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BMS Blog

BMS Early Childhood Testimonial

Written by the grandparent of a BMS Early Childhood student in May 2016. (In the 2016-17 school year, Ms. Stefi was joined by co-teacher Tammie Sarver.)

As the school year draws to a close, I wish to thank you and Ms. Stefi Schafer for the wonderful introduction to school given to my grandson. "No child left inside" and the outdoor sign, "...free range children," combined with the biggest playground I have ever seen, perfectly describe this school's understanding and respect for the way children learn. This exceptional school and faculty provide a rich and complete learning environment for the children and families served.

Ms. Stefi's classroom is packed with enticing learning opportunities, a variety of experiences, and touches of Reggio Emilia. She is full of enthusiasm and is positive and respectful in her approach to children. Whenever we speak to our grandson on the phone, we always ask what he did at school that day. He can always recount some exciting adventure and ends with, "I love my school!"  He has grown in all areas of development and found joy at Blue Mountain School this year.

For 17 years I was an Early Childhood Education instructor and supervised a laboratory nursery school and internship program. During this time, I had the opportunity to visit and observe a variety of public and private programs. I couldn't have chosen a more perfect school for my own precious grandchild. Many thanks to all who made his first year such a positive experience.

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Why Do We Like Spooky Things?

Written by BMS Early Learning Teacher, Jenni Heartway.

Ghosts, bats, zombies, vampires…  Our classroom began buzzing with the talk of spooky things once the weather turned cool. 

It also inspired an engaging project in our student-led, emergent curriculum classroom. After we added a few strands of battery powered lights to our building area, the students were very excited to build Haunted Houses and learn more about the building process. We read books, looked at blueprints, took a trip to the library, and created models to further their understanding of the topic. The grand finale for our study was to create a Haunted House for the other students. 

There are a few reasons why some children (and some adults) like spooky things. For some, it is way to engage with things that are exciting without any real danger. It’s fun to pretend and can be enjoyable if you are in a safe environment. When the scary situation is over, people are often left with a feeling of confidence. If it is a shared experience, we connect with those who share it because of the dopamine and oxytocin released. 

Not all children or adults like spooky things, though. With young children, they are often unsure if the situation is real or make believe. Often a negative experience with something scary will form an unpleasant memory that last for a long time. 

Frequently, you will see children play scary games or act out spooky scenarios. For example, it was interesting to listen to the conversations our students had while working on our Haunted House project.  Many knew that the spooky creatures we acted out in our haunted house were not real, but some still had questions. There are stories passed along from cousins or overheard on the playground.  Zombies are some of those creatures they’re not sure about. They talked about what zombies actually do and how they need to alter their movements to really look like a zombie lurching across the classroom. They did the same scenario over and over again, to get it “just right”. 

This repetitive play, and acting out scary things, serves an important function. Replaying the scary event is a way to neutralize the scary things, and make them less scary. As adults, we can become habituated to scary things. We understand what will happen when the creepy music begins to play, and we start to steel our nerves. Children (being young) haven’t had as many experiences with spooky things, so they will often create the repetition themselves. 

There are many great resources out there if you are looking for a “just right” spooky movie or book for your child.  Common Sense Media offers review, alternate suggestions and age ranges for a wide variety of media. 

 

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A Zen Garden for Children - Guest Post

Written by former BMS teacher, Miranda Altice. Originally published on Miranda's blog at The Indigo Teacher.

Zen gardens are amazing. I have witnessed profound concentration and focus from my students of all ages and energy types when used in the peace area of my classrooms. I have one in my home, I have gifted them to close friends with children, and I have never gone without when setting up classrooms for myself or other educators.

 

The word zen actually means meditation. Despite it being categorized in the west as new age, it’s not. In fact, the concept of zen gardens is over a thousand years old and originates in Japan.

Typically, a zen garden (sometimes called a Japanese rock garden) features an enclosed area of sand or fine gravel, large or small rocks to place throughout, and a rake. There may also be other pieces of nature such as moss or trees, sometimes even a creek.

(Photo credit: t3hWIT via Foter.com / CC BY-NC)

The sand or gravel is used to represent the ocean, and the rocks and other natural objects are used to create scenes of sea islands. The rake is used to create beautiful, rhythmic waves or ripples in the metaphoric water, while also giving oneself a profound sense of peace and meditation throughout the process of raking – even if just for awhile. I don’t know about you, but I honestly feel a sense of calm just observing these works of art.

(Photo credit: timtak via Foter.com / CC BY-NC)

I LOVE bringing this concept of active zen to children, especially because the tabletop version is so attractive yet simple…

Children of all ages are oftentimes immediately drawn to this small zen garden even without my having to introduce it. Of course, the lesson must come first. Observation of how to use it and of the respect that it deserves must be viewed by the child before he or she can have their first go. I also like using the zen garden as part of a cultural lesson on Asia and specific countries such as China and Japan.

One of my favorite tabletop zen gardens is from Montessori Services (also known as For Small Hands). The wooden sand tray is a great size for any shelf or table, and it comes with fine white sand, two types of bamboo rakes, small stones, and a neat little booklet of zen meditations. This is the direct link: Japanese Sand Garden.

To see my step-by-step lesson for this project, visit me on my website!

Thank you, Miranda! Check out The Indigo Teacher for more great how-to ideas, book reviews, and other goodies, or visit her on Facebook!

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Friday Forest Kindergarten Starts Sept 9

Originally published in the Floyd Press.

Starting this Fall, Blue Mountain School will offer a Forest Kindergarten class on Friday mornings from 9:00 to noon for children 4 to 6 years old. The class will be led by BMS early childhood co-teacher, Jenni Heartway, who taught at a daily forest kindergarten school in North Carolina before joining BMS four years ago.

“Based on the German model of Waldkindergartens, forest kindergarten programs are becoming more and more popular across the country,” said Ms. Heartway. She continued, “Some people ask me if we really stay outside in rain or snow, and the answer is yes! We will spend the entire morning outdoors in all types of weather.”

The goal of this educational model is to provide young children with the opportunity to explore and engage with the outdoors and others. Following a play-based and emergent learning approach, the program strives to give students a predictable rhythm that allows them to be comfortable and empowered while providing enough flexibility to pursue individual interests. 

During a typical day at BMS Forest Kindergarten, children will arrive and settle in with a few small group activities. After a morning circle, which includes songs, instruments, and a discussion about the day’s plans, the group will pack up and hit the trail. The majority of the day will be spent in the woods surrounding BMS. Shortly before parents arrive, students will gather for a closing circle where friends can reflect on the day’s activities.

The first fall session is from September 9 through October 7, and the second fall session is October 21 through November 18. The cost of the program is $125 for one session, or $200 for both sessions. Registration forms are available on the school’s website or in the school’s office. For more information, call 540-745-4234 or email carol@bluemountainschool.net.

Yoga Jam Childcare Registration Open

Floyd Yoga Jam is right around the corner, and now is a great time to sign up for child care for the festival! While in our care, your children will play games, do crafts, hang out in the creek, visit the Art Village, and check out the kid classes. As the day winds down, we’ll have comfy places to relax and share stories.

Basic Info:

  • For children ages 2 to 12
  • Children must be potty trained
  • Suggested donation is $10 per hour per child
  • Thursday 4:00 to 8:00 pm; Friday through Saturday: 8:00 am to 8:00 pm

To Register:
Spaces are limited, so we encourage you to sign up in advance to reserve your times. If you are interested in making a reservation or if you have questions, email us!

Spaces will be available on site for drop-in care as available.

Family Lounge

But that's not all! We'll also have an area where families can stop in to rest or play. Parents are welcome to have a seat with us while still being able to keep an eye on kids romping in the sandbox or checking out other activities in the Kids Village. We do ask that kids not in our care be supervised while visiting the lounge area.

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