Indigo Messenger


Welcome to the 2011-12 school year! 



As you probably know, there have been a lot of new developments over the summer: new playground equipment, new teachers, a new bathroom, and best of all, an agreement to buy the school from CERC. So, as we begin our 30th anniversary year, we can - for the very first time - look around and say, "This is our school!"


These are exciting times, and this is a milestone year, so it's great to have you along to share the driving with us. 


Stay tuned to your email and our Facebook group for more information and pictures about activities happening at school.

Shelly Emmett
Shelly Emmett


Recently, I was talking with a perspective school parent, which is always inspiring for me because it reminds me of all the great things about Blue Mountain School.  


I have witnessed the power of a school environment like the one that we are creating at BMS, and because of that I enjoy talking about the school and what we do here. But sometimes parents want more--they want to know that enrolling their children in our school will equate to increased educational success, or greater ease when kids move on to another setting, or more self-confidence and awareness. I know that these positive outcomes and many more are possible when a child is a part of our school. I'll tell you the reason why, and it's not just because of our school.


The truth is, we have a skilled and inspired staff, an educational model supported by unequivocal research, and effective strategies for helping kids learn and grow cognitively, emotionally, and physically. These are great resources that are integral to our school, and they certainly contribute to a meaningful experience for our students. But one of our greatest resources--and one that we wish to highlight this year--are the parents of our students. When our students' parents are involved--checking in with their child's teacher regularly, talking with their children about school and placing value on school-related activities, participating in homework and other activities from school at home--the impact of what we offer increases exponentially.


"Student achievement improves when parents are enabled to play four key roles in their children's learning:

  • As teachers, parents create a home environment that promotes learning, reinforces what is being taught at school, and develops the life skills children need to become responsible adults.
  • As supporters, parents contribute their knowledge and skills to the school, enriching the curriculum, and providing extra services and support to students .
  • As advocates, parents help children negotiate the system and receive fair treatment, and work to make the system more responsive to all families.
  • As decision-makers, parents serve on advisory councils, curriculum committees, and management teams, participating in joint problem-solving at every level (1:15)."

(From the San Diego County school district's Statement on Parent Involvement and Student Achievement, 1997) 


We want to encourage parents at our school to inhabit these roles as often as possible. Our school needs the synergy of our own resources and those of our school parents to truly put our educational model into action and provide our students with the best school experience we can.


Please keep an eye out for information about our family/school challenge in October, which is National Book Month. We are going to celebrate books by keeping track of how many we read at home and at school. When we reach our goal, we'll have a party for everyone--especially our parents!    

Elementary & Middle School Liberal Arts
Hari Berzins
Hari Berzins




In this first month, we have been focused on developing our classroom community and routine. We have a lively bunch of learners and are working on the following skills:

  • Social Emotional & Contemplative: Lightning rounds to build relationships and deep breathing to calm and focus the mind.
  • Writing: The writing process and the writer's notebook concept (a place where writers jot down ideas for further development) and daily grammar.
  • Word Studies: Weekly vocabulary from*, games to play with and learn the words.
  • Reading: Strategy focus: visualizing, questioning, connections; assessment and study at*. 
  • Social Studies: Current events through a weekly song with online links to explore each event in depth.
    •  Middle School: 9/11 and Holocaust studies;
    •  Elementary School: Paul Revere and map studies.
Please step into our classroom with your child and have him/her explain the student work on display!


Happy October!


*Students have logins and passwords for and in their homework composition journals. Please logon with them and let them show you around!

Elementary and Middle School Sciences
Miranda Altice
Miranda Altice


Greetings Earthlings!  


One of the most incredible things I love about teaching is when I know that the students are in complete awe ... our first few weeks are etched in my mind: many of the students are wide-eyed, mouths slightly agape, and slowly leaning in a little closer at a time while learning about ... well, can you guess? Ahh the suspense! Cosmology: the study of the Universe.  


I love beginning my units with a story ... and not just any story, but a story that involves experiments (such as our bubbly volcano and sparkling candlelight) and mind-blowing photographs (such as the image of a cluster of galaxies - only a handful out of the 100 billion that exist in our Universe - or the image of just how incredibly tiny the earth is compared to the Sun, which is really only a "medium-sized red giant").  


The elementary and middle school classes have been thoroughly enjoying this unit - as have I - not only because they seem to be in complete amazement, but also the astronomical numbers that explain the size of the Universe, the distance between the stars, the size of the galaxy, as compared to just how tiny we really are in the big scheme of things. The purpose of this, my friends, is to trigger a part of their imagination that will help them to not only understand the Universe, but also the theories that surround astronomy and cosmology as well as the physics and chemistry that are involved.

The middle school class enjoyed learning about the possibility that something could be faster than the speed of light ... wait, wait ... you mean that something could be faster than 186,000 miles per second?? Possibly. We were able to take what we knew about this new finding and discuss how important it is to test, retest, retest, and then retest again. Actually, as many times as possible. And not just 15,000 times like this particular faster-than-the-speed-of-light experiment had attempted, but tested and retested multiple times by multiple groups of people. Even if this does not turn out to be true, we were still able to discuss the implications of such a statement being true and what it would mean for all of those sad, current physics books that will be history. This discussion led one particular student to ask a phenomenal question, "Now, going back to this speed of light ... so how many nanoseconds would it take to get across the Milky Way from one end to the next?" Such a question should never be dismissed! And so we dissected it, dissected it some more (I actually took it home with me that day) and were able to see a perfect example of the clear connection between math and science. A wonderful introduction to exponents and scientific notation in math class.  


This space exploration unit will be continuing into projects of the solar system, and life cycles of stars, planets, moons, and black holes, and eventually leading into the formation of the earth over millions of years....

Fire Cheetahs / Fire Kids
Corey Avellar
Corey Avellar

To see a larger version of these images, just click on them:



The 3-4-5s
Stefi Schafer
Stefi Schafer

What a great start to the new school year, especially with a beautiful new classroom that gives us lots of space to explore, investigate, work, and learn!


One of the first community building exercises we did was to come up with a name for our class. When I asked the children about their ideas for a class name, each friend stated his or her own name. The next important thing everyone focused on? Our ages!!! After some more discussion and debate, we noticed that all the friends were either three, four or five, and so we became The 3-4-5s. The children already identify themselves with that title and are understanding that they belong to a very special group of little people.


The 3-4-5s have a daily circle time, and we have learned the Friends song, using not just the words but also sign language. Everybody can recognize their Letter and many are able to sign it too.


Lore Deighan

Lore Deighan


The year in art has started off beautifully. The kids and I have been getting to know each other while creating peace posters and dolls to be included in the "peace places" for each classroom. Despite a little resistance to working collaboratively, the kids have done an amazing job at creating their peace posters together, while talking about what colors and imagery convey peace in their minds. The dolls we are creating are going to be used in our peace places for comfort and expressing emotions through role play. The kids were so excited about doll making and all the materials I had for them to explore, that we've ended up making a bunch of dolls that the kids are eagerly awaiting to take home. 

Along with the specific projects we're working on, I have been letting the kids simply create art (draw, paint, collage, whatever they wish) on an individual basis. While I aspire to teach concept, design, history, and technique, I also believe that art is personal and unique to every student, and I want to give them the freedom to express themselves individually. We are still in the process of working into a rhythm of the classroom and discussing what types of projects they are interested in and what art means to them, but mostly what I am hearing is that they simply want to make art. So I hope to inspire and offer support while letting the kids explore their individual, personal relationships with the creative process. I am excited about the school year and looking forward to all the special time I will share with these wonderful children in the art room!

Here are a few photos of the dolls and peace posters that the Middle School students made:  



Well Served
Jamie Reygle
Jamie Reygle


We've gotten off to a roaring start in Service Learning this year. Apart from doing two of our annual events - the Farm-to-School potato harvest and Adopt-a-Highway - we have also commenced projects in most of the classes, and have a good idea of direction in all them.


Let's have a look at these:


Rainbow Monkeys: Are continuing their local food project, in which they aim to sell t-shirts promoting local food. This isn't as easy as it


may first appear. You see, the big question is: where do you get the money to buy the t-shirts and print them? The Rainbow Monkeys have decided to have a bake sale at the Farmers Market, tentatively on Saturday, October 15. The day before this (yes, a Friday!) we'll be going to Theda McCutchan's place to make the goodies. So be sure to tell all your friends to come out to the Farmers Market in a couple of weeks and buy up all the fudge and brownies they can fit in their bellies!  


Once we have the money for the t-shirts, it'll be over to Lore, who will help the class print them.


Elementary class: I have never seen this class so focused. When we were working out what we wanted to do this year, they nominated three things: help soldiers, stop war, and help animals. When we asked a vet what would be the best way to help soldiers, he was very quick to say, "Write letters! Give them a sense of sanity." So we are, and the class is getting right into it.


The class also received a package from the White House, in response to their letter last year asking Mr Obama to do all he could to stop war. This has inspired them to take matters one step further, and they would love to go to Washington DC later in the school year to deliver their message in person. Please let me know if you think you can help make this happen.


Fire Cheetahs: We are currently tying up some loose ends from last year, namely to erect the bird houses they made and to make our contribution to Plant-for-the-Planet. We were planning on sending the remaining $25 from last year's bumper sticker sales, but Plant-for-the-Planet suggested we spend the money on trees here - so we will! Dennis Anderson from the Department of Forestry will be meeting the kids soon to discuss the whys and wherefores of forest regeneration, and hopefully tell the class where their trees are most needed.


The 3-4-5s: This is the first time our Early Childhood class has done Service Learning, so it has been somewhat fascinating for me to find a meaningful way to interact with them. And I think we're getting somewhere. Once again, in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Forestry, we'll be collecting acorns and black walnuts, which will be grown into seedlings that will be made available to landowners to help improve their land and our environment.


Fun times ahead, to be sure!


Potato Harvest 


Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy


I want to welcome all the new and old families to a new year at our amazing little school in Floyd County, VA. This will be my third year officially teaching yoga and contemplative studies at Blue Mountain. I have been practicing yoga and meditation for over 12 years and hopefully will be for the rest of my life! Some days I feel I know nothing at all about being 'calm' and other times I feel quite centered in the midst of life's chaos.


For the past three years my daughter, Satya, and I have gone on a mother/child retreat together at a meditation center near Asheville. It has been wonderful to share this quiet and fun space together. Through these influences, I bring a belief that children benefit tremendously with regular "quiet time" at home and at school to reflect and feel what is going on around and in themselves. In addition to doing regular yoga asanas in class (mostly through games and stories), we will be doing mindfulness exercises (focusing on our senses to bring us into the present moment) and practices to quiet the mind.


I do feel particularly hopeful about life when I am around children. The other day while teaching, I received many hugs and some "I love yous," and I felt great about the older classes' sincere efforts! What amazing children we have! It has been a fun few weeks getting back to teaching and getting to know all the new friends. I am very excited about our new group this year! And please feel free to join us in a class sometime to see what we are up to.

If you would have any questions or would like information on yoga or mindful parenting resources, or if you have some information to share, please feel free to email or call me at 540.250.8361.
Play It Again
Kari Kovick & Vicky Town
Kari Kovick


From Kari:

Ever notice how powerful group intention can be? I love the way music can make that experience so tangible. When everyone stops at the same time in the middle of a song, the group silence is so noticeable! And paying attention to each other as we each hold our own's just a recipe for peaceful living. This year I am looking forward to delving deeper in to Social and Emotional Learning topics like these through songs and musical activities. We will be practicing our mindfulness with centering and focusing activities in music class as well.

This year, we have the special opportunity to collaborate with Vicky Town to bring music and storytelling performances to BMS. I LOVE this, since I really enjoyed musical theater myself when I was in elementary school, high school and college. We had our first show at the Harvest Celebration, on September 22nd!   

Here's to a great beginning of a new school year! 



Vicky Town

From Vicky:


I am thrilled to be included in the life of BMS as the drama teacher! I want to thank everyone for making my first day so warm and welcoming last week.We had to get right to work creating our Demeter and Persephone fall festival piece.




During our class time we talked about the importance of drama in society and how it is a collaborative process. We practiced skills such as actor's neutral, space objects, three levels of movement, entrances and exits, vocalizations as part of character development, diaphragmatic breathing, character walks, body isolations, give and take on stage, basic dance concepts, and storytelling.


Our fall piece involved everyone in the school and the audience too! We hope you will join us as we embark on our new theatre adventure!




Homework: Read a story together and act it out through movement, dance, or drama using space objects.Space objects are props that are pantomimed by the actor. The actor gives them weight and shapes to make them appear real on stage.




We hope you enjoyed reading the Indigo Messenger.

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


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In This Issue
Elementary and Middle School Liberal Arts
Elementary and Middle School Sciences
Fire Cheetahs and Fire Kids
The 3-4-5s
Contemplative Studies

Oct 5:   Board Meeting (6:00) 

Oct 14: Bakesale Cooking

Oct 15: Bakesale @ Farmers Market

Oct 21: Scheduled Snow Day

Oct 25: Half Day

Oct 25: Parent-Teacher Conferences  

Oct 26, 27: No School 

Oct 31: Halloween Celebration

Board of Trustees

The next Board meeting is Wednesday, October 5, at 6:00 pm. The meeting is open to the public.

Elections for membership on the BMS Board of Trustees will occur in November. If you are interested in joining the board or know someone who would be a good addition, please let us know.

Fall Agenda
  • Elect new members. 
  • Finalize purchase of school property from CERC. 
  • Develop after-school & Friday programs. 
  • Obtain 501(c)(3) non-profit status.
  • Begin accreditation process. 

In Gratitude We Thank

Our students, parents, and community for helping us get off to a great start for 2011-12!


Chris Barrett for donating soccer gear.   


LaVern Beaver for helping with copying for Hari. 


Rebekah Hicks for helping in the Early Childhood classroom.  


Tully Anderson, Shannon Atkins, Jon Emmett, Rebekah Hicks, Andrea Goodrum, Wenona Scott, Bob Sisk, Andy Volker, Howard Wenger, Wes Wenger, & all the Staff for working on the school buildings and grounds.    


Alan Kaplan & Agatha Grimsley for making and providing apple cider to the school community for our Harvest Celebration. 



Blue Mountain School 

470 Christiansburg Pike, Floyd, Virginia 24091