This year marks the 35th Anniversary of Blue Mountain School, and we are excited to have you all along as we continue our journey!  


Throughout the year, we will be sharing with you pictures and stories that tell the tale of how BMS began and how it has grown over time. If you have personal memories, photographs, or other items from Blue Mountain that you would like to share, please let us know.   

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

Shelly Emmett
Shelly Emmett
I used to think that you were just the "sitting down and talking" kind of friend, but now I realize that you are also really fun to play with!

--BMS student, age 8

I get to be myself here!

--BMS teacher, ageless

What do this teacher and this student have in common? They are spending time in a school environment where they feel comfortable saying what they think and expressing how they feel.

Just three weeks into the year (we've had only 10 days of school so far!), our main focus at this time is establishing a learning environment that feels fundamentally safe and nurturing, so that our students' natural curiosities and academic interests and skills can rise to the surface.

It is a basic need of every human being to know that each one of us matters as individuals and as part of the larger group. This is one aspect of our school that stands out, especially at the beginning of the year. Welcome, everyone, to the 2016-2017 school year at BMS!

Upper Elementary
Holly Haworth
Holly Haworth
During the first few weeks in the Upper Elementary classroom, we have been working to create an atmosphere of curiosity, openness, and respect. Together, we wrote our "Sacred Code of Honor" (the students' name for it) on a buttercup-yellow scroll of paper. The students voiced that these codes were important to them in order to be able to thrive and learn among their peers.

Our Sacred Code of Honor says this:
  1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  2. Remain quiet during class. Do not distract others while they are working.
  3. Always give encouragement.
  4. Respect others' personal space and property.
The students came to the board one by one, took the pen, and signed the scroll (in beautiful cursive signatures) while the others sang for them an obscure and dramatic melody.
With this foundation established, we have moved on to studying the science of plant communication, writing about wild food experiences, brewing sumac lemonade (and learning to identify sumac in the wild), studying and drawing trees, compiling nature journals, learning about grains and their role in ancient civilizations and modern-day agricultural systems, reading Rip Van Winkle, practicing our storytelling skills, and brainstorming for our first Students Teach segments. We will begin a music-as-poetry unit soon, in addition to math review.
Here is one of the pieces written in
response to a prompt to write a poem about a wild food students had eaten:

acorns are bitter acorns
are sweet acorns are
sharp and they hurt my 

by Reuben

Middle Elementary
Shelly Sherman
Shelly Sherman
I am feeling so grateful for such a wonderful class! We have been working on team building and getting to know one another better. Eight of the students in our class are new to the Middle Elementary, and three of those are new to BMS!

Because it has been so hot, one of the ways we got to know each other was through a team building activity with water! In small groups, we made water walls using recycled materials.

Along with new students, we have some new critters among us. We are sharing our classroom with 5 monarch caterpillars in various stages of metamorphosis. We have one who just formed it's chrysalis, one who is about 1 cm long, and three who  just hatched out of their eggs.

Did you know that a new monarch larvae eats it's own egg shell after hatching from it's egg? I learned this from a student today when we discussed all the things we knew about monarchs in class.

It is exciting to think about all of the learning and growing we will be doing this year!

Early Learning
Hari Berzins & Jenni Heartway
Hari Berzins
Jenni Heartway
In many classrooms, the first days of school are marked with students sharing their learning goals and hopes for the new year. (Check out the pictures at the end of this article!) Before the kids even set foot on campus, though, our Blue Mountain School teachers and staff are at work setting their goals and hopes for the year.

Just like with our students' aspirations, our aren't set in stone. We revisit, revise and adapt them as we move through the school year. And while we teachers help hold our students accountable in meeting and remembering their goals, we also help each other do the same for ourselves.

Hari's goal...

This year, I intend to explore more literature with the students and encourage them to respond to the literature through their own drawings and writing.

Jenni's goal...

My biggest hope is to help our students engage in meaningful, authentic learning.  

Meaningful: Students see and understand the connections between the activities we do in class and the bigger picture. I want them to think, for example, "I'm doing this because it makes me a stronger reader."

Authentic: The work we engage is real, has meaning, and is something that people do on a regular basis outside the school room.

I look forward to sharing our meaningful and authentic moments with you throughout the year!
Here are the goals our students have set for themselves for this year.

Early Childhood
Stefi Schafer & Tammie Sarver
Stefi Schafer
Tammie Sarver

In our Early Childhood community, we have been busy building friendships and getting a sense of the rhythms of our days. For our youngest friends, this is our most important work this time of year!

Social skills and self-confidence are key for building friendships, and the Early Childhood kids are already growing in these areas! We see this growth reflected in our friends' play as they show particular interest in our observation and communication props like wearing binoculars, talking on telephones, and using our literacy center tools.
Our daily rhythms include all the little (and big) things we do regularly each day. Having this structure builds a lot of security and autonomy. As we reach for snack, use our lunchboxes, and form a sandwich to travel to enrichment class, we are building a safe space within which our friends can be free to explore their interests.  
Some of those explorations have included color mixing and self expression as we've painted with watercolors. We are also weaving hopes, dreams and other found materials into our loom, and we are building, building, building! We've built with blocks, we've built with magnatiles, and we've used the chalkboard in the block area to create backgrounds for our creations and to collaborate on building plans. Friends are especially intrigued by the taller cardboard tubes in the Construction Zone as they collaborate to explore physics, space, and measurement.
And at group times, we are learning to sing and use American Sign Language to sign our "Friends" song while we build skills of sharing stories and listening to each other.

One part of being a good listener is knowing the language, and as a staff, we have been talking a lot about our common language at Blue Mountain. Here are some phrases we speak frequently in the Early Childhood classroom:

Put your hand on a hand: There are blue handprints on the deck railing outside our door. This phrase tells the children to line up before we transition to another area of campus.

Find a space on the rug by a friend: A cue to come to the circle rug and get ready for group time.
Clean up time: A simple instruction, often used in a song, to put all our materials back where they belong. Engaging children in the care and maintenance of our space teaches them responsibility and strengthens our community.

Keep me safe: This is a powerful statement children can use with each other in case of conflicts. It can be used to tell a friend "I don't want you to grab my toy," or as a way to reclaim personal space when play gets too rough.
Your words are enough: We use this to redirect a young child who might have gotten caught up in her or his emotions and uses hands to communicate.

Mine from home: This expression lets other children know that the item in question is personal property.

I need more space: Allows a child to express a need for personal space. This phrase can be useful when a child is worried about his / her body or work being respected, when a child is overwhelmed and needs a moment, or simply when a child needs a clearer path in moving from one space to another.

I'm still using that: An advanced form of "MINE!", this is a polite yet strong way to let others know not to take or interfere with a child's work.

Can I use it when you're done? Instead of saying, "I want it!," this lets friends know a child wants a turn and builds the skills needed for collaboration and sharing.

Walking feet: A positive redirection when children are running and need to be walking.

Inside voices: A positive redirection when children are inside and need to bring the volume down on their voices. 

Look-up: A cue to recognize that we are indoors. When you look up and see the ceiling, it's time to use our inside voices and walking feet.

Toes against the wall: A reminder to put your shoes together out of the walkway.

Catch a bubble: A fun way to cue children that it's time to be quiet and listen to the teacher's words. Kids take in a deep breath and hold air in their cheeks as if they have "caught a bubble."

Yoga & Physical Education
Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy
We Are Part of a Revolution

This will be my eighth year teaching yoga and P.E. at Blue Mountain School. I was on the Board when we decided to move to our current contemplative progressive model, and what a great decision that was! My daughter, now 12, attended BMS for 6.5 years, and because of her time here she is navigating a public school setting with confidence and awareness. I am really glad to be part of this school that does things a little differently!

One of my favorite days at BMS is our teacher retreat at the end of summer. At this year's retreat, we learned and then practiced mindfulness activities for kids, we practiced deep listening and focusing, we played some games (yes, we play too!), we shared about ourselves and our goals, and we read and discussed some articles on teaching.

Director Shelly has a special knack for finding really great articles and books for us to explore together. We have been reading Parker Palmer's writing for years, and his messages continue to spark interest in me. This year, Shelly chose an article from Mr. Palmer that spoke about how we, who are choosing and practicing alternate education, are part of a revolution.

By following this contemplative progressive model of education that is child led, project based, natural-world influenced, and introspective, by using our hearts, minds and whole being to teach, Blue Mountain School is changing the system.

And you are changing the system by believing in what we do and sending your kids here!

Each time we do a class check in to listen to how are kids are doing, each time a child decides to use the peace corner, each time we take our kids outside to learn in nature, each time we choose to take time out to resolve a conflict and listen to our students... Each time we do these things, we are part of this revolution.

I am excited to be teaching yoga, movement, and P.E. again this year. Every year brings new children, new families, new moments, and new growth. When I remember we really are part of a revolution I know I am in the right place, and I am so grateful to be part of it. May we enjoy a wonderful year together!

Lore Deighan
Lore Deighan
On the first day of school I was struck by how many new faces there were, and I was glad to see so many returning families in our huge morning felt incredibly vibrant and energizing!

This is a time of change and cycle, as we all switch gears from our summer break once again and re-introduce school year routines. In the enrichment room we are re-establishing routines and setting the boundaries that help children to learn in a productive and safe manner. It feels familiar in a positive way as we build upon the foundations set between me and the other three enrichment teachers, all who have been here for many years. 
As I begin my sixth year as the BMS art teacher, I am looking forward to continuing my relationships with students I have worked with for years as well as getting to know all our new friends as we make art together.  Who knows what will be made in the art room this year......

Contemplative Studies
Welcome back to school! I look forward to spending time with your children this year as we all continue to learn together what it means to be mindful and present.

Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.

- Thich Nhat Hanh

Corey Avellar
Corey Avellar


Drama is off to a dramatic start, and we are having a blast! We began the semester working with feelings: what causes feelings and how do our face and our body show those feelings to others.

We've also been doing lots of confidence-building dramatic play like working in a group to act out an emotion using only one prop or one word. Performing can be a bit scary, and being able to feel safe and secure in our performance space with our fellow actors is crucial!

As the year progresses, we plan to have each class give a performance for our community. To start the year off, our Early Childhood friends will be doing a short piece at the Harvest Celebration. Hope to see you there!

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

Sept 5: Labor Day
Sept 22: Harvest Celebration (3:15 to 4:00)

The lower parking lot is for staff only. Please use the upper parking lot unless you have limited mobility, a sleeping child in your car, or a large item to bring into or out of a building. Thank you!  
Board of Trustees

The next meeting of the Board of Trustees is Thursday, September 15, at 5:30 in the enrichment room. The public is welcome to attend.  


In Gratitude We Thank
Brien Egan, Amy Baldwin, Grace Egan, Raeanna Kilby, and Andrew & Carol Volker for running our childcare program at Floyd YogaJam.

Floyd YogaJam for welcoming us to their event.

Red Rooster Coffee Roaster for providing coffee for our Welcome Back celebration.

David & Agatha Grimsley, Josh Clay, Corey & Izzy Avellar, Ella, Archer, & Karl Berzins, Jeremiah Sarver-Wolf, Greg Sherman, Jason Tueller, and Wendy & Amanda Turner for helping us get the school ready for Fall.

Anahata Community for providing temporary housing for our new teacher.

Rosemary Wyman for donating art supplies.
Virginia Commission for the Arts for awarding us an Artists in Education grant.

Beegle Landscaping & Lawn Care for taking great care of our grassy areas.

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, please use the link below, and a portion of your purchase will go into 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 84005.

Blue Mountain School 

470 Christiansburg Pike, Floyd, Virginia 24091