All posts by Ms.M

About Ms.M

I am a teacher who wants the world to be in my classroom and my classroom to be the world!

How big?

I’m thinking about size and density. Density is how many people live in a place and how closely they are packed together.

Chicago has almost 3,000,000 people. Mongolia has about the same number of people, but Mongolia is 603,899 square miles, while Chicago is only 233 square miles. Chicago is packing a lot of people into a pretty small area. That’s why it needs so many tall buildings.

It is a little more complicated than that. Of course it is. That’s because close to half of Mongolia’s people live in Ulaanbaatar, its capitol city. In Ulaanbaatar, as many as 4,000 people are living in every square kilometer (Rethinking Ulaanbaatar’s Population) while in the rest of Mongolia you find an average of about 2 people per square kilometer. That means that in most of Mongolia you can travel pretty far before you find other people, but Ulaabaatar looks like a city. A city with half the number of people as live in Chicago is still pretty big!


So it would be pretty easy to describe Mongolia as a country that has lots of people living pretty close together in one city but is pretty empty everywhere else. And, it would be true. So how do we describe the United States?

Alaska has about the same population density as Mongolia–less than 2 people per square mile. Wyoming has only 6 people per square mile, and Montana only 7. Quite a few other states (North and South Dakota, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada…) are also large empty areas.

So here’s the question: What might people in Wyoming have in common with people in the Mongolian countryside? What might people in Ulaanbaatar have in common with those of us in the Chicago area and other big cities?

Who has more in common, people who come from different parts of the same country or people from similar geographical areas?

Here’s a mystery: Are these two pictures from the same country? If you click on the pictures, you’ll find out, but that’s no fun! Think first about what information you would need to figure it out yourself. You can leave a comment with your ideas.

The Upper Midwest

Driving home from the Upper Peninsula in Michigan yesterday, I began to think about the north woods and northern Wisconsin dairy country. My brother lives in a town called Iron River in Michigan, population around 3,000. That makes it a sizable town in the Upper Peninsula, where towns with populations in the hundreds are common. How does this countryside compare to the areas I’ll see in Mongolia in a few days?

Your mystery: What are we doing in the picture below? Hint: We are in the north woods in Michigan. We are doing something that has to do with food.

Comment below if you think you know what we are doing! If you have an idea, describe what you think that the two logs sticking out in front of me are there for and explain why.

Click here for more hints.

My mystery: In the small towns of Michigan and Wisconsin we just about always have bowling, bars, some sort of food store and restaurant, and a library. What about Mongolia? Are there even small towns of this size or would this look big?

I’ll tell you what I find out as I travel!

Who am I?

Mother, grandmother, grandchild of immigrants, fourth-grade teacher, consumer of ice cream and chicken feet, believer in the power of curiosity and mistakes.

I am a former editor, former programmer, and focused on the history of traditional Chinese medical theory as an undergrad and graduate student. That makes me a believer in transformation–if you want to do it, go for it!

To prove that transformation is possible, I’ll be in Mongolia for a month this summer for the Mongolia Field School focusing on the development of alternative energy sources. I never imagined that I would have the chance to delve deeply into this essential corner of development. This web site is the beginning of my work to integrate my learning and adventures into my classroom life.

I was honored to be a member of the National Geographic Educator Community Steering Committee from 2018-2019. Ask me about their learning framework! National Geographic has some rich and beautifully-structured online courses for teachers that are all free, as well as a certification program that completely changed my teaching and an educator network that will connect you to like-minded teachers. Check out their programs and resources if you want to enrich the lives of your students as well as your own.

This year I’ll be an NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellow, which I know will deepen my students’ experience of global education. Thank you also to the Gilder Lehrman Institute for opportunities to study history for several summers and the wonderful people at Mt. Vernon for inviting me to their institute about George Washington this fall.