Please welcome Heidi Dickens, our new Administrative Director, to the Blue Mountain School family! As Heidi begins learning the ropes, Shelly will begin transitioning to her new role as Program Director.
We invite each member of our community to join us in welcoming Heidi personally as she gets settled into the school this month.

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

Shelly Fox
Shelly Fox
Our staff have been preparing for our fall conferences, scheduled to begin this week. These conferences are an important way for BMS staff and BMS parents to connect over the children that we mutually care for each day. This is the time for parents and teachers to communicate in an intentional way about how students are acclimating to school and about areas where students might need support at school or at home. This is also a time to look forward to the school year together by reviewing the general goals for each class.

These fall conferences are unique at BMS, because the focus of them is on Social Emotional Learning (SEL). If your family is new to Blue Mountain, you will be seeing a Social Emotional Learning assessment that we developed as a tool to assess a range of skills that educational researchers have found to be fundamental to the learning process. In this initial part of the school year, our teachers focus on establishing a classroom environment that fosters respect for one's self and others, that cultivates awareness of one's self and others, and that provides the foundation for a strong sense of community. Skills that are assessed in fall conferences include those that illustrate students' awareness of themselves and others, communication and language, classroom participation, relationships, and self-regulation, and use of SEL skills in general. We know that Social Emotional Learning skills have a profound affect on academic learning, and our focus on these skills at the beginning of the year and throughout is an important part of our program at BMS.

Special Pickle Kids
Holly Haworth
Holly Haworth
"Traveling--it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller," wrote the Moroccan scholar Ibn Battuta, who traveled the medieval world for twenty years of his life, through Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He recorded his journeys in a book called A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Traveling (تحفةالنظارفيغرائبالأمصاروعجائبالأسفار).

There are many kinds of travel. All of them leave you speechless and then turn you into a storyteller, all of them shift your perspective and help you see and understand more of yourself and the world, and all of them leave you in wonder. As a teacher, I set out to travel every day with my students--through history, in time, in literature and poetry, into our own interiors through meditation, into paintings, into the woods, in conversation, through imagination. And sometimes within the wider bioregion, on field trips. I have vowed to go on as many field trips as possible with my students this year in order to get a deeper perspective on home.

Home is a form of travel, too. How little we really know of our own home! Learning our home is radical travel. The word radical comes from the Latin word radicalis, the word for root, and it s first definition is "of, belonging to, or from a root; fundamental to or inherent in the natural processes of life."

We are engaged in radical travel when we make maps of our region; when we raise caterpillars from the milkweed that grows on the playground until they emerge as butterflies that will fly to Mexico; when we go underground to see the stalagtites and stalagmites that are growing inside our
mountains, see how water trickles slowly through porous limestone;
when we prepare foods from local wild-foraged ingredients; when we do tree studies in our BMS woods; when we survey the mushroom species that grow here and learn about the underground network of mycelium that supports us.

All are ways to travel, to radically shift our perspective and deepen our learning, our ability to make connections. On a planet that is sailing across the galaxy at 64,800 miles an hour, even sitting still and breathing is traveling.
It excites me every day to think of the places the Special Pickle Kids and I will travel together.

TheˈfəNGkē Wolf Gang
Lore Deighan
Lore Deighan
As a new classroom teacher this year, I am in the profound process of learning how to cultivate and create a classroom environment that supports the learning process and meets the social-emotional needs of the students in a way that feels coherent and successful. Setting up our daily rhythm, finding balance, creating boundaries and expectations, getting to know each other--this is key work for all our classes at BMS at the start of the year. Here is a look at our daily rhythm...

We begin our mornings with ten minutes for calm choices such as sketching, reading, or quiet talking. This is our "arrival" time, when students can connect with each other and share stories as they become present for the day. Then we all gather on the rug for our morning circle. Morning circle helps us come together in a more intentional way as we center our energy and prepare for the transition into enrichment class at 9:00. Having enrichment so early can be challenging as the students are often still in the "arrival" phase, but the morning circle has felt very successful in bringing our bodies and minds into focus. We often do some form of individual check-in and have recently added a small amount of qigong to help settle in.

After enrichment and a small snack, we meet again on the rug for morning meeting, where we reflect on what we have been doing in the classroom and set the tone for what we will be doing the rest of the day. This is often a time of rich, reflective discussion during which we are consciously working on our listening and communication skills. 

Most recently we used our morning meeting time to come to a consensus on our class name. We learned that consensus is a group decision-making process in which members develop and agree to support a decision in the best interest of the whole. It doesn't mean that the solution being considered is everyone's first choice (or maybe even second or third choice), but it is a choice that everyone can live with. In the case of our class name, one student made a substantial compromise for us to come to consensus. This process became a wonderful lesson in compromise, listening to and considering others' points of view, and letting go of attachments. 
After morning meeting, we move into Academic Power Hour. This is my time to teach, and the students' time to listen and focus on academic expectations. My hope is to present coherent and comprehensive lessons that fluidly connect and weave together the different academic disciplines in a meaningful way. So far during this time we have touched on the solar system (exploring the sun and the moon in particular), the Fibonacci sequence, and weather. All of these topics have deep inner connections with each other, and we are consistently drawing connections and relating them to the world around us. All of these topics relate to math, science, geography, and history, and we regularly incorporate writing and reading during this time. I am really loving learning about these topics myself and will continue to develop ways to help cultivate this love of learning within the students. 
After recess, lunch, and silent reading, our schedule diverges on different days to include Coyote School in the woods with Holly's class twice a week, a writing process called ekphrasis with Holly's class once a week, focused math time with Haley Leopold once a week, and a second block of focused learning three times a week that we call Genius Hour.

I'll share more with you in the future about Coyote School and ekphrasis, but for now I want to tell you about Genius Hour. Genius Hour is the balance to Academic Power Hour, where the students each have a turn to be the teacher and share something with the class that is important to them.

During Genius Hour, the students take the reins and become the teacher. Each student picks a topic of their choice, researchers it, and then presents what they have learned to the class. Part of Genius House is learning about the research process.
We've been exploring how to choose a topic, narrow the focus of our projects, and find materials and information from different sources (including how to determine if an internet source is useful). We are also working on different ways to effectively present our topics. We have begun our first round of presentations, and I am very excited about what the students have to share. 
I am learning so much in my new role with the ˈfəNGkē Wolf Gang, and while I miss being the art teacher, I am truly thrilled to be in the classroom with these kids every day!

Yellow Electric Wiggly Weasles
Shelly Sherman
Shelly Sherman

The Yellow Electric Wiggly Weasels have been exploring. We are explorers! We wander in the woods using "owl eyes," "fox feet," and "deer ears" to observe the many wonders the woods hold. Among our discoveries so far are amazing mushrooms and animal tracks.  
When we walk silently, we hear birds, insects and the wind, and when we examine our surroundings with curious eyes, we find hiding places where we can blend in with the landscape. We have used all of our five senses to observe and explore both the macro-woods and the micro-woods. 

As we explored, we searched for and gave names to new landmarks -- distinctive spots that seemed inviting or extraordinary. We named V Tree and Moss Rock and 6 Tree Family. We were attentive to the trails and found where they join together, and we noted the pink ribbons that mark the boarders of the Blue Mountain School acreage.
Then we became cartographers! We began mapping the land we explored as well as the land we were already familiar with like the playground and parking area.
This team-building process was a great way to begin our year together. We had many discussions about what went where, and sometimes we had to re-explore areas to make sure we had the details right. Together we created a giant map of our school property. Here is our map which, we are still working on.

Early Elementary
Tammie Sarver
Tammie Sarver

The Early Elementary Classroom is ROCKING along!
We spent our first month settling into our classroom routines, strengthening our relationships, and digging into learning about rocks, minerals, caves, fossils, and other geology!  

We submerged ourselves further into the learning with a wonderful field trip to Dixie Caverns. It inspired more questions and solidified interests in our geology study. 
We aren't just looking at rocks; we are reading and writing about them, too!  We've brought our Rock Study into Language Arts by adding a lot of books on rocks and minerals into our classroom library, learning about how to research things we are curious about (what kind of rock is this??), and writing down our observations of specimens in our collection.   
We are, of course, also reading many other kinds of books, and we have begun partner reading. I paired up friends to be learning partners for reading and other lessons, and these groups will stay together for the next few weeks. The partnerships help both children build new skills and understanding as they mentor each other throughout the classroom curriculum. It has also been wonderful to see new friendships grow from the pairings!
In Math Lab, we've been narrowing in on measurement. (See what I did there? There's plenty more!) We've measured ourselves and our classroom. We even measured Haven! 
Now we've moved ahead to measuring time, which means calendars. We had so much fun on Talk Like a Pirate Day, that we were inspired to research other days of significance to help us learn about the calendar and work on our planning skills.
There is no shortage of special days! Most dates have several special things to potentially honor, and I've been sharing the ones that seem most applicable to our classroom. Did you know that October 1st is National Homemade Cookie Day? The second is Name Your Car Day, and the third is National Kale Day. So, Happy National Popcorn Popping Month, National Vegetarian Month, and National Drum Month!! 
In working with this age, I see  one of my main roles as making important learning throughout the curriculum as fun as possible and building a foundation that supports enthusiastic lifelong learning in each student. On October 10th, it's Take Your Teddy Bear to Work Day. We will certainly still be rocking the geology learning, but you can bet that my friends and I will also be learning the science behind popcorn and writing stories about our favorite snuggle buddies. Happy October and happy learning to us all!

Secret Magic Amberwings
Jenni Heartway & Amy Adams
Jenni Heartway
Amy Adams
This first month of school has gone by so quickly, packed with so much already. Most importantly, we've come up with our class name. We are the Secret Magic Amberwings!
We have been learning how to work together as a class in outdoor explore, and we've been gaining confidence in sharing on our own as each of our friends do book and science shares in the classroom.

The Amberwings are deep in exploration of making their own work books and journals on a regular basis for things like letters, numbers, feelings, math, and writers workshop, and we've been practicing our letters in a multitude of experiential ways, including working together and taking turns with our bodies to form the letter of the day.  

We celebrated the first days of Fall by making applesauce together, singing apple songs and finalizing our preferences for our first class learning projects. Look forward to seeing how SUPER your Amberwings can be and also what sort of boat exploration we will work on in the coming weeks.   

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

We are very excited to announce our classroom name. After much deliberation we finally agreed on the Blue Mountain Flying Unicorns!
The Unicorns are taking part in a preschool postcard exchange with other preschools from the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and Scotland.
Class interest in mail was sparked after we  received a postcard in the mail from Angie's parents. The children were curious how mail works and, after getting past their surprise that Ms. Angie has a mom, too(!!), they wanted to know where the card was from. Hoping for and anticipating this question, we had already prepared some maps!

Next, we asked kids to bring something connected to the postal service for Show and Share. We got some junk mail, magazines, letters, valentines, postcards, a stamp to send letters to Canada, and shipping boxes! After we checked out all the "mail stuff," we introduced the postcard exchange group to the children. Over the next few days, we worked on the text for our letters to our new friends.   
We read books about mail, added small shipping boxes to the dramatic play area, and stocked the writing and drawing center with various types of paper and envelopes.
One morning, we revisited the written and addressed postcards for our new friends during circle. We found each country on our map that we were sending a card too, and we noticed our cards still needed stamps. Some of the postcards needed USA stamps and some needed faraway stamps.
The children stuck the stamps on, and then we invited small groups of children to walk to our mailbox and mail our postcards. We are looking forward to receiving mail from our new friends around the world!
If you would like to send a letter or postcard to the Blue Mountain Flying Unicorns, our address is 470 Christiansburg Pike, Floyd VA 24091. 

Yoga & P.E.
Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy
During our first month of school we have been getting to know each other and working on breathing techniques, cooperative games, and beginning yoga poses.

In the oldest four classes, we focused on team building and cooperative games and activities. We have been laughing a lot, moving our bodies, and connecting. Most classes have a few new students, so getting to know each other and learning about the class dynamic is so important. We start each class with a pause. We slow down, do some breathing to connect with the present moment, and tune in to how we are feeling.  
We played some balancing activities with partners, gone on a blindfolded trust walk, played cooperative blob tag ( if you get tagged you join the group arm in arm and have to catch the next person as a group), learned about helping each other in a non-verbal line up game, and done some partner yoga.
One of my favorite activities to play with the kids is what I call the Belonging Game. We answer questions about our interests, hobbies, personalities, dreams, shortcomings, or other topics and do a movement or activity if we answer yes to a question.  
An example might be: "Run around the cones backwards if you were a little nervous coming to school the first day," or "Do warrior pose if you have traveled out of the country." We pause and notice where everyone is and how they answered the questions. I have created about 5 different versions of this game ,and our kids seem to enjoy it. The Belonging Game is a great way for us to move our bodies and get to know ourselves and each other.

With the Unicorns and the Amberwings, we are easing into introductory yoga. with basic poses, calm breathing techniques with breathing buddies, songs, and games. I create stories with animals and lessons in them with yoga poses and share them with this age group.  
Our first story of the year was about Trevor the Tree Frog who did not want to go to school on the first day. He wanted to stay in his tree and play. Some of his friends visited him from nearby trees, like Cindy the Cicada and Wendy the Wrenn, to share how fun school is. Then Herman the Hawk came to ask if Trevor wanted to ride on his back to school. Woo hoo! More adventures happen and Trevor lands in school and ends up being brave on his first day.
The Amberwings have also played musical mat yoga, which we will play a lot this year. We move our bodies to music, and when the music stops we freeze, find a new yoga spot, and move into the announced yoga pose. We have also introduced some partner yoga like tree, lizard on rock, rainbow, warrior, standing forward fold, and a few others.

It has been a sweet first month being back at Blue Mountain School. I have enjoyed getting to know the new students and connecting with the returning ones. It is a blessing to have so many new beautiful faces this year. See you on the mat and outside moving about!

Corey Avellar & Lore Deighan
Lore Deighan
Corey Avellar
Corey says...

Art is off to an enthusiastic beginning. We have had a whole month of nature patterns and color exploration. Our progression looks like this:  
  • Noticing patterns in nature
  • Drawing the patterns we see
  • Taking those patterns and adding them to our art/drawings
  • Color wheel
  • Complementary, analogous, and monochromatic colors
  • Primary, secondary, and cool and warm colors
  • Adding complementary and analogous colors to our pattern drawings 
The Unicorns are continuing to explore patterns in nature, and each week we create an art piece using nature and a different art skill. We have been practicing using pressure, making rubbings, printing, painting, and drawing. When we are finished, we will compile our work to make a nature pattern book.  
Tammie's Class is drawing patterns into animal outlines and now they are filling their drawings in with analogous colors. The Weasles are putting patterns in drawings of their own design and are moving into adding analogous colors next; while the Amberwings finished their analogous animals and put them on a complementary background. You can see some of these pieces hanging in the hall of the main building.

Lore says...

In the older two art classes, we have been drawing our own personal Tree of Life. 

We looked at many different interpretations of the Tree of Life from around the world and throughout time, and we talked about the Tree being a symbol of a fresh start,positive energy, growth, strength and renewal.

These ideas all seemed very fitting for the first art project of the school year, and I was pleased to witness each and every student fully engaged in their interpretations of the Tree of Life.

Contemplative Studies
"Your breathing should flow gracefully,
like a river, like a watersnake crossing
the water, and not like a chain of rugged mountains or the gallop of a horse. To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds. Each time we find ourselves dispersed and find it difficult to gain control of ourselves by different means, the method of watching the breath should always be used."

Corey Avellar

Corey Avellar
In Drama we always start the year working on practices to help develop self esteem and learning to be a good audience and fellow actor. Currently, we are all working on awareness of others and our surroundings and on timing.

Timing is an important element of Drama. We all play off each other, receiving clues from the other actors, and doing our part at the appropriate time. For Instance, while jokes are enriched with tone of voice and facial and body language, timing of delivery and response are key for a successful delivery. We have been working on all those skills in different games and practices. In several of the plays we are writing, timing plays a big part.

Forest Programs
Jenni Heartway & Tammie Sarver

Jenni Heartway
Tammie Sarver
We are wrapping up our first sessions of Forest School and Forest Kindergarten.  What a wet, and wonderful time we've had!

In Forest School, one of our favorite days was when we focused on Salamanders, we heard myths about salamanders and how they were thought to be fire proof.  Some people even claimed to make jackets of salamander skin to protect them from fire!  On that same day we found 33 salamanders, including a HUGE slimy Salamander. 

At Forest Kindergarten, we've had similar luck in finding Red Efts and lots of mushrooms during our time together.  We even began working on some carving skills around the fire.

We feel so fortunate to spend time in the woods with our friends!

Building Blue Mountain
Building Committee

Thank you to everyone who came out for our work day last month!

Our focus for the day was on clearing brush for the new parking area and for a new outdoor classroom space. More than 30 people joined us and contributed nearly 100 hours of work!

The new parking area is planned to be located to the left of the driveway as you enter campus, before the playground and classrooms. Helpers cut, gathered, and removed brush and small trees from the area.

The new outside classroom area is located in the woods behind the gazebo. The first task was clearing out a number of old logs and large stones, which used to be part of a log cabin play area. The logs were repurposed into trail edging. After the area was completely clear, volunteers marked out the new space and put in corner markers.

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

Oct 19: Fall Conferences
Oct 31: Boo! Mountain School [1:30]
Nov 20: Thankful Celebration [12:00]
Nov 21-23: Thanksgiving Break 
Please do not drop off a student of any age without a teacher present, as the school wants to ensure each child's safety and supervision. Families who choose to drop children off at school before 8:30 am may incur an early drop-off fee of $15 per child.
Parents should walk their children into their classroom each morning to help them get settled and to check in with the teacher.  

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

Amy Adams, Andy Volker, Brittany Sparks, Carol Volker, Cassie Wilson, Chris Wolf, Don Charles, Eric Wolf, Haley Leopold, Heidi Dickens, Jagadisha, Jenni Heartway, Jenny Finn, Justin Miller, Lore Deighan, Lynn Whitaker, Mason Adams, Perrin Heartway, Rainbow, Randy Daugherty, Rashmi Staengl, Sarah McCarthy, Sarah Merfeld, Scott Freday, Scott Katznelson, Shelly Fox, Shelly Sherman, Stefi Schafer, Tammie Sarver, Tara Daystar, and Theresa Smyth for participating in our Work Day.

Daryn Allday and an Anonymous Donor for donating to our general fund.

Pamela Sessions and Cassie Wilson for donating craft materials.

George Gussler, Don Charles, Stefi Schafer, and Carol Volker for filling sandbags in preparation for Hurrican Florence.

Rainbow Perry for sponsoring the Early Elementary class trip to Dixie Caverns.

Our Fabulous Field Trip Drivers!

Community Foundation of the New River Valley and for hosting a non-profit marketing workshop.

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