Feature

Published on February 16th, 2017 | by Jessica Ni

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Changing the world every step of the time with Kay

Benjamin Kay, a science teacher at Samo, regularly invites students from his classes (Marine Biology, AP Environmental Science and HP Biology at Samo, and Environmental Biology and Biology at SMC) to many events regarding the protection of the environment.

Although they may seem like extracurricular activities, these events play a huge role in his students’ grades, with the Sustainability Project making up 20 percent of their grade. Attending community events can potentially boost his students’ grades up by up to five percent. After each event, students are required to answer seven questions in depth which ends up to be about a page of writing.

 

“The Sustainability Project is getting students to collect data and information on real world issues so that they can help make sustainability advance within the school or the greater community,” Kay said. “That inevitably involves them going out into nature, into the campus, into the greater community collecting data.”

 

Community events on the other hand are assorted, composing of a variety of events that students are invited to by community members (such as nonprofit organizations like the library, Heal the Bay, or Surfrider Foundation) who know about their Environmental Science program’s success in sustainability and stewardship.

 

“These events vary,” AP Environmental Science student Sandra Rigberg (’18) said. “Some of them are simple, like a beach cleanup or a movie, but some of them are $5000-a-table galas with speeches from environmental experts.”

 

“Most of the events are very inclusive and whoever wants to go is usually able to, but for the few events that have limited space it’s whoever signs up first,” student Zachary Forsyte (’18) said.

 

Although he may just be another science teacher at Samo, Kay is given these opportunities because of his active involvement in the community, often hosting water pollution prevention workshops, attending environmental conferences and workshops, creating online petitions signed by thousands of community members and educating people on climate change and pollution.

 

These events were first opened to students in 2006, and Kay has since then realized the benefits of these events.

 

“By going to community events they learn and understand more of the problems and solutions to our environment. And then by going to some of the nature based events students actually develop a passion for nature. You have to understand it and you have to develop an interest, a love for nature. If you can do both of those things then people will care more about their world,” Kay said.

 

Many students also felt that these events allowed them application of their knowledge on environmental science, benefiting their educational experience.

“The events are beneficial because hearing a lecture in a classroom is a lot different than going out and seeing the damage to the environment and helping to mitigate the issue. It’s a lot more enriching and gives you a good perspective on the issues,” Forsyte said.

 

When the organizations and programs contact him, Kay sends a remind via Edmodo or writing on the board. Although he doesn’t force students to attend the community events, the extra five percent extra credit is enough to motivate many of his students.

 

Even though these events are limited to Kay’s students, there is a semiannual SMC community camping trip that all Samo teachers and students can join. This year, it will be held the weekend of May 19, and Kay encourages other faculty and students to join, learn, experience, love and protect nature.

 

“We can’t protect and we don’t protect what we don’t understand. And we don’t protect what we don’t love,” Kay said.


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