Telluride attracts adventurers and alpine enthusiasts to its majestic peaks and valleys, but throw in wanderlust, career options and a couple of kids, and the needle on the compass of life can jump in all kinds of directions.
Enter 10-year-old Ansel Bartell, a curious scientist, passionate botanist, mycologist and a voracious reader with an interest in animal husbandry. At his home in Placerville, he helps keep 20 chickens, five rabbits and is eager to acquire a slew of quail chicks.
Ansel used money earned from selling eggs — packaged in cartons that read “Just Got Layed at Ansel’s Farm” — to buy seeds that he planted in an organic garden at his grandparents’ house in South Dakota, which are now growing into seedlings that he’ll help harvest in July.
He and his family — 6-year-old brother Louie, mom Sandra and dad Lou — split their time between Telluride and Moab, where Lou is a hot air balloon pilot who owns and operates Canyonlands Ballooning.
After attending Telluride Elementary School from kindergarten through second grade, Ansel was home-schooled last year while the family road-tripped around the country and traveled to Thailand.
“I don’t remember exactly what it’s called, but I saw the four presidents carved into the rock,” Ansel said.
Sandra orchestrated the curriculum, while Ansel selected most of the science topics to study.
“He loves doing science experiments which are all over my kitchen floor every single day,” Sandra said. “It was awesome, challenging, a full-time job to be prepared.”
According to Telluride Superintendent Mike Gass, any student who lives in the district may attend school if they show proof of residency. And while students may come and go for parts of a school year, staff works with families to discuss their commitment to the district.
“We try not to be winter day care and challenge families to commit to longer periods of time when possible,” Gass said. “It used to be a few students per year. Now we have 20-30 students and it can change the climate of the classes and it’s hard to predict. If they miss count day (Oct. 1) we are absorbing them without funding.”
Upon returning to the U.S. last summer, Ansel attended a robotics and coding camp at Stanford University.
“He found his tribe. It’s the first time I saw him really excited and connecting,” Sandra said. “A light was reignited.”
Ansel will return to Stanford’s camp this summer, where he will create videos for his own YouTube channel.
“I’m just trying to find resources that can serve as avenues for him to meet other kids who are like him,” Sandra said.
Ansel returned to Telluride Intermediate School (TIS) this year as a fourth grader. Nancy Scarborough, his fourth-grade teacher, and Megan Wise, his math teacher, describe Ansel as “curious,” “kind-hearted,” “passionate about math and science,” and a “lover of animals.”
Ansel is on an Advanced Learning Plan (ALP) in math, which, while accelerated, Sandra finds “limited.”
In early May, Ansel traveled to Grand Junction to take the SCAT qualifying exam — a computer-based, timed, multiple-choice, quantitative and verbal assessment — on which he scored very well, enabling him to enroll in an online fifth-grade honors math class at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY), beginning July 1.
“This gives him the ability to do very prestigious, online, individualized learning. He has three to six months to complete the class at whatever pace he wants,” Sandra explained. “The goal is to skip a grade in math and have the ability to do that more and more.”
Ansel is comfortable doing schoolwork in the summer.
“Going to school is different than taking online classes,” he said. “It’s not that I want to make something special. I just hope to get better and learn more math.”
TIS Principal Chad Terry said that while few students take such supplementary classes it is common for students to receive additional tutoring.
“This is really a parent’s choice and we will always work to support their decision,” Terry said. “We are very proud of Ansel and this academic accomplishment.”
The family’s plans for next year are unsure. Sandra may home school both children again if they decide to travel to Australia and New Zealand.
“I’d like to say one things about learning,” Ansel said. “When I see something new that could be helpful or interesting, I really want to learn more about it.”
TELLURIDE HIGH SCHOOL
The college acceptance record of this year’s senior class is unequivocally impressive as 69 out of 74 seniors were accepted to college, according to college counselor Karen Lavender. Three of those students are National Merit finalists and one is a National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar, scoring in the top 2 percent of Hispanic students.
One senior will attend Dartmouth, two will attend Yale and one will attend the University of Pennsylvania. One senior will attend University of Chicago, two will attend USC and one will attend Syracuse University School of Architecture.
One senior was admitted to Duke University, but decided to become a Jefferson Scholar — a prestigious honor that comes with a full scholarship — at the University of Virginia.