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October 2010
In This Issue
From the Director
Nature's Ninjas
Thumbs Up Kids
Amy's class
Service Learning
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The Parent's Tao te Ching

from The Parent's Tao te Ching:

Constant stimulation
of your children's senses
creates insensitivity.
They see so much they become blind.
They hear so much they become deaf.
They taste so much they become nauseated.
They desire so much they become forever unsatisfied.

They do not come to know
that which truly satisfies.

It will be hard to create a quiet place
where your children can find their souls.
You must first quiet your own world
and then approach theirs.
They are accustomed
to the barrage of noise
and will complain loudly in its absence.
But you can find a quiet way.
What can you do today?
A walk?
A book?
A simple game?

We invite you to forward this email to friends and relatives who are part of the Blue Mountain School Family.

Join Our Mailing List
We'd love to thank...

Chris Angileri of EST Computers for the donation of a Mac computer

Gavin McKee for the donation of a Mac computer

Ed Gralla for showing BMS students around his farm, and for donating bumper stickers for students to sell for a charity

Jack Wall of Wall Residences for coming to discuss energy conversation with the students

Swede McBroom of The Natural Woodworking Company for his efforts to help make the Healing Harvest field trip possible

Jason & Jagger Rutledge of Healing Harvest Forest Foundation for showing students the art of restorative forestry
On our calendar:

Nov 1: Conferences

Nov 6: BMS Benefit Concert

Nov 8: Woodwork Field Trip

Nov 15: Skyline Field Trip

Nov 16: Thankful Day

Nov 22-25: Break

Dec 4 & 11: Local Gifts


Welcome to the next edition of Blue Mountain School's Indigo Messenger.

We are entering an important time for the development of the school, as we welcome six new members onto the BMS board. Theda Anderson, Brecc Avellar, Laura Polant, Wenona Scott, Bob Sisk, and Carol Volker will be joining existing board members, Andrea Goodrum, Katie Roberts, Luke Staengl, Sam Steffens, and Cassie Wilson. Along with our staff, the 2010-2011 BMS Board is tasked with guiding the school to the next level of sustainability and professionalism. Without a doubt, this dynamic group of parents and community members will be a great asset to our school.

And remember, this Saturday, November 6, William Walter & Tucker Rogers perform a benefit concert for BMS at Dogtown. BMS alumni, Spoonfight, open the show, so it should be a great night for the BMS family. Please be sure to bring as many friends as you can.

So let's get down to business. This issue includes a lot more of the students' work, so please be sure to scroll down and see it!
From the Director

Shelly Emmett

Shelly Emmett
Shelly Emmett

The other day, when talking with one of our thoughtful teachers about some patterns she was seeing in her classroom, I was reminded (as if I needed it!) of what a wonderful, supportive place our school can be for students.

The pattern the teacher identified was that it would sometimes take a long time to finish a lesson that seemed like it should take less time. We were brainstorming about reasons for this, and as we finished up I asked her what she wanted to do with this long list of reasons. She put her hands up, laughing. "Let them play more," she answered. And then she wondered, "Can I do that? Do you think it would be okay?"

I answered that I thought more play for her students was a great idea. Play is, after all, an amazing tool for learning. Unfortunately, even if we accept this idea for our preschoolers as most people still do, sometimes we forget that the same tool works for all stages in life: elementary students, middle school students, and even grown-ups. Of course, learning through play looks different as we grow; while five-year-olds might learn about shapes by just building with blocks and seeing what works and what doesn't, eight-year-olds might be asked to notice a little more as they build. They might be asked to show how certain shapes put together make other shapes, or how certain shapes can support more weight than others can. And again in middle school, instead of blocks, the students might use actual building materials to make something meaningful to them, learning and using geometry as they go.

And beyond bringing play into the classroom, recess play--at least, the kind supported by aware, facilitative adults--is also a learning opportunity. I was reminded of this when the same class--the one whose teacher thought they might benefit from more play--built a fort and developed a whole 'game' for using the fort in no time at all. This process was not without conflict or frustration, but with skilled, aware adults around to help the students navigate their feelings and needs, the overall experience was one of enjoyment at the creation of this new aspect of recess time.

The concern with talking about more play at school is that this could be understood to mean less academics, or less structure, or less value placed on 'real' learning. And this is a valid concern. Parents are paying for their children to attend our school, and for most families in our community, the cost of tuition is a stretch. So what we offer as a school must be 'worthy' of the stretch, or families may choose another option. Part of my job is communicating with our families about how valuable this type of education is, and talking about how our teaching techniques are different from what might be found in other educational settings. So if the class in question was going to be playing more, I knew that I might want to be able to talk about why.

Imagine the smile on my face when I found a 2007 position paper from the American Academy of Pediatrics (which is not traditionally recognized as an organization that pushes the envelope on social and cultural change, but in this case I am amazed!), about the importance of play. The authors write that:

Play is integral to the academic environment. It ensures that the school setting attends to the social and emotional development of children as well as their cognitive development. It has been shown to help children adjust to the school setting and even to enhance children's learning readiness, learning behaviors, and problem-solving skills.

Social-emotional learning is best integrated with academic learning; it is concerning if some of the forces that enhance children's ability to learn are elevated at the expense of others. Play and unscheduled time that allow for peer interactions are important components of social-emotional learning.

And we didn't even pay the authors of this position paper to write this! But their work underscores why schools like Blue Mountain School have a solid place in the changing world of education. The authors go on to write:

Despite the numerous benefits derived from play for both children and parents, time for free play has been markedly reduced for some children...This change may have implications on children's ability to store new information, because children's cognitive capacity is enhanced by a clear-cut and significant change in activity. A change in academic instruction or class topic does not offer this clear-cut change in cognitive effort and certainly does not offer a physical release. Even a formal structured physical education class may not offer the same benefit as free-play recess.

So let's all celebrate that play is something that we consider an important part of the Blue Mountain School experience. And if you want to join in on the fun, let us know and we'll find a way to include you!

For another good article about the value of play in the development of children, see this.

Class Reports
Shannon & Hari's class
The Oxy Morons
Hari Berzins
Hari Berzins

From Hari:
October has been glorious! We have been taking beautiful hikes and focusing on enjoying every minute of this month. Our class video project "October" has helped us to stay aware of the passing of time as we try to make each moment last as long as possible. The project started with a whole group read through of the poem, followed by each student deciding which lines of the poem he/she would read. Then we discussed what images came to mind as we read the words. This process continued with a hike to the neighbor's land to take pictures. After many read-throughs, we shared the poem at Thursday's circle. The students then used a free program call Audacity to record themselves. It was a bit of a challenge to edit the audio since we recorded the poem out of order. This gave us great practice using Audacity! After we had the audio, we used Microsoft MovieMaker to create a video which matches our pictures to the audio. This process was exciting for us and we will continue to explore the ways that we can use technology to create and share. We hope you enjoy our video!



October video

Fall Haikus From the OxyMorons:

Sage Church
Summer is gone. Fall
is here. Leaves are falling from
the trees. I like fall.

Madeline Emmett
October wind - cold
Halloween's evil children
Watch out - here they come

Eric Gresham
Swings go back and forth
as the cold wind blows them. Now
they will be sat on.

Maggie Avellar
The snowflakes falling
Thankful for nature's goodness
Halloween candy

Linneya Cooley
A step behind mine,
A ghost is following me.
I turn and say "Hi!"

Jahpa Martindale
Fall is enchanting
The wind is mystical here
The leaves are falling

Yeshe Cooley
Halloween is here
I will go trick or treating
Cuz I want candy

Inge's class
Nature's Ninjas

Inge Terrill
Inge Terrill
Nature's Ninjas (William, Jonah, Hazel, Solace, Indya, Layla, Cedar, Kai, Tai, and River) - the 2nd-4th grade class at BMS - has had a few enrollment changes this month. Jonah went out to Arizona at the end of August for two months to do volunteer work on a Reservation and will be back the first week in December. Hazel decided at the beginning of the month that she really wanted to home school this year with her sister Amity. So right now, we have eight students in the class with possibly two new students joining us within the next few weeks.

We are very fortunate to have had two volunteers come forward recently to work with the students in this class with their reading and math. We are anxiously waiting their arrival.


Nature's Ninjas practiced reciting a poem by Robert Frost, titled In Harwood Groves, with the help of Ms. Hari. It is a poem about fall and the importance of leaves in the health of the ecosystem. The class shared the poem with the rest of the school at the end of the week circle on Thursday afternoon. They did a great job!

Some of the highlights of this past month have been two field trips, a Healing Harvest demonstration and Service Learning project, and a science field trip to Dixie Caverns. Upon interviewing the students about the Healing Harvest trip, I discovered that they really enjoyed seeing how powerful draft horses really are. They got to see a tree being taken down and had fun trying to figure out how old the tree was. The students helped clear the woods of limbs and branches so that the team of horses could get to the tree safely. The class all agreed that the folks with Healing Harvest were very nice and that the trip was a lot of fun.

Dixie CavernsThe field trip to Dixie Caverns was fun and educational. The students got to see a lot of formations that we had been studying over the past two weeks. Things like stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, curtains, and bottle brushes - all created by the interaction of water, carbonic acid, and minerals. Some of their favorite formations in the cave were the wedding bell, the turkey, and the looking glass pool. Everyone on the tour got to hold part of a broken off stalactite and were amazed at how heavy it was. We had no idea minerals could weigh so much!


As mentioned in the last newsletter, this class has two class names. We are known as Nature's Ninjas and also as The Friends. In the classroom we use the name The Friends. This month we have been working very hard to establish how to treat fellow classmates and how we like to be treated by others. We have been talking about what respect is and how to give others the space they need to work and to be themselves. It is easy to forget sometimes how quickly other's feelings can be hurt. It can be difficult sometimes to stay focused in class and to participate in a respectful manner. So, this class has been working on a list of Class Agreements to help us with these types of things. We wanted to share them with you.

* Pay attention to each moment. (Participate.)
* Be kind, loving, and respectful to ourselves, others, and living and non-living things. (Honor life and creation.)
* Be thoughtful and mindful. (Think before we speak & act.)

Meet the ever silly, ever energetic, ever learning Nature's Ninjas!





Corey's class
Thumbs Up Kids

Corey Avellar
Corey Avellar
To see a larger version of Corey's report, just click on it...
Amy's class

Amy Myers
Amy Myers
Happy Fall! I hope you all have been enjoying the leaf change as much as we have. The other day was such a delight when we decided to rake the leaves and create the classic leaf pile that provides so much enjoyment for the young, and I suppose the old too.

October was a full month for us, with 2 field trips as well as our Halloween celebration. We went to Sinkland farms for hayrides, corn mazes and the pumpkin patch. Hopefully we will be able to carve a couple of pumpkins with Lora in our art class as well as make pumpkin seeds for our Halloween fest. We are also looking forward to going to Apple Ridge and exploring the beautiful woods of Copper Hill.

Our Rhythm is getting much more established at this point of the year and things are really running smoothly for us. It is a joy to watch the class come together and start to use more ways of communicating their needs. Our focus times such as our morning circle has become quite fun for all of us as we learn different songs and finger plays. Most of the children should be able to share with you a song or two, with a little prompting.

One finger play that we do is The Five Little Mice. It goes like this:

"Five little mice on the pantry floor, searching for bread crumbs or something more. Five little mice on a shelf up high, feasting so daintily on a pie. But the big round eyes of the wise old cat see where the five little mice are at. And quickly she jumps and the mice run away, home in their beds for the rest of the day!"

We have a couple of blessing songs for our snacks and lunch times, one of the songs is "Blessings on the Blossoms." See if they can sing it for you. "Blessings on the blossoms, blessings on the fruits, blessings on the leaves and stems, and blessings on our food."

This month we also had our first parent evening where we were able to discuss what we are doing in the Early Childhood classroom and why. Things like Non-violent communication, the importance of boundaries and rhythm, teaching through imitation, and discipline are all topics that were included. If you are interested in the article we worked with, please see Miss Amy.

Jamie's class
Community Connection

Jamie Reygle
Jamie Reygle

It's been a big month for Service Learning, as we all begin to understand what it is and how it works.

Everything we do is being informed by two key questions:

  • What are my expectations? and
  • What did I learn?

Let's have a look at some examples.

The Oxymorons recently visited Ed Gralla to learn more about reducing, reusing, and recycling. The visit turned out to be more of a farm tour, which helped demonstrate how these things happen in nature all the time. Here are some of the things the class expected:

  • It would be fun
  • They would learn that you can recycle more than you think
  • They might have a bad time because of rain
  • To see Ed and his house.

And here's a bit of what they learned:

  • Luffas come from squash plants
  • Ed has a lot of frozen food (from his garden, of course!)
  • Ed puts electricity back into the grid
  • Goats don't always come when you call them
  • Forest leaves don't destroy your garden
  • Almost nothing leaves Ed's farm.
Attempting to move a log

Meanwhile, Natures Ninjas and the Thumbs-Up Kids visited Jason and Jagger Rutledge at one of their Healing Harvest Forest Foundation sites. They expected:

  • To learn how to take down trees
  • To learn how to make forests better
  • To see big horses
  • To see people cutting down trees
  • To pat horses
  • To see horses being driven
  • For it to be loud
  • For it to be scary
  • For the horses to be a bit yucky (especially around the mouth)
  • To pick up sticks

All of which happened. Some of the things they expected, that didn't happen, included:

  • To see a squirrel, a rabbit, a deer, a groundhog, and beavers.
  • For the horses to step on them.

Fortunately, the latter one did not eventuate!

And finally, Thumbs-Up Kids are raising money for charity by selling bumper stickers-donated by Ed Gralla-that ask people to slow down on the roads. If you would like one, please be sure to tell a Thumbs-Up Kid (or a parent), and give them the money. A minimum donation of $3 is suggested.

Drive 45

Lora Leigh's class
The Painted Word

Lora Leigh Giessler
Lora Leigh Giessler
What is ART?


This project was intended to expand the students' ideas of what art is: who makes art? why do people make art? where do we see art? and for us to share our ideas. After some discussion about what we believe art is, we looked through some books with art from different countries, time periods, and genres. Of course there were lots of oohs and aahs and declarations of likes and dislikes. After the kids got a good dose of art from around the world throughout time, we looked through magazines (Smithsonian and National Geographic) to begin our collaborative collage project. I directed them towards looking for art from different cultures, art that was creative in its expression, and a variety of examples. I encouraged them to not cut out photographs representing something that they were interested in (i.e. animals) unless they could communicate to me why they considered it art. One student cut out a photograph of a wild boar running through the forest. I asked him why he considered the photograph art. His response was that the photographer blurred the background which made it feel like the boar was running really fast. Excellent!

I love it when students can work together and share their ideas on a collaborative project. This first project got them off to a great start and they each had a hand in it.

The new BIG art word - Collaboration.

What is Art?

As we discuss the importance and place that art has in different cultures, we are now looking at the art of the Pacific Northwest Native Americans, specifically their carved masks and the symbolism of the animal spirits that are revered in their culture, noting the stylized shapes and color palette of black, red, blue and green, and the use of materials to frame the head. The students will be creating a paper mache mask that represents an element of nature or the spirit of an animal of their choice.

The early childhood class has been playing in clay. They are squooshing, smooshing, rolling balls and snakes, pinching and creating textures in this wonderful tactile medium. We have looked at the shape of the acorn and noticed that the nut is the same shape as our head, and the little acorn head is wearing a funny hat. In our first clay class we made 'acorns'. We have also discovered textures - smooth and rough. The acorn head is smooth and the hat is rough. The kids have been very prolific and have created lots of texture! Next two weeks - leaf collages: color, shape and patterns.

Thank you
We hope you enjoyed reading the Indigo Messenger, and plan to be sending you another one in a month's time!

Be sure to forward it to anyone you think may be interested.

Thank you,

The folks at
Blue Mountain School