This article originally appeared in the Indigo Messenger in November 2015. Written by Early Childhood teacher Stefi Schafer.
We have been talking about the change of the seasons for a while now. The changes in weather and temperatures as well as what we can see outside. We decided to take a walk to look for signs of Fall.
Before we set out we collaborated to make a check list of signs of fall: Red, yellow, brown, green and orange leaves, a naked branch, pinecones, wind, acorns, nuts and dead flowers.
We found everything. Mostly we found leaves, a lot of leaves.
I placed a selection of leaves on the art table, we discussed what colors we would need to make a fall painting, and we settled on a sky blue background.
Each child chose how they wanted to represent Fall. Some focused on individual leaves, tracing or copying, some painted a tree with leaves, some painted a leaf pile. Some students selected free-form paintings using the colors in layers and mixing them.
This article originally appeared in the Indigo Messenger in May 2016. Written by Early Learning Co-Teacher Jenni Heartway.
One of our favorite places to visit this time of year is Spring Valley. It's one of the first places that we notice signs of spring on our campus.
Once we arrive, the students slowly make their way down the creek...stopping to explore the nooks and crannies carved out by the water. On our last visit we were rewarded with many insects, lots of algae, spring ephemerals, a newt, and an animal skeleton that the students identified as a racoon.
Each discovery led to interesting discussions and wonders:
"Is that insect on our field guide?"
"What do raccoons eat?"
"Is this much algae good for fish?"
Some questions we were able to answer, and some we were not.
Allowing students the space to wonder and look for answers on their own nurtures their innate curiosity. Rachel Carson, author of The Silent Spring and The Sense of Wonder, once said, "If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in."
We are so fortunate to live in a community where our children have the opportunity to be supported by many adults who value these important outdoor experiences, whether at home, during recess, on a field trip, or in the classroom.
This article originally appeared in the Indigo Messenger in March 2017. Written by Yoga and PE teacher Sarah McCarthy.
Each new year is a surprise to us
We find that we have virtually forgotten the note of each bird.
And when we hear it again, it is remembered like a dream,
reminding us of a previous state of existence...
The voice of nature is always encouraging.
-Henry David Thoreau
As we move into the last months of school, we as teachers are focusing on the school's third value, Reverence for Life: "We promote environmental stewardship by participating in nature-based activities and by exploring the connection between all living things, to establish a genuine sense of wonder and responsibility in our students."
I have been re-reading Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. What a gem of a book. This book talks about why kids benefit tremendously from being nurtured by nature. Louv talks specifically about the importance of wild, natural places in childrens' lives. While it is good to have more parks and soccer fields in our towns, it is the natural woods and wild places that kids gravitate to. It is where they learn most. In a wild ecosystem, one can really see the interactions between living things and perhaps just be in wonder and amazement. For so many of us in Floyd, we know what a treasure our wild lands are.
Here at Blue Mountain School we have such sweet land for kids to be a part of and connect to. What a tremendous thing! Not only can they explore the woods and open land as part of imaginative play, but we as teachers use this land to teach and just be. Every Tuesday when I teach, before the early learners come to class, I hear kids coming out of the woods -- rain, snow or sun. Their Outdoor Explore time is an important part of their class. Each class at BMS has their own way of being with our land and exploring.
Yoga means "union." We talk about this in a few different ways in our classes. One way is to reflect on how we are truly part of and connected to this wider earth. We depend on everything around us to survive. We practice this in yoga by bowing in the beginning and end of class every day. Bowing humbles us and helps us remember we really are grateful for all of life that sustains us. We also do Savasana; we lay down and relax our muscles and mind in quiet. It is another moment to feel our union with all of life.
Doing yoga outside has a magic of its own. As we do poses, the sun is out, the air is in on our skin, and we hear the marvelous sounds around us. Yay for spring!
We took a nature walk in all the classes a few weeks ago. It was the very beginning of spring so we did something a bit different. Small groups did a nature treasure hunt and found different signs and parts of nature. I also asked each person to find something they have never seen before in nature. This trains our senses to go beyond. We found mycorizia, hairy predator scat, buds on trees, an interesting beetle, and other neat things.
The more time I spend at BMS, the more I treasure our relationship with the land around us and how that infuses into what we teach. I see how our staff connects with the natural world in their own ways and how they each have special ways of sharing that with students.
In this day with so much technology around us, we are growing farther away from the natural and gentle rhythms of life as a society. Sometimes I think the greatest thing we can give our kids is a reconnection with the natural world around us. We are doing that at BMS.
Join us on April 26 to Give Big NRV!
At Blue Mountain School, we are cultivating capable community members who possess the courage and wisdom to lead fulfilling lives! Studies are now showing what many of us already knew intuitively: One aspect of a fulfilling life involves experiencing awe, and fostering a connection with the natural world is one way to inspire awe in children.
At BMS, we are grateful for our 9 acres of woods and play space, and we make use of the woods, trails, stream, and field each day. These wild places invoke the magic and wonder of childhood, and they are where our children learn to steward the earth and explore the connection between all living things.
Give Big today and help us share the power of Outdoor Education with our community!
(Ask us about how you can get 65% of your donation back at tax time!)
How Will Your Donation Help the New River Valley?
At Blue Mountain School, both our outdoor learning spaces and our amazing staff play a fundamental role in providing nature-rich experiences for children throughout the New River Valley. Each year we offer programs that open our doors and our woods to over 200 children!
Your donation on Give Big NRV Day will allow us to improve our outdoor spaces, provide continuing development opportunities for our staff, and grow our programs so that more children can experience the awe of the great outdoors.
What Nature Programs Does BMS Offer?
In addition to our regular school classes, all of which are interwoven with outdoor experiences, we offer several opportunities for children to explore nature at Blue Mountain School.
The Forest Family Program began in September 2016 with our first session of Forest Kindergarten. Forest K is based on the German model of Waldkindergartens and provides children aged 4 to 8 with the opportunity to explore and engage with the outdoors and with others.
In Fall 2017, we hope to grow the Forest Family to include two new programs: Forest Friends (ages 1.5 to 3) and Forest Explorers (ages 7 to 12). The addition of these groups will provide a full childhood of outdoor education for NRV kids!
In addition, each summer BMS welcomes nearly 150 campers from the New River Valley and beyond. While all our camps have a focus on outdoor experiences, we offer two that immerse children in the woods for a large part of the day. Forest Kindergarten Camp is new this year, and our Forest Forts Camp has been attracting kids back again and again for a number of years now.
If you'd like to read more about outdoor learning spaces and the value of children spending time in nature, check out these links:
How to Protect Kids from Nature Deficit Disorder
This is Your Brain on Nature
Connecting with Nature Boosts Creativity and Health
What Happens When We Reconnect with Nature
American Forest Kindergarten Assocation
Virginia's No Child Left Inside Coalition
What better way to wrap up the summer than with another camp classic: Big, Messy Art Camp!
New this year, our oldest group of campers will work with BMS Art Teacher, Lore Deighan, on some special projects that will explore more advanced art concepts and methods.
As we like to say here at BMS: "It's gonna be big, and it's gonna be messy! It's like no other art camp around!"
Big, Messy Art led by Lore Deighan with Lora Leigh Geissler & Tammie Sarver - July 17 to 21
Have you ever had the urge to make as big of a mess as you possibly can? At this summer camp, making a mess is not only allowed, but expected! We will play with paper mache, mud, paint...anything that makes a mess, and each group, Littles, Middles, and Elders, will engage in activities designed for their interests and abilities. Dress for messiness because we guarantee that no one will leave this camp clean! (Ages 3 to 12)
Blue Mountain School Summer Camps are $155 per week for the first child in a family and $140 for each additional child in a family. To register, email us or drop by the office during school hours (Monday-Thursday 9:00 to 4:00).
If you've never been to Big, Messy Art Camp before, check out the video below to see campers in action!
Use our link below and a portion of your sale will go towards the school!
If you shop at Kroger, you can help BMS earn money for its scholarship fund. Our Community Rewards number is 84005.