2005: Green teaching
Benjamin Kay, Master of Marine Studies
Benjamin Kay is on a mission to protect the environment and help create a sustainable planet through education.
Combining his biology degree from the University of California and his marine studies from UQ, Mr Kay is working as a science teacher in Santa Monica, California.
On his lists of green accomplishments, Mr Kay has helped ban single-use plastic bags in Santa Monica, lobbied government to support clean waterways, and designed marine and environmental sustainability curricula for several organisations.
But he said his major goal was to develop easy ways to teach students the benefits of living sustainably.
“As early as high school I discovered I had a knack for transmitting information in a way that others could more easily understand, “ Mr Kay said.
In 2006, he and his students founded Team Marine and Heal the Bay Surfrider Club – groups of eco-minded students from Santa Monica High School who raise awareness about climate change, plastic pollution and overfishing.
As a result of the students’ efforts, Team Marine earned The Ocean Hero Award from the state environmental steering committee, the Wyland Foundation Grand Prize, and the Best Community Outreach Award presented by the Jane Goodall Institute.
So far, Mr Kay and his students have recycled more than 60,000 drinking containers to raise money for water purifying LifeStraws, which are distributed in developing countries to monitor the quality of drinking water.
They have also begun a gas-to-electric car conversion project.
“I teach not only to augment brain capacity and inspire my pupils to pursue science, but also to plant seeds of sustainability and instil a critical thinking lens regarding environmental issues,” Mr Kay said.
“My hope is that my enthusiasm for the marine environment and its long-term preservation will be contagious amongst the students, and that each year’s cohort will adopt the conservation ethic.”
Mr Kay credits much of his inspiration to two of his educators – a high school science teacher, who he still surfs with today, and his UQ thesis advisor, who he calls his “marine science guru”.
By Allison Rock
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