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 November 2010


FRIENDS OF FRED is a global project aimed to help teachers and others make use of the many connections made by PROJECT SOAR.

The long term goal is to circulate several of each of 52 Species that represent major Watershed and Ocean habitats in need of our attention. This practical and important work makes it easier for students and the larger communities within those habitat areas to ACT in some responsible way while learning about the world.

As a Writer, Biologist, and Author, I have spent my entire career working to protect and restore habitats. My specialty as a scientist has been mainly with fish habitats of rivers, streams, and coastal areas. I have a lot of experience dealing with difficult land use decisions and count among my friends some of the most effective "players" in this profession. These people include guys like Jim Lichatowich who wrote the book, SALMON WITHOUT RIVERS........That book stirred up a heck of a lot of help for salmonid waters. I also get to work with gifted teachers like Dr. Sharon Buda and Ray Lowrie; Deb Charna; Claudia Fett, Tracy Poduska, Michelle Kaskovich, and Mary Fox. Together, we have led children out into waters to make sure they experience the water world FIRST HAND............

If we fail in our efforts to take children out into the real world, we will continue to lose more and more healthy habitats. True, there have been great strides with endangered species protection and increased restoration. But as one of my early mentors with Washington Department of Game told a group of us starry eyed grad students at the University of Washington, "There is always going to be a new batch of idiots elected who will undo your good works."

Say no more. These days we stand to lose our oceans simply because of our ignorance in relation to the connections between upper reaches of watersheds and the sea.

In the old days, many people around the planet had land divisions similar to those held under ethically bound rules of use of resources. Hawaiians, for example, divided up the islands so that decisions about logging, taro planting, fishing, and other land uses made sense from mountain top to river valleys and on as well as into the ocean. Fishing was banned when necessary and strict kapu helped those with authority to make sure overharvest did not take place. Sure, there were problems with the system such as wide scale alteration of native plants and birds. But the principal remains important: We need to think of land and waterscapes to manage effectively.

What does this have to do with a bunch of silly stuffed animals at the heart of "Friends of Fred"?

Friends of Fred begin life with me, here on Marrow Stone Island in Washington State. Like Fred the monkey, they start a journey of discovery, learning, and action. Sometimes, they end up helping kids talk story and create wonderful art and writing projects such as BIG BOOKS like those at Wilson School in Wyoming, Fishing Cove Elementary in Rhode Island, and Mokapu Elementary on Oahu.

Currently, a beautifully crafted Northwest Coast Style Frog named Ribit is in the hands of students working with the Columbus Zoo on projects to help endangered amphibians. A Monk Seal just traveled to Ohio to join the cause, helping kids to link the frog project with the distant ocean world of marnie mammals. A tiny but accurately crafted Laysan Albatross, gifted to me by the USFWS at Kilauea on Kauai is now in Edmonds, Washingto with a student from King's School. Cougars continue to circulate as part of a Cougar Fund project begun in the wilds of Oahu of all places to find a mountain lion........

All the Friends of Fred bring smiles first, then thought, then actions. My intent is to help teachers use these little buggers to use playful inquiry into the lives of young hearts and minds.

As my friend and colleague, Tom Mangelsen shows the world, the beauty of nature brings us in to the world of appreciation first........We can all appreciate the majestic sight of a Polar Bear in northern light and can enjoy the seemingly happy face of a Monk Seal just wiggling out of the surf and onto a sandy beach in Hawaii.

At the same time, we know there are extremely difficult decisions to be made if Polar Bears and Monk Seals are to survive. In fact, Monk Seal populations are declining at a rate that projects extinction for the species and hope for Polar Bears is not exactly as promising as the increase in eagle populations or frog numbers in the rapidly developing rural fringes of Columbus, Ohio.

We are connected to Polar Bears, Monk Seals, and Frogs in more ways than we currently understand and so, Friends of Fred joins other attempts to help young minds begin journeys of discovery in hopes kids of today grow more successfully into stewards of planet earth as they all too quickly become a part of the world of competion between species, habitats, and conflicts over oil, water, fish, trees, jobs, and the very future of planet earth.

Friends of Fred might show up in your community soon. Be watching for a kid carrying a stuffed animal, not just to collect some cute toy, but to engage you in decisions about our daily impact on habitats from mountain top to river valleys to the sea........Have fun if you wish to join in the networks created as Friends spread around the world. This is not a top down project.......it simply is what it becomes and it is up to you to grab a seal, turtle, bear, spider, crab, lobster, mountain goat, deer, trout, whale, or other Friend of Fred.

Contact me for a starter kit that includes any of 52 different species (YES there are more than one of each just as there are more than one Fred); a journal with your Friend's first steps into the wild world; any links to organizations, schools, teachers, and other information to help you start a project in a school or community, or simply in your own backyard or beach or stream..........Simple as that.

I will add a couple of photos to share recent activities of some Friends of Fred, but also check the histories of Fred here and at other sites such as Learn to Sea, a not for profit in England or AUSMEPA in Australia.

Ron Hirschi
PO Box 899
Hadlock, Washington 98339

No comments:

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.