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.

07 February 2011


It has been a while since I quantified Beach Plastics and so, yesterday being Super Bowl Sunday, I thought I'd hop aboard the competitive spirit train and offer you this. Here is a listing of all the plastic I picked up just before half time on Super Bowl Sunday at Marrowstone Point, along the eastern shore of the island from what we call The Goat Ponds to just about the tip of the point..........a distance of about half a mile. All plastic counted was washed ashore on the first high tide on 6 February 2011, so this is freshly dropped trash, mostly brought in on the tide after a moderate wind from the south (Once again, Thank you Seattle for all your trash - it is mostly added to the now netted Stringball, supersized on Super Bowl Sunday:

Plastic Lumber    1 five foot 2x2
Plastic Bags (clear)    15
Plastic Sheeting/film     19 pieces about enough to cover an average back yard
Food and Candy Wrappers (most very fresh and some with mints)     21
Other Wrappers     4
Bottles    1  
Tire Buoys  (styrofoam filled tires)  2
Lighters    5
Shotgun Shells     4
Shotgun Shell Shot Sleeves (the pieces that look like squid) 12
Rope     4
Planter   1
Fencing   1 section
Unidentified     10
Cargo Netting   1 piece (visible in photo above)
Toys     4 (frisbee piece, balls)
Fireworks     3
Bottle Caps     13
Flip Flop     1
Health and Beauty Aids     4
Ant Trap    1   (printed with CAUTION and listing of contents: Hydramethylnon, EPA reg. no. 1663-33)
Mesh Tubing/Bag     12
Balloons     3
Food Containers     2
Tool or Brush Handles     2
Tape    3 chunks
Glove    1
Buckets      1
Large Handles     1
Fishing Lures/Gear   2
Tags (includes shellfish identification tag from Skokomish Harvest)   2
Straws     10

Note that I only found one bottle. That is unusual for any time of year, but many of these are blown up and away from the high water mark, so tonight I might recover many more of these. The Cargo Netting was disturbing in that these larger pieces of debris are usually found in outer coastal areas and are major problems for marine mammals. When I was on Midway, Cargo Netting was a major part of the trash washed ashore just as it is on the windward sides of each of the main Hawaiian Islands.

Of interest too, I found a section of what I do believe is a rib bone from a whale.

You have to wonder about the ant trap and its contents. Rodent traps, mosquito repellent, and other liquid biocides wash into our waters, but how to quanitify these and to what extent do they enter marine foods we eat, not to mention the foods eaten by seabirds, fish, and marine mammals. 

Note:   My stringball receives only a fraction of the trash since much of it needs to be disposed of in other ways or simply reused or recycled.   

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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.