SOAR has a serious side in its missions to help kids find ways of helping the ocean and watersheds throughout the world. I started on having seen hundreds of albatrosses killed by plastic debris at Pihemanu (Midway Atoll). I was inspired by the questions of young people in Ohio and by USFWS biologists working hard to protect endangered species and damaged habitats.

SOAR has a very fun and tough to define side.....thanks to FRED AND FRIENDS, Project SOAR helps with watershed and ocean workshops throughout the world, and generally makes people smile while they learn some tough stuff about how we treat our rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and the one ocean on planet earth..........


SOAR introduces young people to ways they can make a difference in their local community and the wider world.

Take advantage by:

1) Invite a SOAR learning kit or bring Ron Hirschi to your school as a guest author or speaker for your organization. Ron has many years experience as an author and as a biologist. SOAR adds another dimension to his list of hands on projects he shares in writing, art, and ecology workshops.

Many schools invite Ron for his work as author of more than 50 nonfiction books, including many with ocean themes. Others bring him to school as a scientist or artist, but the best fit is always when schools use Ron to help them integrate curriculum.

Tom Bates, Principal at Tremont Elementary in Ohio recently said in an interview following Ron's visit, "What stood out to me was how Ron was able to gear his activities and discussion and information so it was meaningful to the students, whether they were in kindergarten or fifth grade."

Be in touch at whalemail@waypoint.com for visit information.

2) SOAR now has a new kit circling the globe along with a Laysan Albatross "Friend of Fred". This duo is packaged with a box full of ideas, activities, information about Papahanaumokuakea, ocean debris, and other materials aimed at sparking new projects related to the sea. Also included is a journal chronicling Fred's adventures, all of which began when kids at Columbus School for Girls (CSG) learned how they could take action to help the ocean.

Currently, this treasured package is in the hands of The Bush School in Seattle.

NOTE: You might also be lucky to receive one of the earlier packages with a FRED and Friend, already traveling. To date, Fred has visited Australia, Switzerland, Israel, England, The Dominican Republic, and many corners of the United States.

10 August 2009


Why is Papahanaumokuakea important to Native Hawaiians?

How much garbage do you think is in the Eastern and Western garbage patches and does this affect people?

Has global warming affected the migration of humpback whales?

Did some of the plastic get into the ocean on purpose and if so, why?

How much plastic is accidentally fed to the average albatross chick?

Is there a safe amount of plastic for an albatross to eat? In other words, is there a limit to how much they can safely eat?

What kinds of trash do people most commonly find in dead albatross chicks?

Does the plastic endanger parrot fish?

Can we help organize a research club to help the albatross and the environment?

These are some of the many questions sent to me by kids after they learned I was visiting Midway Atoll this summer. Several teachers told their students about my journey and helped them with research into Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument and the issues of ocean health we might encounter at Midway. As you can easily see, the questions above reflect some serious thought. What you might be surprised to learn is that ALL of the above questions are not from high school or college students, they are from Kindergarteners............

The first question was thoughtfully answered by Walterbea Aldeguer in this way: "Aloha, The answer lies in the question, How much do you love your Grandparents?"

Other PAA participants were kind enough to reply to some of the other questions and all of the dozens of questions were answered with hand written and illustrated postcards from Papahanaumokuakea. Biologists on Midway also helped as did whale and seal biologists.

Finding answers was not so easy and no so complete. That is why the last question helped set SOAR in motion as a way to seek solutions to ocean plastic problems and other watershed and ocean issues. SOAR fills a need for young people to find a way to help the ocean and the world around them. The kids want to know answers to our toughest, most difficult questions.

The cousin of one of the participants at Midway wrote a very powerful song that speaks to much of what we feel as we start out with SOAR. Mickey's song, Hawai'i 78, was made popular by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole and it asks us to wonder what our ancestors would think if they came back to see what we have done to their beautiful island home. Check out the song on Iz's Facing Future CD.

Likewise, Jane Siberry implores us to think deeply to make sure we act in ways that malama i ke kai ame ka aina (proect the ocean and land). She looks forward in her beautiful song, Bound by the Beauty. The lyrics demand we do right when she says she's coming back in 500 years and the forests better still be here!!!!! Jane has kindly allowed me to use the lyrics in a book I've been working on for a while about women who have helped the environment. I'm glad I've not submitted the book, knowing now that I must add some of my kindergarten friends in its pages. Young women with great minds, great hearts.

If you are a teacher, by all means ask your kids to ask tough questions and send them to me. I will pass the questions around to knowledgeable scientists or try to answer myself. And, you'll get back hand written and illustrated postcards much like those we sent from Papahanaumokuakea.

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X310 Plastic Ocean Activity

It's me, Fred, the Monkey.

If you look closely, you can see I wear X310's leg band around my neck. It's to remind me of her. She was a Laysan Albatross. She was born in March 2008 and lived on Pihemanu, one of the most remote atolls on earth, now part of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

You can wonder about Pihemanu and about X310. She didn't live very long, dying in June 2008. Her parents flew thousands and thousands of miles finding food for her. But x310, like lots of baby albatrosses died before she got to soar the seas. Some albatrosses fly three million miles during their life. Like X310's parents, their sea is a new challenge in food finding because of our actions on land.

Adult albatrosses fly more than a thousand miles just to get a single meal for their babies. But the ocean is full of plastic. And if you read my buddy, Ron's blog and website, you learn about plastic in the sea. It is everywhere and babies like X310 die because they eat so much plastic, they can not get it out of their stomachs.

Where's all this plastic come from?
Where does it go?

Here is a simple activity:

Get up from your chair and walk around the classroom or wherever you are sitting.

Write down each thing around you that is made of plastic.

Everybody compare lists and make a total of the plastic products.

Now, the hard part of this activity:

Can you find alternatives for the things you use, alternatives not made of plastic?
Maybe start with drinking water from a fountain or glass or reuseable container?
Maybe start a really good recycling project?
Maybe make some art from recycled plastic?
Learn more on links here on this site and others.
Talk about times with no plastic.
X310 would have appreciated if people, just a few years ago had decided to make a plastic-free world for you....
You and X310.

Learn how you can SOAR with FRED by arranging a visit with Fred and his ocean teaching kit by emailing his banana provider at whalemail@waypoint.com


What you need:

Pint size plastic beverage container with wide mouth (about 1.5 inches) ---This approximates the size of a baby albatross stomach and esophagus.

Important to have the lid too.

Enough plastic items (bottle caps, toothbrush, legos, fishing line, small chunks of nylon rope, markers, pens, more bottle caps and even a few more bottle caps since they are pretty much the most common marine debris.

Talk with your audience of kids of any age about ocean debris and the way adult albatrosses fly out a few hundred or even a thousand miles to find flying fish eggs and squid for the little ones. They return to Pihe Manu or up on the Northeast shore of Kauai, find their young one among thousands of others and begin to feed by regurgitating "food".......

As you talk about this, have the kids place one or two pieces of the plastic into the bottle.

Replace cap with each addition of plastic. Shake gently to mimic bird moving around the nesting area a bit.

Remove cap. Shake gently to mimic the bird trying to dislodge "food" that can not be digested. In a perfect ocean, this would be squid beaks, fish bones, or other natural pieces of food.

Add more plastic, repeating above until no plastic falls out of the bottle when cap is removed (bill is opened) and the bird tries and tries, but can not toss up the mass of debris. See how much and how many different kinds of plastic can be added. Does the rope tangle with the legos and bottle caps. Do five bottle caps cause a blockage in the esophagus???

In nature, the upchucked mass is like an owl pellet and is known as a bolus. Natural foods slip freely through the esophagus and more feeding can continue. Most times, a baby albatross will toss up one bolus before leaving the nesting island. Unfortunately, thousands die because plastic blocks the stomach completely.

Your feeding the baby albatross activity can lead to a lot of discussion of plastics we use, discard, then find their way into the ocean and into the mouth of a baby albatross.

If you want to have a Baby Albatross Feeding Kit, complete with some plastic items that actually came from once living albatross at Pihe Manu, Papahanaumokuakea, be in touch.