Indigo Messenger


Welcome to the 2012-13 school year! It's hard to believe the first month has already flown by. We have settled into the rhythms of our work, and we are having a wonderful time learning from all our friends.

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

Shelly Emmett
Shelly Emmett


This is our fourth year in operation as a Contemplative Progressive school, and there is a new quality at school this year. It's a hard thing to put your finger on--it is not tangible, and is more felt than seen. It's not one thing, not one big change or difference. But I know it's real because I keep hearing about it from parents, students, and teachers, and I can feel it myself.

What I'm hearing and feeling is that things have become more settled here. My guess is that we have grown as an organization and as a group of people, so that now we have some history together, some past common experience, a collective culture, a way of doing things that we know and can count on. Many of our students, staff, and families have been a part of the school for several years or more, so that now we have our stories, our traditions and rituals, and our common language that ties us together.

What these things provide is a feeling of safety and security in what is known, which then offers us the foundation for trying some new things, for taking risks, for raising ourselves to new heights and new goals, without the fear that failure or 'not doing it right' might mean losing it all. This year it feels like we can take a big deep breath, that we can enjoy the feeling of being grounded and firmly rooted. We know we'll keep growing, learning, and reflecting, but now we have a foundation to hold us. I am excited about the potential for deeper connections, understanding, and growth amongst our students and staff. What a great place from which to begin the year!  

Bearded Dragons:
Language Arts & Math
Jonathan Vandergrift
Jonathan Vandergrift


I am definitely glad to be back in school. While the summer was good to me and my family, the start of a new school year is always welcome. I am even more excited about this year because I am teaching both Language Arts and Math. It is a great opportunity to teach these disciplines and to show students how they can be creative in Math and analytical with Language Arts. Also, as the school year progresses, I hope I am able to help the students learn how these two different worlds can be combined to truly complement each other.    


Over the past month, we have already covered a good amount of work in both subjects. As a refresher, the students have completed reviewing all of the parts of speech introduced last year. Instead of just hearing me lecture in front of the chalkboard all morning, the students were paired into groups and each was responsible for a part of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions). Each group was then given part of the day to present their lesson to the class. While some initially wanted to give their fellow classmates an excessive amount of "homework," they all did a great job reviewing the materials and helping each other remember some grammar basics and definitions.


The students have also been working on math projects over the past couple of weeks. As part of my philosophy on teaching math, most of the projects are related to real-life problems. One of the first projects involved something every person deals with in their life -- budgeting. The students were given a specific amount of income for the month and had to divide the money into areas of need, determine the percentages for each cost compared to the total budget, and then visually represent their entire income in a graph. While this was a great exercise in reinforcing some basic math skills, it was also very interesting to see how the students spent the money... as you can imagine.

Bearded Dragons: History
Vicky Town
Vicky Town


We started out the year by discussing the essential questions: when and what makes history? We decided that history is happening all the time by famous and ordinary folks. We made a time capsule and will open it at the end of the school year!


Meanwhile we have begun our study of Colonial America and the Revolutionary War. For this unit we are striving to hone our research skills through projects. We continue to use the arts to make history come alive and to connect past events with current living.


The big news is that we plan to host a Colonial Faire on the first half day in October! We are also collaborating with Lore to learn how to make colonial crafts. Look for more details about attending the faire! All are welcome!

Red-Eyed Tree Frogs
Miranda Altice
Miranda Altice


We have had an awesome start to a new year! I'm so proud of how well the Red-Eyed Tree Frogs have helped to create such a comfortable, peaceful learning environment. Over the course of the first few weeks, we have done so much already. We have created our classroom codes of conduct, chosen a classroom name, voted for our classroom pets (coming soon), and learned the different areas of the classroom and how to treat the materials and our classmates.

On a more academic note, the Red-Eyed Tree Frogs have begun (and for some, continued) their studies in cursive writing, are learning about various aspects of geometry (far beyond your regular square, circle, triangle... can you say "right-angled isosceles triangle" three times super fast??), and peeking their wondrous imaginations into the far off realms of space. I am continuously amazed at how intelligent and creative children are!
Ice Kids
Corey Avellar
Corey Avellar


We're excited to be back in school with our friends, and we are enjoying all sorts of fun activities, including creating a slug habitat, learning about burrowing animals, making tree books, and working on literacy and math. One of our favorite activities so far was writing and illustrating fun tongue twisters, which you can check out below. See if you can say them 10 times super fast!

To see a larger version of a picture, click on it...

Sand Gorillas
Stefi Schafer & Winter Koeppe
Stefi Schafer

The youngest of the young have a name! We are the SAND GORILLAS!


The kids have been spending equal time playing in the sandbox and climbing, so when it was time to pick a name the children suggested "3,4,5,6s" and "Gymnastic Girls" and "Superheroes" and... After I listened to all the suggestions, I asked, "What have you guys been playing outside?"

Climbing on the monkey bars and in the sand box was something we all agreed on.  

Winter Koeppe

First we talked about "Sand Monkeys," and then the suggestion for gorillas came (thanks, Disharoon!). We even have our own call, so when you see Winter or me thumping our chest and making "OOOOOhhh" noises you know we are calling our Sand Gorillas.


Now that we have a name, the Sand Gorillas are spending time getting to know each other and building our community. During circle we have been singing songs with the children's names, and we have begun to practice our letters in American Sign Language. We are also working on finding our groove by learning where to put our belongings, understanding and memorizing the daily routine, and getting acquainted and reacquainted with all the special teachers. A few areas of interest that have emerged so far are books, authors, and illustrators, kittens and puppies, superheroes, friends, and sharing.


The Sand Gorillas are shaping up to be a rocking group.  


Literacy Learning: Roving, Reading, Writing & Research
Virginia Klara

Virginia Klara

It's a great joy to be working with the children in three classes at Blue Mountain School this year. I love getting to know and teach so many cool, curious kids.


I feel somewhat like a 'bag lady" most mornings, hauling one bag of materials to use with the Red-Eyed Tree Frogs; one-bag of books and reading games for the Ice Kids; and, on Wednesdays and Thursdays, a bag of support materials for literature and writing activities with the Bearded Dragons.


So, my half-day (mornings) schedule at the School is full of changes as I go from welcoming and centering one group of children, then move into teaching cursive writing, vocabulary & grammar exploration, and listening & literature studies with the next grup. After that, depending on the day, I'm either on to tutoring the early readers one-on-one or giving the oldest class in-class writing support.


With the Red-Eyed Tree Frogs, I'm learning a lot about pirates as we listen to Pirates Past Noon (Magic Treehouse #4) and as we explore both fiction and non-fiction texts about the High Seas. I get to return to the days of my youth as I reread and examine the book, Bridge to Terabithia, with the oldest class. I had the opportunity to share my "wisdom of the ages", engaging the kids in a discussion about the differences in growing up for boys and girls during the 1960's and 70's versus 2012. Hmmm .... no one seemed excited to experience the days when a child changed out of school clothes before going out to play. (So parents, you are still free from double laundry duty.)


Working with these two older groups is giving me the pleasure of familiarizing myself with more, recently-written, children's books. If you have other 'you-must-read-this' recommendations for young readers, let me know. I'm compiling age-appropriate lists of book recommendations.
Lore Deighan
Lore Deighan


Here we go again!!!


I am tremendously excited about being back in school....really?! YES! In fact I'm not sure that I have ever been so happy for a school year to start. As I turn this monumental corner, entering into my second year teaching, I realize how incredibly valuable it is to have so many positive relationships with the school and staff already established. Upon reflection and comparison I realize how nervous I was last year and how grounded I feel entering into the school year with the history and rapport I already share with the kids. I feel calm and confident about being a leader in the classroom and genuinely connected to each and every returning student (and looking forward to the new relationships which are already blossoming).  I truly believe that this relationship with the school and students will lead to deeper and more meaningful explorations in art.


Classes thus far have been sweet, fun and productive. The students all jumped right into clay on our second class together, exploring the tactile nature of the material while learning how to manipulate and sculpt it. I am looking forward to firing the projects (thanks Sarah!) and hoping that all of our wedging (sorry to the rest of the school for the loud banging coming from the art room) will lead to no air bubbles and blowing up during the firing process. Clay is a new journey for me this year - once again reminding me that teaching is learning.


On a side note - as much I do try, inevitably and encouragingly your children will get messy on art days. So please try to remember not to send your kids dressed in their Wednesday best.


Thank you for sharing your children with me!

Yoga and Movement
Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy


As many of you know I am teaching yoga, movement and P. E. this year. I am excited to add more movement and games to the yoga class. As we let Jagadisha move in to share Social Emotional Learning and deeper contemplative practices with the children, I get to share more of my passion of exercise, movement, and being outside!


Part of my daily ritual always includes hiking and walking, yoga, or hoop dance. It keeps my emotional world more balanced, and I feel more resilient to take on my busy world of being an artist and teacher. Generally I see a gradual decrease in fast cardio movement as our kids get older, and this might be a time when they could use the outlet of movement and exercise the most!


The first part of the year will be dedicated to cooperative games and group dynamic play. The idea is to foster healthy relationships through play. What all kids need! We have begun doing team building activities where the group completes exercises with the help of everyone. We have explored some cooperative games such as cooperative handball, a cooperative game somewhere between soccer and football, and elbow tag where linking arms with a neighbor is the goal, not getting 'out'.


In the older two classes, we stared out this week with a intro game called "We Belong!," where kids get into groups according to different categories : eye color, birthdays, seasonal preferences, shirt colors, food preferences, morning/night owls, etc. They loved it! We learned some new things about others we didn't know before. We also learned that we all share lots of similarities and differences, and that we all belong.


The Sand Gorillas and Ice Kids have started the year doing yoga through story, music and games. Our first story was about the magic medicine man who changes kids who didn't believe in magic into different yoga animals with his magic wand. Later they were turned back into themselves, but they realized his true magic was helping people in the village.  


With the younger groups, we start our day out with song and breathing and end with relaxation in savasana. The first day we went outside to have fun and share a story with the big parachute. It is such a joy to be with these little ones!

I am grateful and excited to be at Blue Mountain again this year! Please feel free anytime to join us in a class to see what we are up to. If you have any questions call me or e-mail me at, 745-7255
Performance Arts
Vicky Town
Vicky Town


We are off to a great start! I especially wish to thank the parents for helping their students arrive on time for class and rehearsals!


Miss Stefi's class is busy acting out stories. This activity fosters community in the classroom and listening and is a pre-literacy skill. We are also working on the skill of stillness.


In Corey's class, we are learning to take turns and work with different partners. We reviewed the concepts of levels of movement, and through games we are working on vocalization, isolation, stillness, focus, memorization, and improvisation. Last week we created a story play from Aesop's The Lion and the Mouse. We may share this piece in the Revels if everyone can attend.


In Miranda's class we have had a wonderful time learning and creating group movement pieces and a square dance for the Harvest festival. The class is eager to learn new concepts and create new plays.


The Bearded Dragons rehearsed for two classes before presenting a folktale from the Jewish tradition called The Brothers during the Harvest celebration. Meanwhile we have big plans to do more plays, monologues, and a make-up workshop.


Salon Performances: As the classes complete short plays and vignettes, they will perform them in the specials room. These pieces will be shared with the rest of the school in an informal setting. We began this process last year and will expand on it this year.


Drama Club: Mayhem in the Museum is in full rehearsal. We have blocked the first five scenes. Participation rate in the upper and lower school is 99 per cent! We even have two actors from Corey's class! The rehearsal schedule is posted throughout the building, and it can also be viewed in the window of the back door. Go Drama!

Contemplative Studies
Jagadisha Rotella
Jagadisha Rotella


I am honored to be teaching the contemplative studies clss this year at Blue Mountain. I firmly believe in the contemplative aspect of this school. I have been studying yoga for over 30 years, a type of yoga called Nada Yoga, a form of Classical Indian Music, that is very old that I learned from an old master in India. Mindfulness, focusing on the present moment and focusing here and now without distractions, is key to practicing this form of music, this yoga of music. I have also have been teaching children environmental education and team building at Apple Ridge Farm for the past ten years.


"With great respect and love I welcome you all with all my heart." This is how our contemplative class starts every Tuesday. We are learning about ourselves and who we are and how to tap into our inner confidence. The first month of school, I have been focusing on strategies of mindfulness that can be used anytime or any place needed. The key is to recognize the need and use the skill. Listen and focus again and again. I have been sharing with kids skills to relax and focus so they may enjoy the process of learning. Some aspects of this program are mindfulness movement and breathing, storytelling, and deep relaxation. I feel hopeful that I am sharing with kids skills that will help them for their life.

We hope you enjoyed reading the Indigo Messenger. Be sure to  it to anyone you think may be interested.
Thank you,


In This Issue
Bearded Dragons: English & Math
Bearded Dragons: History
Red-Eyed Tree Frogs
Ice Kids
Sand Gorillas
Literacy Program
Physical Education
Performance Arts
Contemplative Studies
Parent Reminder
On the Calendar
Oct 4: Ice Kids Visit the Friendship Cafe
Oct 5: PEAPs
Oct 5: Alliens Final Show   
Oct 11-12: Camping Trip
Oct 12: PEAPs  
Oct 14: Barter Faire 
Oct 19: Snow Make Up Day
Oct 19: PEAPs  
Oct 23: Half Day 
Oct 24-26: No School, Teacher Conferences
Oct 31:Halloween Celebration 
Chess Club: 3:15 Thursdays
Drama Club: 3:15 Tuesdays

Parent Reminder
We have found that parents walking students into their classrooms in the morning has been very helpful in connecting home and school this year. It is helping parents and teachers to stay in contact about school events, homework, and happenings in and out of school, so as a result we'd like to request that parents continue to walk students into their classrooms in the morning--even those of the older class. Thank you!
In Gratitude We Thank

Manhattan Apartments
for donating a color laser printer.

Jonathan Greenberg for volunteering with the Friday Enrichment Program.

Joe DiCarlo, Jamie Reygle, Jonas Goldstein, and Andy Volker for computer support.

An Anonymous Donor for paying the school's mortgage.

Marcus Morales for coming to our aid during a plumbing emergency, for fixing the office door, and for other handyman help.

Carol and Andy Volker for donating a scanner/copier.

Kerry and Jonathan Vandergrift for donating Adobe Creative Suite for the school magazine.

Wilder Publications for donating to the scholarship fund.

Everyone who has donated items for the BMS table at the Barter Faire.

Everyone who participated in the canoe raffle.

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Blue Mountain School 

470 Christiansburg Pike, Floyd, Virginia 24091