. It makes the heart flutter, makes it full of wonder-to think this whole business of life keeps going. In Coyote School this month, we worked to pay special notice to the cycle of death and rebirth, to stay awake to the witnessing. We began a study of leaves that engaged us in direct observation with the changes of the forest that surrounds us. I believe that if we create pathways of learning about the environment for children, they will grow into active participants in the world, empowered by their awareness, their questions, and their hunger for knowledge and beauty.

In my Coyote School teaching, my goal is to create opportunities for students to engage their entire minds and bodies in learning. Our time in the woods is multi-faceted, multi-dimensional. The classroom--our Blue Mountain School woods--surrounds them. It is ever-changing, ever at work with minute activity. It gets their hearts pumping, gets them asking questions. It allows them to touch and see and hear and taste and smell what they are studying. It leads them deeper into detail and intricacy.

By designing a year-long curriculum of studying patterns of growth and the designs of trees, it is my intention to pull the students into a more nuanced vision of the entire world, to instill in them a profound practice. Students are given a wide range of experience and reflection that offer many different modes of thinking. While I use the science of biology as a tool for observation, in order to pull them in to their subject of study, I also offer activities that employ art, poetry, writing, and contemplative practice in order to assist them in the integration of knowledge, feeling, emotion, and creativity. Students are building a subtle connective tissue that will last a lifetime. I know that this learning will continue to unfold as we enter into another season, when the trees are stripped down to skeletons and all the past season's leaves are soft under our feet.

TheˈfəNGkē Wolf Gang
Lore Deighan
Lore Deighan

It began with a letter. We knew we wanted computers for our work, but along with all the other supplies we needed to set up our new classroom at BMS this year, it didn't seem like we had the resources to obtain them. But it turns out that we did! Those resources were the courage to ask for help and neighbors who answered.

I will admit that I am not someone who feels comfortable and confident asking for donations, and I don't have a lot of practice doing so. What a wonderful opportunity for everyone in the Wolf Gang (including me), to learn something new! We researched suggestions on how to ask for a donation and disscussed topics like knowing your potential donors, personalizing your position, grabbing the attention of your reader, clearly explaining how a donation will improve a situation, and offering clear ways in which the donor can help and support you. We also learned how to write a professional letter and how to compose a message as a group, which required much practice in listening and considering each other's ideas.

We sent our letter off to Citizens Telephone (our local telecommunications organization), and then we waited and wondered what would happen next. A short while later, we got our response...

 "...We are putting together a set of 4 re-purposed, matching desktop computers, complete with 19" monitors, keyboards and mice that we plan to deliver by the end of the month..."

I cannot explain with words the excitement that ensued! The e-mail response from CEO Greg Sapp was personal, kind, and supportive--and the Wolf Gang heard that. It was incredibly empowering for them to feel acknowledged and honored in that way. One student kept repeating, "I just can't believe this. I mean I really just can't believe this!"

A few weeks later, this is what our classroom looked like....
But the story doesn't end there... We invited Greg and Citizens Account Executive Joy Gardener to join us for tea. We decided as a class to make chocolate chip cookies to share with our guests, so we looked up a recipe on our new computers and got to work. 

We also personalized a beautiful thank-you card and prepared a presentation showcasing many of the things that we had already learned with our new computers. 

Greg and Joy also shared some of their stories with us and taught us about the history and current work of Citizens Telephone. (Did you know that fiber optic cable is made out of glass?)

This entire process was layered with rich learning opportunities and meaningful community connections, and I want to offer once more, a BIG THANKS to Citizens Telephone!!  We truly appreciate your generosity and support as our little school grows. 

Yellow Electric Wiggly Weasles
Shelly Sherman
Shelly Sherman

October is the month of the monster in the middle elementary class. The Yellow Electric Wiggly Weasels have been working on the National Geographic-endorsed Global Monster Project. The project connects our students to other students all over our country and the world. Each participating class designs an assigned part of the monster's body or the monster's accoutrements. (This monster has a smart phone, a skateboard, and a drone among other things) The parts are emailed to a mediator, who sends them out to all monster makers, and then the creation begins! 

Each class also sends in a photo and information about themselves, including latitude and longitude, school culture, and an idea of how our monster could work to make the world a better place. The Weasels wanted our monster to be a pollution eater. Our monster is already using its eco-friendly superpower by being almost completely created from previously-used materials.

As we worked on the project, it was fun to look through the different classes on our computers and read about each of them. Each of the Weasles also mapped all of the countries and states that had classes involved in the project. 

Working in groups, the Weasles practiced collaboration as they built the monster. Together, they read and interpreted the designs of the other classes, made a plan for each monster part they chose, and decided which materials would work best. Then everyone got busy measuring, cutting, sawing, hot gluing, painting, and drawing to build an amazing sculpture. We gave our creature a name, took its picture, posted it on the project page

Introducing Frank Catcheese Jeff!

Golden Crystal Turquoise Dragons
Tammie Sarver
Tammie Sarver

We're very happy to announce that after weeks of conversation, group process, and layers of voting, we have chosen our class name!  
The Golden Crystal Turquoise Dragons worked respectfully together allowing each child to feel represented and invested in our class identity. We celebrated with a dance party and a joyful class photo!

We continued to explore our rock unit, and we've kept the hands-on learning rocking along! We took an up-close look at crystals with microscopes and magnifying glasses.

We used multiple methods to make our own crystals, we made our own fossils, and we drew with charcoal--not exactly a rock, but a great way to talk about pigments about how rocks (especially igneous rocks) are formed.

We also took a field trip to the Jefferson Center where we saw the Mammoth Follies Dinosaur show. It was a fun way to help us understand the geological eras better and how that connects to earth and rock formations.

It hasn't been all rocks for the Dragons as we took a detour for Halloween. We channeled our class interest in slime into a sensory celebration for the school's Halloween party. The children brainstormed ideas for our station and designed a sensory box with ghoulish Halloween grossness to touch!  
We borrowed the Unicorn's media table and filled it with Monster Mucous with eyeballs---all made and decorated by the Golden Crystal Turquoise Dragons! It was a howling good time!

A highlight of MY halloween was to be able to read one of my favorite children's books to our class, dressed as the main character, The Paper Bag Princess.

Secret Magic Amberwings
Jenni Heartway & Amy Adams
Jenni Heartway
Amy Adams
Ahoy! Our first BIG project of the year is beginning to take shape. We have spent the past month learning about boats! 

After reading and discussing boat parts and types of boats, we came to the decision to create a large boat in our classroom. As a group we decided what type of boat we would like to make and worked to create a list of parts that we would need to have on on a boat.

The students began construction by creating a body, bow, maps, charts and computers (for navigation) in our loft. Now the bridge is almost complete, and we plan to begin working on the below deck section.

In addition to creating a LARGE boat, each student is also learning about a boat that is interesting to them and writing about it during Writer's Workshop. We hope to complete our boats by mid-November and will be inviting each class to visit. 

Blue Mountain Flying Unicorns
Stefi Schafer & Angie Barrett
Stefi Schafer
Angie Barrett

The Blue Mountain Flying Unicorns are all over the world!

We are continuing with our postcard exchange and have looked at maps to see where our friends are from. We noticed the stamps from Great Britain all have pictures of the Queen of England on them, and the letter from Arizona has a stamp that is the flag of our America.

We focused in on our mapping work to talk about Virginia, and our friends got excited that we all live in Virginia! We looked at a road map of Virginia, and we followed Route 8 to Riner and then to Christiansburg, and then we took 221 down Bent Mountain to Roanoke. Everyone knew about those towns. Discussions like this strengthen the idea of community as we notice our similarities:

"I live in Virginia."
"I goed to Christiansburg."
"I went to Roanoke far away one time..."
Followed by "ME TOO!" with an air of surprise and recognition.

Next, we looked at the mountains, urban areas, and the beach, and asked the children where they wanted to go. Each friend chose a copy of a section of a Viriginia map to "take a trip." They used matchbox cars dipped in black paint to leave tire tracks as they "traveled" to the destination of their choice. I wonder where else we will travel?
Speaking of traveling, we noticed the children are very interested in ramps, exploring inclines, zipping cars down our wooden tracks. To support this interest, we borrowed a car track with a loop-de-loop to supplement the loose parts our friends like to use to build their own structures.

As they play with the vehicles and run them through various courses, the Unicorns are exploring basic principles of physics. They are learning about force and centrifugal motion, speed and velocity, and pitch and angles. But most importantly they learn about cooperation as they build block structures to elevate the ramps, share favorite cars, and take turns zipping them down the "hill."

As always, it is these invisible lessons that make our early childhood class the zippiest and most-traveled Unicorns in all of the Blue Mountains!

Yoga & P.E.
Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy
It is nice to be part of the seasons as we explore yoga and P.E together. We have been outside during the autumn changes, and it has felt good.

Because of our growing school, we don't have an enrichment classroom of our own right now, so doing yoga inside is a little harder. We hope to have a space soon, but in the meantime being outside is lovely.

We start all of our classes with a pause, even when we are doing movement and games outside. We use our breathing buddies to focus on our breath, we slow down, we notice the changing natural world around us, and we notice our feelings. We take some stillness in.

After our beginning mindfulness, we have been playing flag tag, moving through obstacle courses (including some yoga poses), and doing running activities. The weather has been chilly, but once we get moving it is quite nice.

Contemplative Studies
Over the past months, we have been doing our mindfulness practices weekly with sitting meditation, respectful listening to each other at check-ins and group discussions, and listening to stories and books with mindful themes.

Recently, we started adding Chi Kung (slow mindful movements) to our practice to help us be more present in our bodies as well as for the health benefits

Now that we are entering the holiday season, it is wonderful to be contemplative as a family. Developing a family practice has many benefits for all of us. It could start out very simply by having a quiet tea and cookie sit. Gratefulness and reflection will naturally grow. Add a scented candle or some delicate incense to create a peaceful atmosphere. Perhaps the next time you could create a focal point with a branch of colorful leaves or bittersweet or a single flower. In time, this could become a "peace corner" (place where quiet is respected). Try it! If you need more ideas please feel free to ask me.

With Great Respect and Love!

Forest Programs
Jenni Heartway & Tammie Sarver

Jenni Heartway
Tammie Sarver
Forest Kindergarten

Our second session of Forest Kindergarten started off with the first chilly days of fall! 

Working with our mobile mud kitchen and comparing the size of worms we found gave the students many opportunities to explore measurement and practical math skills. 
We usually only bring 1 large container of water for the kitchen, and learning to take a fair share while using just enough can be a tricky task. 
We were also able to take a long walk in the rain last week and watched a young deer bound across the graveyard right in front of us!

Forest School

Our Forest Schoolers have been hard at work in the woods on Tuesday mornings. We have been focusing on one-match fires and carving skills. Each student is perfecting their skills at fire building using either a tipi or log cabin construction to start a small fire with only 1 match. 

We also started working on carving projects. We started with small beginning carving tools (aka vegetable peelers) and worked up to using locking blade knives.  Our first project was making small peg dolls that students decorated with markers. 

We have space open in Forest School for our Spring Sessions, which start in March. This program is for kids 7 to 11 and meets on Tuesdays from 9:00 am to Noon. Email or call 540-745-4234 to get on the list!

Building Blue Mountain
Building Committee

The building projects are taking a break as we bring Director Heidi on board and as we prepare the school for winter!

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 20: Thankful Celebration [12:00]
Nov 21-23: Thanksgiving Break  
Dec 13: Student Plays [3:00]
Dec 18: Winter Celebration [5:30]
Dec 19-Jan 6: Winter Break 
Are you ready for winter? Although we have still been having some mild weather, winter is on the way.  
Be sure to switch out your child's extra clothes with warmer pieces and pull out those gloves and hats!
If you still need winter gear for your child, check out this list for some ideas. 

Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees meets regularly in the enrichment room. The public is welcome to attend. If you would like to learn more about the Board, please contact the office.   


In Gratitude We Thank

Citizens Telephone Cooperative for donating computers, a projector, and technical support to the Wolf Gang.

RADVA Corporation for donating a laptop for the office.

Theresa Smyth for donating pumpkins and craft kits for the Flying Unicorns.

Anya V. and Heidi Dickens for donating books to our library.

RIFF for sharing books and their love of reading with us.

Mike for donating a basketball hoop.

Our Fabulous Field Trip Drivers!

Community Foundation of the New River Valley and the Endowment for Floyd County for awarding us a grant for operating expenses.

Blue Ridge Accounting & Tax for keeping our books.  
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, be sure to link your Amazon Smile setting to Blue Mountain School.

Also, if you use the link below each time you open Amazon, even more of your purchase will come back to BMS for 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 QK830.

Blue Mountain School 

470 Christiansburg Pike, Floyd, Virginia 24091