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BMS Blog

Welcoming Fall

This article first appeared in The Floyd Press on October 13, 2015.

Every year, the Blue Mountain School community gathers to welcome the arrival of Fall. This year the celebration began with a discussion circle, where the meaning and myths of the Equinox were shared. The circle gathered around a mandala the students made earlier in the day with art teacher, Lore Deighan, using natural materials.

Next, music teacher, Kari Kovick, led the group in several songs. The first was “The Apple Picker’s Reel,” by Larry Hanks. For the second song, “Red, Yellow, Orange, Brown,” by Patti Gille, Kari brought along fall-colored scarves for everyone to share. The younger students had practiced this song in their music classes with Kari, and they helped lead their older classmates and friends with the words and accompanying movements.

After the songs, it was time for some traditional autumnal snacks: apple cider and popcorn. Agatha Grimsley and her father, Alan Kaplan, set up their apple press to turn the bushels of fruit brought by students and other community members into fresh cider. Several students and a few parents helped turn the crank on the press, which was run completely on human power.

Celebrating the rhythm of the seasons and honoring community traditions is important at Blue Mountain School. Events are held monthly and most are open to the public. The next event on the calendar is the Halloween Celebration and Open House on Friday, October 30 at 1:00.

For more photos from this event, check out our Facebook Group.


The Importance of Outdoor Play

Written by Early Learning Co-Teacher, Jenni Heartway

One of my favorite things about Blue Mountain is our commitment to providing children with time outdoors. In this age of high stakes testing, it is comforting to know that our little space in the woods is not only offering students with hands-on learning experiences and choices in the classroom, but that we’re also holding our time with nature sacred. We view it as inextricable from learning. The two dovetail so nicely, we wonder how other schools may manage with only 20 minutes outside each day.

The gains made by our students during Outdoor Explore and Recess are not only physical. We’ve watched students learn social skills such as sharing, responsibility, and valuable problem solving skills. Students on our playground experiment with all branches of science in the way they manipulate the materials they find (physics, chemistry and natural science), and math is essential when you’re dividing into equal groups for a game or adding scoops of sand to a “soup” mixture.

The students develop stories and games in an oral tradition that are passed from class to class (Stick Mountain, the swing at Jubilee, Silverberry Hideout). Look at the forts they've created in the woods, and it is easy to visualize history and world cultures being shared between students. Art is also present in the way students sculpt cakes of mud or create fairy houses. Writing can be as simple as scratching letters in the sand or as elaborate as creating a closed sign for a restaurant. 

You can see that our students are doing so much more than “just playing” when they are spending time outside at Blue Mountain!

A Study of Friendship

From the Early Learning Class...

Every two weeks, Jenni and Hari send a newsletter to their class families highlighting the work students have been doing. Families are also kept up to date on class happenings with short emails, notes displayed outside class, and chats with teachers at drop off and pick up. Here is the first class newsletter for the year.

Dear Families,

Welcome to our year together! The students are ready to dive into their first project of the year. Here are some details about our study of Friendship.

We started the school year focused on Beginnings and working together to become familiar with the environment, the rhythm of our day, our school, and each other.

As these new friendships are forming and old friendships are transforming, the idea of how people fit together as friends has become quite a topic of discussion and exploration. Friendships are very important to 5 and 6 year olds as they sort out their broadening understanding of the world and their place in it. Friendships also offer many natural challenges requiring listening, negotiation, understanding, sharing, taking turns, and reaching beyond one’s own interests. Those challenges provide wonderful opportunities for exploration, inquiry, discussion, and study.

In our child-guided, project-based curriculum, we take our cues from the children as we select and plan studies. We have observed the children in their moments of excitement, wonder, and challenge around the topic of Friendship. We knew that Friendship would be a great topic of study when we observed similar events and ideas recurring day after day for many different children: valiant and caring attempts by children to use language to resolve conflicts, spontaneous gathering discussions about friendship, conversations about who will sit next to whom at lunchtime, deep interest in picture books about friends, and passionate declarations of “You’re my very best friend!” made while washing hands, on the swings, in the sandbox, in the book nook....The group was sending a sure signal that Friendship was on everyone’s minds.

We always begin our studies by discussing what we know, and what we’d like to find out. This helps the children frame their ideas and develop the concept of establishing prior knowledge, posing questions, and conducting research. It also allows them to be the ones defining and pursuing their own ideas and learning—such essential skills for life-long learners! During our gathering time next week, we will be generating questions around the topic of friends and friendships.

We will be exploring answers to these questions through work with puppets and role playing; reading and discussing stories about friendship; working with new partners; getting to know each other through shared art work; body games and group movement activities; exploring friendships in the animal and plant worlds during Outdoor Explore; writing and drawing books about friends; graphing information about friends; and many other investigations that the children will create to help them find answers to their questions. As the work in this study evolves, we will keep you posted on where the children are going and how their explorations and plans grow and change.

In the meantime, we’d like you to help at home by co-authoring a book about your child with your child. This will help all of us all get to know each other better and provide an excellent opportunity for early reading and writing. Talking with your child at home about friendship, reading picture books about friends, and telling your child stories about your friends when you were little are all lovely ways to keep the home/school connection strong.



It's Okay to Be Sad Sometimes

From the Early Childhood Class...

At the end of nearly every class day, families in our Early Childhood class receive an email to let them know what their children have been up to. Parents can use these Daily Notes as a guide to help them think of a few questions to ask their child about their day. Here is what Stefi wrote yesterday:

In typical Monday fashion, it rained, and one of our friends was sad. He did NOT want to stay in school...

We took this as an opportunity to talk about feelings. Some friends remembered when they were little and missed their mommy. This took us to a conversation about scary dreams and then about good dreams and flying tigers....

Today I observed empathy as friends gave tissues and offered kind words, and I listened as young children acknowledged their feelings and worked through them....

For circle we read and listened to Pete the Cat, a feline with a positive attitude.

The lesson? "It's okay to be sad sometimes, and then you'll be okay."

(In the photos below, this friend had just told Stefi he was sad, and then he began drawing sad faces on the mat. After he got his unhappy feelings out in his drawings, he stood up and declared that he was okay and ready to be at school.)




What We Learned in Enrichment Class

What we learned about in Enrichment Class….

The Fellowship


  • Nature mandalas
  • Sacred geometry
  • Personal colleges
  • Character drawings
  • Mural
  • Sketchbooks
  • Spray paint art

Yoga & P.E.

  • Army dodge ball
  • Spy game
  • Migration story projects
  • Memory game
  • Yoga freeze tag
  • Cooperative elbow tag
  • Zombie tag
  • Sun salutations
  • Savasana (relaxation)
  • Check ins
  • Teambuilding activities
  • Outside yoga
  • Yoga poses
  • Stories and books
  • Breathing
  • Partner yoga

Contemplative Studies

  • If one person in class is focused, we all could be focused. If one person in class is not focused, we could all not be focused.
  • Chi Kung
  • I am mindful more than I thought I was
  • A lot about meditation
  • Paying attention
  • To become friends with my classmates
  • The definition of “perfect”
  • My logic has no logic
  • I was more in the present than I thought I was

Mad Scientists


  • Clay
  • Yearbook pages
  • Paper mache bowls
  • Mandala drawings
  • Nature mandalas
  • Sacred geometry
  • Drawings for the Jacksonville Center
  • Sketchbooks
  • Stepping stones
  • Help with trailer mural

Yoga & P.E.

  • Yoga poses: down dog, pigeon, tree, eagle, child pose, wheel, bridge, butterfly, owl and others
  • Kid led games
  • Yoga stories with poses
  • Savasana (relaxation)
  • Hidden yoga – card game and sharing
  • How to calm our emotions
  • How to express how we feel
  • Migration animal projects
  • Dodge ball
  • Elbow tag
  • Sun salutations
  • Check ins

Contemplative Studies

  • If you try real hard to meditate, it probably won’t work
  • How to meditate better and be more mindful
    • Don’t think of anything
    • Don’t let anyone distract you
  • Chi Kung / 8 pieces of brocade
  • Focus without letting people moving around distract you
  • Wabi Sabi / Haiku (doesn’t have to be 5-7-5)
  • You can do multiple things to be mindful
  • Whatever you do… “don’t think of a monkey”
  • How to find mindful moments in everyday life
  • I benefited from recognizing mindful moments even though I was not mindful to write them down

Hatching Playful Dragons


  • Clay sculptures
  • Mandalas
  • Nature mandalas
  • Drew birds
  • Drew reptiles and amphibians
  • Stick sculpture
  • Painted shells
  • Plaster cast
  • Sketchbooks
  • Mixing paint to make fall colors

Yoga and P.E.

  • Yoga poses
  • Bowing
  • Check ins
  • Savasana (relaxation)
  • Team games
  • Elbow tag
  • Parachute fun outside
  • Breathing
  • Garbage truck meditation
  • Feelings
  • Reading books
  • Telling stories (Purple Fairy)
  • Handstands

Contemplative Studies

  • How to be calm
  • To sit very still and be quiet
  • To be mindful
  • To be focused, stay still, and be calm
  • The “Ben” story
  • Nothingness

Invisible Magic Horses


  • Stepping stones
  • “Grew a garden”
  • Clay
  • Window hangings with sticks and leaves
  • Leaf rubbings
  • Drawing
  • Sketchbooks
  • Nature mandala
  • Mandala drawings
  • Painting
  • Circle prints

Yoga and P.E.

  • Breathing
  • Yoga poses
  • Stories (Purple Fairy)
  • Parachute fun outside
  • Musical yoga mats game
  • Breathing buddies
  • Partner yoga
  • Obstacle courses
  • Turtle game

Contemplative Studies

  • Be kind
  • Be happy…no reason to be nervous
  • Feelings are free
  • To close my eyes during meditation to avoid distraction
  • Mindfulness
  • The big “aaah!”s
  • To share
  • When breathing in…stay with breathing in. When breathing out…stay with breathing out.




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