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.

28 November 2010


I recently posed this question to some who care deeply about the fate of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. This place where, according to legend, Papahanaumokua and Wakea did their magic and created living space for all who need a foothold on planet earth.

Ever since visiting the atoll (aka Midway), I have thought of this large question, especially last spring when I was a guest of the US Marines as an artist and writer in residence at Mokapu Elementary. While at Mokapu, I learned a great deal about Hawaiian history, culture, and the history of the US involvement in wars in the Pacific.

I think most people know that Pearl Harbor stands as one of the most important military battle places. And yet, when I ask adults and children if they know where the first bombs were dropped on December 7, 1941, it is a rare (1 in more than a thousand) person who knows that the Japanese target on that day was first zeroed in on Mokapu.

Take a look on a map to see where this beautiful piece of Oahu is located. Visit the area today, tucked as it is alongside Kaneohe Bay on the windward side of the island...........Why would the enemy want to take out Mokapu before rising over the Koolau to drop more on Pearl? Certainly, to target the US Marine Corps stationed there, then as now.........but you have to wonder. Did they also want to damage or attempt to destroy the sacred ground of Mokapu? For, it was here, again according to legend, that the birth of the first Kai Kane happened........humans created here, so far from Pihemanu up on the fringes of Papahanaumokuakea --- the third place bombed on that day that plunged the United States into World War II.

I have been to Midway and Mokapu.........with chances to do so, I have hesitated a visit to Pearl Harbor. It's a long story, but my Dad could have been on the Arizona alongside his buddy, Chewy Mathison who went down on that battleship on December 7th.......Dad retells the story and also let me know recently, that he sailed past Midway during the war, on his way to South Korea and other destinations aboard an LSM. Like so many Navy Vets, he is humble about his war time heroics but I'm proud of what he accomplished.

Most of us who have gotten to travel to Papahanaumokuakea in recent months do so in hopes of bringing greater awareness of the plight of our ocean's health. Plastic trash has been a big focus of mine. It is also important for each of us to remember its place in the larger story of our planet and how the mythology of Hawaiians allows a beautiful way of thinking how life started. As a child of the 60s, I guess I lean as well on idealistic hopes that learning about Papahanaumokuakea, Midway, Mokapu, Pearl Harbor, and war in general.......that learning and sharing story of these interconnected places can help bring about world peace.

There is a power in these places far beyond human capability of understanding. Not that Papahanaumokua was ever a walking talking "Earth Mother" or that Wakea was dancing in the sky as Father of All.......Nope. I just love the story, just like the story of Jesus is so compelling, especially this time of year......And as one who gets to work with a lot of great teachers and thousands of kids, it is nice to have stories like the ones associated with Papahanaumokuakea in my pocket. To share, best I can.

Yes, Papahanumokuakea matters. It matters so much that I want to share my experiences there for as long as I am able. Few humans will ever have the opportunity of visiting Midway....Pihemanu.......But a heck of a lot of albatross, boobies, frigates, spinner dolphins, ulua, honu, and concerned scientists will be there, hopefully forever. Well, not forever, because the life kick started by Earth Mom and Sky Dad insured one thing would happen.......change. Just as the Big Island of Hawaii has risen from the depths, Pihemanu sinks under the very weight of its volcanic stone. Midway is sinking fast, geologically speaking, and so, we need to insure, more than ever, that the albatross, boobies, frigates, shearwaters, honu, monk seals, and other life dependent on ISLANDS find safe havens.

As sea levels rise, scientists can only send messages to those of us living on mainlands and main islands.......THE ISLANDS ARE SINKING AND THE SEA IS RISING.

Papahanaumokuakea, then becomes a kind of messenger from the past as well as a predictor of future outcomes. It matters to pay attention to what is going on out there, just as it is important to pay attention to Palau and other Island Nations. Listen up. Rise Up. Let your voices join with the creatures who need us to share our planet.

Ron Hirschi
Marrow Stone Island, Another Disappearing Piece of our Planet
November 2010  


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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.