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What We Learned: Lunas

This year we learned about....

  • Hopes and Dreams
  • Letters to Standing Rock
  • Glossary of Nonviolence
  • Arawak book
  • Columbus Day studies of Arawak people
  • History with Howard Zinn
  • Native Foods
  • Cooking: green chile-corn pudding, maple-whipped sweet potatoes, greens: collards, spinach, water cress, spiced black-eyed peas and sweet potatoes, boiled maple syrup
  • Evaporation
  • Grains
  • Herpetology

  • Species profiles and poster presentations on five-lined skink, spring peeper, green snake, eastern box turtle, green frog, rattlesnake, hellbender
  • Coyote School: tree identification, choosing a tree, tree sketches (leaves, bark, silhouette), stream explorations (salamanders)
  • Berlese funnel
  • Microscopes
  • “The Hermit’s Story” by Rick Bass
  • “Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving
  • Spelling and Vocabulary
  • “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
  • September and October Almanacs
  • Aldo Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac”
  • Nature sketches, nature journaling, and insects from Suzanne Stryk

  • Writing poetry: pantoums, aubades, haikus, rhyming couplets, Herpepoetry, persona poems, shape poems
  • Reading poetry
  • National Poetry Month
  • Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day
  • Rhythm, meter, voice in poetry
  • “The Raven” and Halloween poetry
  • “The Complete Misanthropist”
  • Memorized and performed ballads: “The Elfin Knight,” “Scarborough Fair,” “Bonnie Barbara Allen,” “The Mermaid,” “The Gardener”
  • Students Teaching
  • Films: Metropolis (German Expressionism), The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (German Expressionism), Gandhi (biography film), How Plants Think and Communicate (science and nature), Spirited Away
  • Caligari film drawings
  • Creating self-portraits for heritage project
  • Ornithology from ornithologists from VA Tech
  • Bottom Creek Gorge: saw 200-foot high waterfalls, “The Kettles,” virgin hemlocks
  • Buffalo Mountain: saw the rare plant three-toothed cinquefoil, climbed mountain

  • Octopus Week: poems, videos, article “Deep Intellect”
  • The water cycle
  • Sylvia Earle speech about the oceans
  • Prochlorococcus
  • Our connection to the ocean
  • Making watercolor greeting cards
  • Multiplication tables
  • Sequences
  • Long division
  • Fractions
  • Ekphrasis for the artworks of Mark Rothko, Georgia O’Keeffe, Jackson Pollock, M.C. Escher, Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Henri Rousseau
  • Singing with the Golden Black Koalas and Kari
  • Holding a fundraiser at the Farmer’s Market
  • Making origami cranes and peace crane strings

And we celebrated...

  • Christmas and Winter: snow cones, Rudoloph, popcorn, snacks, Secret Santa
  • Martin Luther King, Jr., Day: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s “I Have a Dream Speech” and writing our own “I Have a Dream” speeches
  • Give Big Day: volunteered, work day, tree hugging
  • Special Person’s Tea: made chocolate-covered strawberries, made tea, served guests, performed “I Like You as You Are"
  • International Women’s Day: “A Day Without a Woman”… (we were in the newspaper!)


What We Learned: Golden-Black Koalas


These are the things we could write books about:

  • Koalas!
  • Double-digit subtraction
  • Monarch butterflies
  • "Said" is dead (using descriptive words)
  • Riddles
  • Paper flowers
  • Homophones
  • Creativity
  • Finger knitting
  • Prayer flags
  • Rube Goldberg machines
  • Polywogs
  • Group art
  • Singing

  • Mother's Day gifts
  • Measurement
  • Selu -- Life on a '30s farm
  • Reading
  • Friendship
  • Making board games
  • Area
  • The Monster Project

  • Tadpoles
  • Character Studies
  • Descriptive words
  • Zoos
  • Baking cookies
  • Dancing

  • Mindfulness
  • Animal adaptation
  • Times tables
  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Letters to Santa
  • Dissecting a Monarch chrysalis
  • Self regulation
  • Harriet Tubman
  • U.S. maps

  • Meditation
  • Animal classification
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • U.S states
  • April the giraffe
  • Writing
  • World maps
  • Poetry
  • Addition
  • Creativity labs
  • Goal setting
  • Raising Monarch butterflies
  • Working together
  • Writing time
  • Reading Aloud
  • Dragon in the Sock Drawer
  • Multiplication
  • Frogs


  • Perimeter
  • Dioramas
  • Vertibrates
  • Experts
  • Valentines
  • Habitats
  • Double-digit addition with carrying
  • Christmas presents
  • Planting flowers
  • Invertibrates
  • Speaking out
  • Handwriting
  • Family heritage
  • Self portraits
  • Special person's tea parties
  • Field trips


What We Learned: Rainbow Jellybean Wormsnakes

This year we learned...

  • A mountain weighs the same as a teaspoon of a neutron star
  • There is ice on Mars
  • To be calm
  • Cheese has protein
  • Seeds fall from flowers
  • My teachers are nice
  • About space

  • Baking soda and vinegar react
  • You can be kind even if you're rough
  • Plants help the earth
  • Autumn is called Fall
  • How to spell
  • When my friends' birthdays are
  • To read

  • To add
  • About different planets
  • To spell
  • BookShares
  • KidScience

  • To get clues from pictures, beginning sounds, and letter chunks as we read
  • Sight words
  • To put finger spaces between words
  • To try using lowercase letters
  • Capital letters go at the beginning of sentences and important words
  • Patterns - color, number, shapes
  • Estimating
  • Haunted House Project
  • Space Shuttle Project

  • Problem solving
  • Counting by 2s, 5s, 10s
  • Finding the "middle point" of numbers
  • Combining numbers
  • Breaking apart numbers
  • Shapes - 2D and 3D
  • Measurement
  • Surveys and graphs
  • Gardening Project



What We Learned: Flying Rainbow Turtles

What we learned this year, in our own words...

  • How to take care of friends
  • How to take care of our classroom
  • How to take care of Haven

  • What Haven eats
  • Not touching Haven’s head
  • Be with friends
  • Eating, playing, dancing
  • How to hug friends

  • How to be patient
  • How to be a dinosaur
  • How to be a scientist
  • Paleontologist!
  • Playing Jurassic World

  • We find animals that we dig we want to keep them, but we have to let them go
  • Jumping on your knees
  • How to put on my shoes
  • Drawing different stuff

  • How to open yogurt with scissors
  • How to give journals to friends
  • How to draw dinosaurs
  • Playing on the playground

  • Climbing trees
  • And smelling flowers
  • How to let go of the Monkey Bars
  • How to Jump from the Monkey Bars
  • Putting books away

  • I can hang upside down and climb all the way to the top of the Monkey bars
  • I went down every step of the ladder because I’m big now
  • How to sit at circle
  • Criss Cross Applesauce
  • To write the names of family
  • Magnet tiles stick together

  • Not to swing wood really fast
  • It’s good to be mindful and calm and peace
  • To be calm and quiet
  • Not to eat so fast

  • Yoga
  • I learned about flowers and birds
  • Learning the colors of the rainbow
  • Rainbow Song
  • Changing different colors



BMS Teachers Practice What They Preach

Written by BMS Early Learning and Forest Kindergarten teacher, Jenni Heartway.

One of the exciting things about being a teacher is that by pursuing our own interests, we are actually being reflective practitioners.  In other words, we are practicing what we preach.   

Encouraging our students to follow their own passions would be hypocritical if we, as lifelong learners, didn't follow our own interests.

Recently, Tammie (BMS Early Childhood co-teacher) and I had the opportunity to hear one of our favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, speak at an event celebrating the 10th anniversary of her book Animal, Vegetable, Mineral.  Both of us adore being in the woods and making friends with creatures and plants there, and we were pleased to learn that we share a favorite author whose writing is infused with interactions with the natural world.

Creating a culture of readers and writers is an essential part of all the classrooms at Blue Mountain School. We do this in casual conversation and through more formal ways like BookShare (an oral book presentation) in my Early Learning class and the Writing Center in Tammie's Early Childhood class. You can see it during Writer's Workshop in the Middle Elementary class, and it was very evident on "Poem in your Pocket Day" when the Upper Elementary students shared poetry with their younger friends.

The culture of reading at BMS is also very obvious in staff interactions. We pass books to each other after school and often share snippets of essays and poems via email. Teachers are writing and publishing books and articles and drafting presentations to share with wider circles. "Living the writerly life," as Lucy Calkins says, is a part of our everyday and will hopefully become part of our students' everyday, as well.

I enjoyed telling our students about my experience meeting Barbara Kingsolver during my turn at BookShare.They were interested to hear about how star struck Tammie and I were when we met our favorite author. It is important for our students to not just hear us encouraging reading at school but also to hear about reading taking place outside of school and about adults getting so much pleasure from wonderful books.


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