A Legacy Worldview – Teach The Children
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This blog essay is the sixth in a six part series that is based on the premise that:

  • A crisis within the human population could destroy our race by the year 2050.
  • We humans are engaging in a behavior of infinite growth on a planet with limited resources.
  • Our children and their children have the power to save the human race from destruction.

The text of these blog essays is the draft version of my new book entitled “Lessons From Our Web Of Life – Empowering Stewards of Nature” which will be offered in early 2018 as a free PDF version. Here is a description of the book. The book will contain case studies and lesson sets that are not included in this blog essay series. You are strongly encouraged to use the comment space in this essay to offer your comments, opinions, and corrections. You will be acknowledged in the book. 

The six blog essays are:

How do those of us who care and are aware face the grim dilemma of an unsustainable human population that is described in the first essay of this essay series? Most certainly, conservation through obedience doesn’t work. Rules and policemen don’t teach anything. Laws, rules, and regulations can easily be ignored if one avoids individuals in law enforcement. The most likely and effective process is through education. However, the current attitudes of the adult human population limits receptiveness to the idea of environmental education. Indeed, we have lost a large part of the adult population who will continue to live in unsustainable ways.


Nonetheless, education builds a consciousness. It builds a capability to make good environmental decisions that are available to everyone — not just scientists and administrators. The challenge of environmental education is to build a legacy of conservation minded people. Whether you are an educator or a student, your challenge is to pass on this legacy through your knowledge and your energy. Your job is to build a network of environmentally aware people through your example. In doing so, you will help build a future with people who care for the home in which we humans must live.  That is what this essay series is all about.

Many people and groups are beginning to realize that building this new environmental awareness can happen only in our children and in our youth. Young people are not yet culturally conditioned to a way of life where Nature is ignored. Young people are open to new ideas and new world views.  The fresh minds of young people respond to fact and learn through awe and wonder. These young minds have the potential of becoming our next generation of environmental leaders.


Energy flow conduits in Nature are much more than the food webs and energy flow that we see in Nature. It is the connections between human beings where a conscience based on knowledge and conservation awareness is passed on to other human beings. Education through legacy building is the best and most empowering conservation strategy that is available to we humans. Education builds a consciousness — a capability to make good ecological decisions by everyone. — not just scientists and administrators.


What message do we present to our youth? The message must start with the fundamental premise that nothing on this earth exists solely on its own. Everything is dependent upon everything else. Because of the vital importance of Nature’s energy flow and the conduits that transport and transform this energy,  the basic theme of any environmental education program needs to be built on the premise that everything in Nature is connected. Understanding this fundamental idea of interdependence in Nature is a crucial first step to effectively conserving our planet. 

Therefore, the basic objective of environmental education is to build a “connectivity consciousness” in our youth in hopes that our youth will build a legacy that influences the generations that follow them. This makes the relationships between generations an important connection in Nature. This idea of generation connectivity amplifies the huge importance and responsibility of environmental educators.


Through hands-on, place-based education that emphasizes inquiry-learning, we can develop a consciousness for the interdependency of all forms of Nature. A consciousness that recognizes and accepts the fact that, for Nature at all levels to exist, everything in our universe, in our world, and in our local communities is connected. We can build this consciousness in our youth by offering ways to identify, understand, and preserve these vital connections as well as the ecosystems that embrace these connections.


In a profound message called “Teach The Children”, poet Mary Oliver  says:


“Teach the children. We don’t matter so much, but the children do. Show them daisies and the pale hepatica. Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen. The lives of the blue sailors, mallow, sunbursts, the moccasin flowers. And the frisky ones—inkberry, lamb’s-quarters, blueberries. And the aromatic ones—rosemary, oregano. Give them peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school. Give them the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit. Stand them in the stream, head them upstream, rejoice as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms. Attention is the beginning of devotion.”


Children and youth up to and including age 25 represent 50% of the human population. If teaching methods make a subject interesting for each age group, children and youth are receptive to the awe and wonder of Nature. They will participate in activities which will reinforce the learning process.  They love to look, touch, feel, smell, and taste.

In turn, children and youth can influence adult members in their family. Children and youth can also influence their next generation. The idea of legacy education is a powerful conservation tool over the years. Let us assume that you have an environmental education class of 20 young minds. Let us also assume that you are able to significantly influence two (10%)  of these people to a point that they are able to eventually influence two other young people to a point of action. And so on. Over ten years,1,024 people will be strongly influenced by your singular influence in one year. If you do this for 10 years, your effort will result in 102,400 new stewards of Nature. If your success rate is 15% instead of 10%, your legacy from a 10 year effort will be 590,490 people. If your success rate is 20%, your legacy from a 10 year program will be 10,485,760 people. If there are 10,000 environmental educators providing significant influence to only 10% of their students, their legacy will be 10,240,000 young people becoming significant stewards of Nature. This very basic mathematical exercise demonstrates the significance and power of legacy building. By empowering a small group of students each year, one is able to eventually create a huge cadre of influential stewards of Nature well in advance of the projected 50 year date when it is thought that the human race will be in mortal danger of collapse due to its own ignorance.


Multiplying and spreading your knowledge and example to others is a powerful conservation strategy. By educating locally, but thinking globally, you become the initiator of a network of social energy that can grow and save Nature from human destruction. Your influence now can help build a future positive equilibrium in, at least, some corners of Nature’s existence.


As we emphasized in the previous essay, conservation is the act of identifying, understanding,  preserving and protecting Nature’s energy flow. Based on what we have discussed in this book, we can now say that legacy building – passing it on to others – must be added to our definition of conserving Nature. Legacy building is empowering environmental stewards, directly or indirectly, at all ages and within all disciplines.

The legacy worldview incorporates both the systems worldview that was explored in the second essay and the environmental ethics discussed in the fourth essay. These two subjects are seemingly unrelated. However, both worldviews address interrelationships. The systems worldview focuses on the technical truths about Nature’s interrelated systems while the ethical worldview focuses on the qualities and guidelines for human interaction within Nature’s ecosystems. The legacy worldview passes on fact and guidelines for action through the transfer of ideas to other groups and future generations. The legacy worldview represents the positive influence that is so badly needed if humanity is to survive on Earth. Here are two examples of young people and their mentors building a legacy of environmental consciousness. 


The Green Team


I am privileged to mentor a group of 10 incredible high school seniors in an environmental education program in Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico. My students use hands-on, place based, socratic teaching strategies to help young people in the primary grades understand the flow of Nature’s energy and why everything in Nature is interconnected. This program, called the “Green Team”, uses a local estuary as the “classroom”. Being the “resident biologist”, my job is to provide the technical information necessary for the Green Team to build an effective teaching package. However, the actual teaching activities are conducted by my students.

Typically, the Green Team first provides a 45 minute in-class oral and video Socratic session to introduce the ideas about energy flow in Nature. Within a week of this activity, the students take a field trip to a local estuary. First, they participate in the “string game” activity where they learn about the complex connections in the ecosystem. Then, they enter a mangrove ecosystem, get wet, and trace Nature’s energy flow from the sun, through the mangrove system, into the estuary water plane, and out to sea. This activity is heavy with sensory activities. And, finally, the students participate in a “What did you see?” session.


The Green Team participates in legacy building. First, I passed the information on to my students. Then, they passed what they learned onto younger students. With time, we hope that the younger students will become the new Green Team. Recently, I sent my Green Team students an email containing the text that is reproduced for you below:


This next week, you begin your very important work with some of the young people in the primary grades at your school. You have prepared for this work with excellence !!! Congratulations.
As you work with these young hearts and minds , please read and remember Mary Oliver’s wonderful essay called “Teach The Children”. The essay asks you to offer BOTH facts and passion. Use your skills to bring excitement about Nature into their young lives. Invite them to experience a short walk in the water. Ask them to touch, taste, smell, and feel Nature’s energy in addition to simply giving them facts. Give them a sense of excitement, awe, and wonder about, Nature. Remind them that Nature is their home on earth.
Don’t forget, these young students are your legacy.  Someday, they will have the responsibility of protecting our precious Mother Earth. It is you who will energize them.
I am VERY PROUD of all of you.”


The Little Acorns Program


Deborah Perryman is an award winning environmental educator from Elgin, Illinois, USA who provides us with a second example of legacy building.  Deb is an Illinois teacher of the year recipient. She oversees the National Biodiversity Teach-In [ http://nationalbiodiversityteachin.com/  ] which is run by her students. Her hands-on, place-based environmental teaching work is portrayed in this video [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6QWApC04LI ].


Legacy Building Resource Material
Thanks for reading this blog essay. This essay is accompanied by a resource list that focuses on environmental education. You can find the resource list for this essay here. In addition, when the free PDF version of the book is made available to you on this web site, Appendix #1 of the book will offer education methodology and content for building a connectivity consciousness for Nature within your students. The methodology includes seminar style Socratic learning in the classroom coupled with activities in Nature that emphasize Nature’s relationships and energy flow. Also, Appendix #2 will offer some activity sets that might prove useful as you implement your environmental education programs. In addition, Appendix #3 will provide a series of environmental case studies that can be used in inquiry learning sessions. You are free to use the material offered in these packages “as-is” or modify things to fit your needs.


Please Comment and Subscribe


This blog essay is a draft chapter in a book that I will publish in January of 2018. Your comments and your suggestions regarding this chapter would be greatly appreciated.


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My name is Bill Graham. As a Marine Biologist who has worked in the US and Mexico for 30 years, I am a student of Nature, a teacher, a researcher, and a nature photographer. Through my work, I have acquired an ever growing passion for how everything in Nature is connected. Today, I travel extensively contemplating about, writing about, and photographing Nature’s connections. I also work with conservation projects in the USA and Mexico and mentor talented youth.

8 Responses to “A Legacy Worldview – Teach The Children”


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