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BMS Blog

Free Summer Play Group Begins July 6

Now that summer is officially in full swing, Blue Mountain School will be starting a play group to offer area families an opportunity to gather and connect with other families from our community. The group will meet each Monday from 10:00 to noon, on the BMS campus.

Each week, there will be a short, focused activity as well as visits from special guests, including musicians, artists, dancers, and scientists. The first gathering on July 6 will have stories, fingerplays and a small "make and take" craft. There will also be plenty of time for free play and visiting with other families in the school's outdoor play space. The activities are geared for children 6 and under, but families with older children and new and expectant families are also welcome to attend.

Weather permitting, the play group will be gathering outdoors, so please plan on bringing a water bottle, and anything you may need for outdoor play (hats, sunscreen, blankets for picnics). On stormy days, the group will meet in the school's enrichment room.

The group is led by BMS early learning teacher, Jenni Heartway. Jenni has been teaching for fifteen years and has a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Intervention and Family Support.

Support for this program has been provided by the Community Educational Resource Coalition (CERC).


With gratitude, we thank you

Thank you to our community (near and far) for supporting Blue Mountain School this year. We couldn't do what we do without each and every one of you.


101.5 the Valley's Music Place, Abigail Bowen, Abundant Dawn Community, Across the Way, Agatha Grimsely, Alan Kaplan, Alan Wood, Alta Pickford, Amanda Mellowspring, Amazon, Amber Skies, Amolee Tally, Amy Avery, Anahata Education Center, Andrea Goodrum, Andy Anderson, Andy Morikawa, Andy Volker, Angela Kessler, Ann Hammond, Ann Mary Roberts, Appalacian Seeds, Apple Ridge Farm, Arthur Rodriguez, Asa Pickford, Ashleigh Ward, Ashley Morales, Bank of Floyd, Barb Gillespie, Barry Morrison, Beegle Landscaping, Beth Spillman, Beverly Billand, Bill Graefe, Billy Weitzenfeld, Blackwater Loft, Blue Heron Pottery, Blue Ridge Center for Chinese Medicine, Bob Grubel, Bob Sisk, Brad Green, Brecc Avellar, Brien Egan, Bruce Bryan, Buffalo Mountain Kombucha, Camry Harris, Candace Kelly, Carol Volker, Cassie Pierce, Cassie Wilson, Chateau Morrisette, Cheryl Carter, Chris Carter, Chris Luster, Chris Newitt, Chuck Riley, Citizens Telephone Cooperative, Clark Gas & Oil, Cleo Keller, Colleen Redman, Colt Coates, Community Foundation of the NRV, Corey Avellar, Corinne Graefe, Corinne Ovadia, Dana Beegle, David Brown, David Burris, David Grimsley, Daytime Blue Ridge, Deb Tome, Deborah Applequist, Debra Grimes, Dependable Plumbing, Devona Sherwood, Edward Smith, Elaine Martinez, Elisha Reygle, Elizabeth Hammond, Emily Altizer, Emily Williamson, Eric Sharp, Fantasy Lighting and Staging, Fat Bean Farm & Food Co., Floyd Farmers Market, Floyd Fitness, Floyd Fund of the Community Foundation, Floyd Press, Floyd Tire, Floyd Yoga Jam, Georgia Crews, Gibby Waitzkin, Gyroscopic, Hari Berzins, Hope Sharp, Hoppie Vaughan, Hotel Floyd, Howard Wenger, Indian Creek Cabins, Inge Terrill, Jacksonville Center, Jacob Horton, Jagadisha, Jamie Reygle, Jason Anderson, Jayn Avery, Jayne Crouse, Jean Smith, Jenni Heartway, Jessi Howell, Jim Best, Jodi Norton, Jody Franko, Joelle Shenk, John Deighan, John Peluso, Jon Emmett, Josh Arthur, Josh Clay, Jubilee Cohousing Community, Judy MacPhail, June Kelly, Justin Grimes, Justin Miller, Kari Kovick, Kari Zoller, Karl Berzins, Katie Cesario, Katie Phillips, Katie Wells, Kim Kessler, Kristan Morrison, Kristopher Bower, Kristy Collins, Kroger, Lake Smith, Laura Polant, Lester Gillespie, Lilly Miller, Linda Johnson, Linda Riley, Lindsay Newsome, Lora Leigh Giessler, Loraine Coker, Lore Deighan, Luke Staengl, Lyle Martens, Madeline Emmett, Marjory Wells, Martha Sullivan, Martha Taylor, Mary Peluso, Medina, Michael Jones, Michael Kovick, Michael Maslaney, Mickey G's Bistro and Pizzeria, Mike Bishop, Mitchell Berliner, Monkey Business, Nancy Parrish, New Mountain Mercantile, noteBooks, Parkway Brewing Company, Patricia Shoemaker, Patricia Stroud, Paul Sullivan, Penny Lane, Perrin Heartway, Philip Shoemaker, Phoenix Hardwoods, Pine Tavern, Pine Tavern Lodge, Plenty!, Rachel Terrill, Ralph Brown, Randall Wells, Rebecca Jackson, Rebekah Hicks, Red Rooster, Reed Embrey, Renate Smith, Republic of Floyd, Rick Parrish, RIFF, Rob Yard, Robert Coker, Sarah McCarthy, Satya Rotella-McCarthy, Scott Perry, Scott Pierce, Shamama, Shannon Atkins, Shawna Williams, Shayne Dwyer, Shayne Goodrum, Shelly Fox-Emmett, Slaughters' Supermarket, Soraya Johnson, Southern Print and Copy, Spoon Fight, Squid, Starroot, Stefi Schafer, Stephen Wallace, Strengthening Our Systems, Sue Avellar, Susan Heath, Susan Morikawa, Swede McBroom, Tad Dickens, Target, Tay Keong Tan, Terrie Wood, Thai This Food Truck, The Breeze, The Family of Summit Roberts, The Fat Catz, The Local Zone, The Natural Woodworking Company, Thrivent Financial, Tim Da'Mes, Time is Art, Tom Franko, Toni Lamberti, Toshiba, Tree Gigante, Trish Reynolds,, Under the Sun Tattoo, Venture Out Creative Agency, Virginia Klara, Wanda Combs, Warren Lapine, WDBJ7, Wenona Scott, Wesley Wenger, Wilder Publications, Will Griffin, Wills Ridge Supply, Winter Hart, Winter Sun, Woodsong Instruments, Zion Lutheran Church, and of course, all our students and staff and their families!

Celebrating Life at BMS

This article originally appeared in the Floyd Press on May 7, 2015.

At the end of April, Blue Mountain School hosted several activities that put into practice one of the school’s foundational values: a reverence for life. Celebrated in the same week, Earth Day and Arbor Day are natural occasions for students, staff, and other community members to come together and talk about their connection to the Earth and to trees: two vital ingredients for our own survival.

“But for many adults, talking about their connection to nature can often lack context and feel meaningless,” said school director Shelly Fox-Emmett. “Many times, adults long to rediscover the magical connection they felt to nature as children that was then lost as they grew up. For some, that connection has been replaced by a sense of hopelessness in the face of the vast environmental concerns that we have only just begun to realize. I have found, though, that one of the best remedies for finding that magic again is to spend more time with children!”

Every year on Earth Day, BMS invites the entire school community to join staff and students for a few hours of outdoor work. Before the work began, however, all gathered in a circle to talk about why thinking about the Earth on Earth Day is important. Some spoke about how we need soil to grow food and some mentioned saving animals from going extinct. One child simply stated, “It’s where we live.” “I loved hearing from the students,” said Fox-Emmett, “the clarity of their answers was inspiring and, as always, got right to the heart of the matter.”

This year the focus of the Earth Day work day was on making the playground safer and more fun while at the same time reusing materials that were headed for disposal. Led by parent volunteers and staff, students helped build a winding serpent from old, worn-out tires while another volunteer revitalized a soccer goal that had seen better days. Older students worked with younger ones to find new homes for donated plants in the school gardens, and bamboo culled from overgrown patches was shaped into a beautiful fence. “It was such a great time for the kids – even the big ones like me!” said volunteer Josh Clay.

Two days later, Arbor Day provided a perfect opportunity for creative movement teacher, Katie Wells, to visit. Wells, who is currently on maternity leave from BMS, led students, staff, and parents in several exercises intended to help them imagine what it would be like to be a tree, rooted deeply in the ground, branches reaching up, and watching everything else changing around you.

After spending time being trees, it was time to hug trees. As a contemplative progressive school, BMS often draws inspiration from various wisdom traditions, so staff chose to take guidance for this activity from Zen master Thich Nhat Hahn: “When we hug, our hearts connect and we know that we are not separate beings… We may practice hugging meditation with a friend, our daughter, our father, our partner or even with a tree.” Following Nhat Hahn’s suggestions, attendees were invited to enter the woods, find a tree, bow in acknowledgement, hug the tree, and then bow again in gratitude.

Back in the circle, those who wished to share spoke about what it felt like to hug a tree intentionally. One student, Reuben Miller, said, “I chose a thorny tree to hug because even thorny trees need hugs, and when I was hugging it, it didn’t feel thorny at all, it was just a tree.” Other people said they felt the tree’s energy in the form of wind or movement, and some said that they felt their trees hug them back. “Blue Mountain is often referred to as a hippie school,” said office manager Carol Volker, “so you’d think we’d know all about hugging trees, but we learned a thing or two today.”

Blue Mountain School is a contemplative progressive educational community for children in preschool through seventh grade. Enrollment is open for summer camps and for the 2015-16 school year. For more information, please call 540-745-4234 or visit

Artistic Duo Team Up for Summer Camp

What's better than Blue Mountain School's Big, Messy Art Camp with BMS art teacher, Lore Deighan?

Why, Blue Mountain School's Big, Messy Art Camp with BMS art teacher, Lore Deighan, AND Floyd County Public School's art teacher, Aven Tanner, of course!

Lore Deighan is a native Floyd County artist who has been teaching art at Blue Mountain School for the past four years. Lore is also a familiar face at the Jacksonville Center for the Arts, where she currently serves on the Gallery Committee. Lore's favorite saying is, "You can' do art wrong!"


Her neighbor and friend, Aven Tanner, has taught art in the Floyd County public school for 10 years, and has worked at each of the county's four elementary schools at different times. When asked about why she became an art teacher, Aven replied, "Everyone knows the quote 'Do what you love'…well, that's what teaching art is to me. I get to do what I love, watching kids do what they love…creating, playing and working together. 

Lore and Aven share a similar style of teaching art, encouraging children to be creative, inquisitive and "free" with their art making.  They both believe that every child has the potential to be creative if given the space to feel confident to do so. At Big, Messy Art camp, kids will have the chance to feel creative in a fun, hands-on way.  Projects will be both individual and group centered as campers are encouraged to explore a wide range of materials. 


Join us June 15 through 19 as this dynamic duo takes students on the biggest, messiest, jam-packed, art-filled, ride of the summer!


For more information about Blue Mountain School's summer camps, visit our camp page.


BMS a "Wonderland of kindred spirits" for former teacher

A short essay dedicated to Blue Mountain School, written by former BMS teacher, Miranda Altice.

Cesar Pavese said, “You do not remember days, you remember moments.” As humans - as animals - we are constantly aware of our remembrances, and sometimes unintentionally fail to change the perception of our memories narrowed down to single moments. But, on the other hand, what if those memories are so numerous - and so continuously impactful - at a place, time, and with certain kindred spirits that moments turn into days? I think this may be a true feeling of a marriage of emotions - like when you cry because you are so happy - or when your heart hurts at the thought of something so beautiful. This is all, of course, up for debate (and if I know many people in Floyd, debate will happen!). These thoughts and emotions arise every….single…..time I think of my days at Blue Mountain School.

I left Blue Mountain School and Floyd, not for greener pastures, but for the sand and salty ocean air that my sweet little family requires. Even though a big part of myself is giddy and relieved at living a few short minutes to one of the most beautiful and wild-looking beaches, there is another big part of me that is still mourning the loss of these kindred spirits and the overall surrounding energy I felt daily at Blue Mountain.

Of the almost ten years I have been teaching in various schools in the South, I have never had the pleasure of being a part of something so fulfilling, cutting edge, and “magical.” How can a place be so “cutting edge” while still so rooted in an earth-based, natural heritage that SO MUCH of our culture has lost? What is the ultimate secret in Blue Mountain’s ability to maintain this beautiful balance?

When we moved last August and I started my new teaching position at a public charter Montessori school, this question continuously nagged at me. Partly because I missed - and still miss - the community, kinsmanship, and light-hearted intelligence, but also because of the close relations to nature and openness to the contemplative-progressive lifestyle.

I was heartsick for Blue Mountain School when I had to give a spontaneous lesson to a group of nine year olds that, “No, this tree is a living thing, unlike a rock or a car or a video game.” (I have the sinking feeling that my heartfelt lesson to this group of kids, who may have never really gotten dirty in their lives, probably went unnoticed). This was my introduction to coming back into a world that has mostly lost itself. And meanwhile, there are few places left like Blue Mountain School, that hold on to the meanings of being alive - community, friendship, love, connectedness, imagination, and most importantly respect - for family, nature, classmates, co-workers, community members, and especially oneself.

This Wonderland of kindred spirits exists. It is real. And it was created in the early 1980s with a similar profound base as it still practices. Now that I have stepped back through the looking glass into a world I now experience as “After Blue Mountain,” nothing holds a candle to the marriage of emotions I feel when I think about my time working there as an elementary teacher. My heart hurts when I picture my coworkers and my students.

I remember the moments clearly. But those moments run into days and created the teacher and person I am now. I feel I will never find a place like Blue Mountain again - the staff, the students, the families, the nature surrounding, the vision, the mission, and the celebrations (oh, the potlucks!). If one is more drawn to the feeling of the moment, a quote I heard at the end of the movie Boyhood made me want to stand up and applause, “You know how everyone’s always trying to seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kinda thinking it’s the other way around… the moment seizes us.”

The plethora of moments and experiences I had - the ones that held me suspended beyond the Looking Glass in a place that is fantasized about for children to learn and grow as the WHOLE child, and is as real as the tree that was being so abused on a playground in Suburbia - seized me…. and I am grateful. If I cannot find my Blue Mountain School along the coastline, my only chance of surviving in any career is to create it.




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