Benjamin Kay

Benjamin Kay, marine scientist and Marine Biology teacher at Santa Monica High School and Santa Monica College, dedicates his life to teaching his students about aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and the anthropogenic impacts that threaten their fragile existence.  Benjamin’s courses integrate rigorous curricula with inquiry-based methods, hands-on labs, field trips, expert guest speakers, and frequent civic engagement opportunities.  As coach of the multi-award winning environmental science teen action group, Team Marine ( and, and lead advisor of the Solar Boat team, Heal the Bay Surfrider Club, and Teach & Test Ocean Water Quality Monitoring Program, Benjamin engages youth in real research, service learning, and educational outreach activities focused on environmental sustainability.  Students also compete in several regional science competitions including the QuikSCience Challenge, Edison Challenge, Solar Cup, and most recently the LA County Science Fair.  Through a myriad of experiences in field, laboratory, and community settings, Benjamin’s students hone their higher-order thinking and communication skills, bolster their academic resumes, win scholarships and awards, and receive training in the latest sustainable technologies.  Simultaneously, students cultivate both internal and community awareness about effective solutions to modern-day challenges, such as the global plastic pollution, climate, and ocean acidification crises.

Student projects include beach clean ups, removing invasive plant species from coastal wetlands, school and community wide plastic bag and bottle cap drives, displaying giant REthink artwork made out of found objects, organizing student-community marches to promote bans on single-use plastic products, testifying before and lobbying all levels of government to support clean and healthy waterways, building and racing solar-powered boats, converting combustion engine cars into all-electric vehicles, monitoring ocean water quality for fecal bacteria, promoting the establishment of Marine Protected Areas in Southern California, collecting and sorting recyclables to purchase water-purifying LifeStraws for struggling communities in Africa and Pakistan, writing research proposals, conducting real waste characterization surveys and research, building and updating websites ( and, creating and posting 22 video PSAs on viewed by over 60,000 people, hosting water pollution prevention workshops and school-wide assemblies, attending environmental conferences and workshops, partnering with non-profit organizations (e.g., Heal the Bay, Algalita Marine Research Foundation, the Jane Goodall Institute, Tree People, Aquarium of the Pacific, Surfrider Foundation), drafting a sustainability action plan for the school district, creating online petitions signed by thousands of community members, and educating diverse audiences and school groups all over California on climate change, plastic pollution, storm drain transport and runoff, sustainable products and practices, renewable energies, and effective service learning and outreach. While student projects focus locally, their outreach has extended to 13.5 million people internationally.  Benjamin’s students have been featured on all local TV news stations in Los Angeles including CBS and KNBC, in a Whole Foods podcast on Youtube, in a Current TV network production (“Plastic is Murder”), on WAMU, KIIS, and KLOS Radio stations, on the Japanese Asahi TV network aired to seven million people, in a national Teen Nickelodeon Halo Award TV show produced by Nick Cannon, in over 150 local and national newspaper articles including the L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, and Huffington Post, on numerous websites including those of Surfrider Foundation and the 5 Gyres Institute, in a Green Observer Foundation podcast (“Urban Runoff”), and in an upcoming green kids TV show produced for PBS.  Benjamin’s students have won a state Ocean Hero Award, 1st Place in the QuikSCience and Edison Challenges, and the My Better Lifestyle Award from the Los Angeles Lakers and East West Bank.  Benjamin is also the recent winner of the 2010 Wyland Foundation Grand Prize Earth Month Teacher Hero Award and the 2011 California Green Schools Teacher Leadership Award.

Native to LA, Benjamin earned his B.S. in Aquatic Biology from UCSB and then spent four years conducting marine research on the Great Barrier Reef through the University of Queensland, Centre for Marine Studies, Brisbane, Australia, where he earned his M.S. in Marine Biology. In addition to teaching, he develops curricula in Marine Biology and Environmental Sustainability (see COSEE-West website and, gives speeches on climate change, service learning, and outreach, and channels his energy into his favorite hobbies: soccer, fishing, surfing, and diving.

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