After 40 years, teacher still rocks


Shaftsbury - After a 40-year teaching career, including at Mount Anthony Union High School, Ken Carlsen is still making his mark on local students.

Carlsen taught earth science at MAUHS, but now he travels between the elementary schools of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union with his large collection of rocks and minerals, giving the students a real opportunity for hands-on learning.

On Friday he visited Shaftsbury Elementary School, and was joined by another educator, recently retired Molly Stark School fifth grade teacher Tim McFadden, who assisted with the presentation.

During the presentation, students learned about the three basic types of rocks - sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous -, the difference between rocks and minerals, and even participated in a lab where they tested and ranked minerals based on hardness.

Carlsen passed around several specimens from his collection, including a large chunk of dried lava, which students found to be surprisingly light. "I took a group of my students many years ago, including your principal, Mr. Johnson, to Iceland," said Carlsen. He said his students had been shocked at the how large the rocks they could lift were.

With another of the rocks he passed around, he encouraged students to rub it on their faces to feel its smoothness, before telling them, "This is a fossil, it is 65 million years old. Do you know what you just touched? Dinosaur poop!" As the students panicked, he assured them that anything organic in the fossil had been replaced by quartz long ago.

The experiment involved organizing eight specimens - talc, gypsum, calcite, apatite, orthoclase feldspar, quartz, topaz, and corundum. The minerals were not labeled, and students needed to determine which was which by rubbing the rocks against each other to see which was harder. As the students worked, Carlsen and McFadden circled the room, giving advice.

Rocks and minerals were also for sale in the main lobby of the school throughout the day on Friday, with a portion of the proceeds going to supporting school events, said Carlsen. He said that he is scheduled to visit other schools in the coming weeks, including the Village School of North Bennington this Tuesday and Monument Elementary this Wednesday.

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB


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