Ecoliteracy -The Power of Legacy

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Legacy building is about being mindful of the opportunity and the responsibility you have to serve humanity


Webster’s dictionary defines legacy as, “anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.”  Legacy is not bound by age or time served. Your legacy is not defined at the end of the road but rather by the moments that you share your life with others. Your legacy is reinforced and modified by the feedback that you receive.  Legacy represents your body of work at each stage of your life as you establish and accumulate the required knowledge and wisdom to contribute to the growth, innovation, and opportunity of the people that surround you.   Your legacy grows with each new experience and each time you inspire others to see something through to fruition. Leaving a great legacy is arguably the most powerful thing you can do in your life because it enables you to have influence well into the future – even after you are out of the picture yourself.

Legacy building is the act of establishing and evangelizing an ecoliterate worldview to current and future generations


Recently I gave a talk to a group of 40 senior citizens about mankind’s negative impact on Nature and the grim prospects of mankind in the near future. I proposed that, to survive as a race, we humans needed to change our worldview from apathy toward Nature to one of harmony with Nature. I noted that the age of about half of the human population is 25 years old or younger. These fresh minds are a center of influence that is open to new ideas and new world views. I stated that environmental educators are creating a legacy as they pass on a new and positive worldview to young people. In turn, these young people could then pass on their knowledge and a new worldview of harmony and interdependence with Nature. During my talk, I suggested that senior citizens could define their legacy by playing a vital role in guiding their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren toward a sustainable lifestyle. I offered a number of ideas to the group in hopes that they would be motivated.

As I prepared my talk, I came to the realization that legacy building is a powerful tool for building ecoliteracy in other people. If teaching methods make a subject interesting,  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 as well as the next generation. The idea of legacy building is a powerful conservation tool over the years. I played with some numbers.

What would happen if an environmental educator were able to guide only two young people each year toward a sustainable worldview? In turn two of these youth, each year,  would guide two more people. Let us assume that, as an educator, 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 each year for 10 years, your effort will result in 10,240 new stewards of Nature. If there are 1,000 environmental educators providing significant influence over 10 years to only 10% of their students, their legacy will be over one million 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 youth 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.

Whether you are an environmental educator or a parent or a grandparent, multiplying and spreading your ecoliteracy 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.


Building And Maintaining Legacy – A Case Study


I work with senior-level high school students. In the course of their learning experience, senior high school students learn to become the teachers of younger students from 4th-grade primary  through junior high school. My group of student-teachers is called the “Green Team”. They both manage and teach this program. I am only a mentor and technical adviser. There is a certain magic that takes place when my Green Team students teach younger students. Normally frisky 4th and 5th graders listen with great attention when the Green Team is doing the teaching and allowing everyone to touch, feel, and listen. The young students listen and respond with zeal. 


Our Green Team program consists of two parts — all taught by student-specialists.


First, the Green Team provides a 45-minute introductory talk to the young students in their classroom about interdependency in Nature as well as discussing what to expect during the upcoming field trip. A box of specimens (plant parts, skeletons, rocks, etc), previously collected by my students, are brought into the classroom so that the young students can view, touch, taste, and smell while the talk is being given.  This session ends with instructions about safety and behavior during the field trip. 


Within a week of the introductory talk, the young students will go to the local estuary for a hands-on experience. 


At the beginning of their estuary experience, the young students play the “string game”. The string game is an activity that can be used as a demonstration and simulation of interdependency in Nature. In this simulation,  students represent plants and animals living in the habitat which is being visited. Each student has a picture of who he or she is representing in Nature. Sitting in a circle, students connect themselves to each other using a ball of string to represent the ways in which they depend on each other for their energy flow. As they make connections, the string forms a visual web of life. In the final part of the simulation game, the students will experience what happens when a connection is destroyed. Here is an excellent 8 page PDF document that describes the process.


The young students then visit the nearby mangrove forest and focus on the flow of Nature’s energy from the sun, through the mangrove leaves, and on to other organisms within the estuary ecosystem. Near the end of the field trip experience, the young students will review what they have learned by sitting in a circle and answering the question: “What Did You See?


Throughout this experience, the teachers and the learners are building a legacy. My Green Team teachers are passing on what they know to a group of younger students. The hope is that someday the younger students will pass on their inspired knowledge to others. The Green Team program is conducted at a local private kinder through 12th-grade school. With this experience, there is the hope that the younger students will become Green Team teachers when they reach high school. We are currently expanding the Green Team program to other schools in the community.


Here is a current list of essays about ecoliteracy for your consideration. This list will expand with time.

For Your Further Consideration

This essay is part of a series of essays about ecoliteracy that present ideas to environmental educators, students,  and all stewards of Nature.   These ideas come from some of our modern great thinkers. The emphasis in these essays will be on two key ideas:

  1. Our earth is a living system that transports and transforms energy to all life. The key to an active ecoliteracy that results in a healthy environment for all life on earth is the building of a systems view of life into the minds and hearts of humanity, This worldview is based on the fact that all of Nature is interconnected and interdependent.
  2. Environmental education is not simply offering facts. Environmental education must be hands-on and take place outdoors if ideas, facts, and effective conservation strategies are to become a consciousness in the minds and hearts of our youth. Environmental education must include the passing of this consciousness to future generations.


Please Comment 

The purpose of my essays is to develop a dialog with my readers. You are strongly encouraged to comment on this essay in the space provided below.


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.