Imagine Big
Leadership lessons on teamwork and creativity

Grades 6—12
About This Lesson Plan


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Lesson 5: Leaving a Legacy

Students will analyze how people leave a legacy on the human experience.

Students will:

  • Analyze and explain how people solve problems and create lasting legacies on the common human experience.
  • Research and evaluate information related to one American legacy, including reviewing multimedia and print sources, as well as original documents.
  • Discuss how people leave a legacy through their work.

Common Core Standards

  • Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.
  • Analyze seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance, including how they address related themes and concepts.
  • Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

Leaving a Legacy graphic organizer


As a class, define the word legacy (something passed on from someone in the past, such as an inheritance, repercussion, result, or consequence). Discuss:

  • What does it mean to leave a legacy?
  • What are different ways that people can leave legacies?
  • Identify some Americans who left legacies. What problems did they solve?

Whole Group
Using background knowledge and research, analyze the legacy of a famous leader, innovator, or entertainer. Draw a web diagram on the board and identify the legacies that he or she left on ideas, entertainment, American culture, symbols and artifacts, and common experiences, among others.

Introduce the idea that there are various types of legacies that people can leave. Create a chart on the board and write some examples of American legacies that shaped our country’s history and changed people’s expectations:

  • Amelia Earhart, first woman pilot to cross the Atlantic
  • Neil Armstrong, first man to walk on the moon

Legacies that laid innovative groundwork in entertainment and helped define our experiences with popular culture:

  • Michael Jackson, contributed to prominent shifts in fashion, pop music, and dance for decades as a musician
  • Walt Disney, animation pioneer, creator of Mickey Mouse and founder of Walt Disney World/Disneyland theme parks

Legacies that left a message or a change in thinking:

  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton and women's rights
  • Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil rights movement
  • Albert Einstein and our understanding of how the world works

Legacies that solved problems:

  • Jonas Salk, the doctor who invented the polio vaccine
  • Gertrude Elion, who helped develop the drug AZT for AIDS

Notice that it may be difficult to put some people into only one category.

Small Group
Divide students into small groups of three to five students according to the career field they're interested in (science, technology, medicine, culture, politics, education, etc). Have students identify one legacy in their chosen career field and research the life and legacy of that person. Students should review at least one of each type of source:

  • An article about this person's life
  • A multimedia presentation or video about their life
  • A document or speech that was produced by this person

As students work, they will complete the Leaving a Legacy graphic organizer.

Provide students with 30­ to 40 minutes to work. After everyone is finished, have students post their completed graphic organizers around the classroom. Have students do a walk-around, reading each graphic organizer. Have students use Post-it notes to leave comments and thoughts about each legacy.

Students may be given specific questions to respond to during the walk-around, such as:

  • What word would you use to describe the impact of this person's legacy?
  • How have you been affected by this person's legacy?
  • How does each person's work continue to affect us today?

This activity will help extend the discussion about legacy:

  • Have students write a reflection essay about the following scenario: Think about the legacy you want to leave on your school or community. What can you do today to ensure that you leave that legacy? Imagine that you revisit your school or community in 20 years. How would you know you had left a legacy?

Helpful Hints

  • During this lesson, the topic of bad legacies may arise. Encourage students to think about the idea that our actions affect how people remember us and ask them how much forethought their leader put into creating their legacy. What might affect how someone is remembered?
  • Before students work in small groups, it can be helpful to review the responsibilities and roles of working in a group, and ask students to choose a role that suits them best.
  • If students are struggling to find online resources, encourage them to be creative with search terms or give them specific search terms (leader, impact, hero, famous) to use. Or direct them to a specific site, such as the Nobel Prize Web Site, the My Hero Project, or U.S. News and World Report America's Best Leaders.
  • As students cite information, provide them with a model for APA and MLA citing of Internet sources.
    o APA: Author (date). Article Title. Journal or Site Title. Date the information was received, from URL.
    o MLA: Author. "Article Title." Journal Title. Vol. Issue. (Year) Pages. Date retrieved information.
    o For more information on citing sources visit or

Field Extension
Extend your class discussion of leaving a legacy with these Disney Youth Education Series adventures:

  • Discovering the American Spirit at Walt Disney World® Resort takes your students on a journey into Liberty Square to get better acquainted with our country’s great leaders and understand the impact of their influence. Then, as they explore Frontierland, students will also act as American pioneers to study the Gold Rush and the challenges of settling the western frontier.
  • Energy and Waves Physics Lab at Disneyland® Resort is an adventure in discovering light and sound as forms of energy and how to use them in practical application. See firsthand how these elements are a vital part of creating world-class Disney attractions. Students will come to understand some of physics' most noted historical figures and their impact on the field.
Read detailed field study descriptions and enroll your students at
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