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.

24 June 2011


I couldn't resist sneaking into a picture with Kindergarteners when
Mary Fox sent over some photos of our final day of installing the
sea creatures and more.........

You can see an Orca on the far left, a cool butterfly, jellyfish, and more...
from our fused plastic and marine debris awareness project. A little bit of the
rope and other trash is in view to the left and, of course, the old canoe!

Thanks to Del and Mike Harris for the boat!
It served well as a model for many of Del's beatiful cedar canoes
and now that Del is paddling on that longer canoe ride, I hope he smiles down
on what we created here.

In fact, Del would be happy to hear that our project is inspiring 
schools and at least one aquarium in California!

We'll call future projects "Rock the Boat"
in his honor!

If you would like to know more about how to create fused fish and marine
debris related projects, be in touch at

Rock the Boat in your community by
encouraging people to go plastic free, but when they can't,
to turn that old plastic into art that matters!

Have a Fun Summer! 

15 June 2011


Many have asked about techniques and materials in our fused plastic art projects.............Here are some good links to lead you to more understanding of issues, where to find plastics, and how to fuse.

The best starting point by far is at http://www.marinedebris.noaa.gov/ to find out more about the entire ocean filling with our throw aways. NOAA is working to make sure we understand the problem and they continue to add informative maps, best available science, and more. Also, they host conferences you may wish to attend.

I started my journey into making art from plastics much like a street artist in South America........His name is Jhon Jairo Morales Bernal and he was photographed by Jan Socher as Jhon worked his magic, simply burning plastic cups from the trash bins to sculpt little figures. Burning fingers, melting our throw aways, he creates beautiful pieces that call to mind Picasso. Primitive art. Simple figures. Basic materials.

I got away from burning since the fumes and danger of fire are not my style, but do check out Jan's photos of this little known artist at http://www.jansochor.com/ by clicking on plastic art over to the right hand side of his main page.

I hope you can get onto this site to find many many sites with crafty and artsy uses of plastics. Friend, Michelle pointed me to this site and it was here where I got some of the basics that got me fusing:

a whole lotta letters and numbers to get wrong, so please forgive me if I lead you astray........

From my experience, here is a simple way to start fusing plastics you find at the beach, in recyle projects, and other ways............as in our case at Breidablik, collecting bottle caps for over a year............

Step One:  Gather some plastic bags and shape into a shape you wish to make (fish, jellyfish, octopus, etc).
Make sure you have about four or five layers of sheet plastics/bags/shrink wrap.

Step Two:  Place the shaped plastics between two layers of parchment paper.

Step Three: Iron with a hot, dry iron.

Step Four:  Turn over.

Step Five:  Repeat ironing, shaping the fused pieces to make the shape a bit more realistic, tucking edges over to allow all the plastics to fuse.

Step Six:  Add more plastic to make fins, tentacles, etc, ironing between the layers of parchment paper until you have a finished creature.

Add bottle caps and other soft plastic pieces by applying pressure with iron, always remembering to keep parchment paper between the iron and the plastic piece.

Be in touch with any questions and have fun!

14 June 2011



Life is Good Sky Fred
arrived at Breidablik during our art installation week,
a gift from Rhode Island!
Already, Sky Fred has captivated one and all. His good work
to help with fusing beach and recycled plastics is overwhelming. 
Sky Fred learned much from kids and teachers, and his monkey relatives as well as
Friends of Fred around the planet.......Especially, the First and original,
Fred X310!

Fred X310 passed along much knowledge of coral reef troubles,
learned out on Coconut Island off Oahu, helping Sky Fred
build awareness for kids.........plastics harm so many reef creatures!

Incredibly valuable science, contributed by dedicated teacher, Jeff Manker
and USFWS biologist, John Klavitter, helped kids learn so much about
threats to Albatross........Here, Jeff and John band a young Laysan Albatross
right outside a building on Midway (Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument).

You might find it odd they are by a building, but consider the tiny tiny tiny size
of the islets inside the Midway Atoll........that were nearly swept away in recent
Tsunami waves..........The Albatrosses nest alongside buildings, along the air runway,
and even atop trash that washes ashore by the ton.......and more tons......and more....

Like these albatross chicks, born amidst the trash of the Pacific........
Netting, ropes, legos, bottle caps, toothbrushes..........our throw aways,
washing into the seas........hoping someone will notice. And help.

Hoping someone will notice the serious sand.........filled with our tossed trash.
This photo, I took......2009. Midway, where my Dad cruised past in WWII and where
our ocean tosses large and small bits of lighters, rope, computers, flip flops, buckets,
toothbrushes, more lighters, more toys than imaginable........onto the most
beautiful beach on earth.

Where I watched, helpless..........as helpless as this baby Albatross, its
stomach filled with plastic......testing wings that would never fly
across the seas of its ancestors, the mythical and majestic soaring
creatures affected by our thoughtlessness.......until kids came along who care!

Kids who learn that baby albatrosses, like seals, whales, and more.....accept
bottle caps and other plastics as food.........Here, a parent Albatross feeds its young
by regurgitating what it has taken from the sea after flying as many as 500 miles in one direction
to find squid or other food........on the sea surface, only to fly back to offer up the meal.

Sadly, more than one million seabirds die each year because they mistake plastic
for natural food..........

Lucky for the Albatrosses and Other Sea life, kids Care so much...
Here, a First Grader attaches bottle caps to an Orca Whale..Like a
Traditional Button Blanket created by Northwest Coast Peoples,
She carefully sews the bottle caps onto a plastic mesh oyster bag,
shaping and coloring her whale in an outdoor art collage.

Saving the Seas. One bottle cap at a time.
One Baby Albatross saved from the potential discards of our coastal world.

All the while, other kids created fused plastic fish, crabs, jellies, and more sea
life to embellish their playground fencing.........along with trash collectected from local shores.
Follow this blog to find sources of how to fuse and how to build community while
cleaning beaches and saving the seas as we did at Breidablik!!!

Thanks to Librarain, Mary Fox for spearheading 
Jump Off Joe to the Sea Art Project
and to the parents, teachers, and students
of Breidablik Elementary.
Special thanks as well to the Cleavers, and to Dr. Gail Davis!

As always, Thanks to the USFWS, NOAA, and 
State of Hawaii for hosting me on a journey begun at
Midway in 2009 with friends of Fred, Jeff Manker, Linda Schubert,
Annie Bell, and young Trevor, and the rest of the PAA team!

Visit all sites to do with Papahanaumokuakea for more about
the islands and life in the Northwestern reaches of what we call Hawaii.

Malama i ke Kai i ka Aina 

10 June 2011

Breidablik Ocean Saving Plastic Fantastic Art Installation........

Just two years ago, I stepped foot on Midway Atoll,
and began what has become a journey with thousands of kids around the world -
a journey to find a way to a better planet, a healthier ocean, and a healthier future.

The photo above is an image permanently etched in my heart.

It is one of hundreds of young albatross I saw dead and dying
from accidental ingestion of ocean trash........Legos, Bic Lighters, markers,
toy soliders, and endless numbers of bottle caps..........

On coming home, I found an endless stream of plastic on local beaches
and began picking up as much of this trash as I could on daily walks with my dog.
I even found a seal on the beach, dead from choking on plastic mesh used in clam
and oyster harvests.........and miles of rope, hundreds of bottle caps, and a
constant supply of straws and plastic junk from cruise ships.


On hearing of what I'd learned at Midway, they started collecting
bottle caps and soon we started plans for some kind of art project
to share our concerns about the ocean and all that plastic entering the waters
of our one, precious ocean.

In the past year or so, they collected well over 5,000 bottle caps!
We also collected recyled plastic bags, shrink wrap from a wonderful local grocer,
and a whole lot of the trash I collect on the beach.

With caring teachers and parents helping out, we started making our ART -
our Collage ---- a Sculptural piece installed today on a section of
playground fence..... 

Complete with a Canoe too!

and jellyfish made by the most creative kids you will ever meet!


09 June 2011


Breidablik Students Proudly display their Creative Energy
and Ocean Saving Project........

After four days of creating fused plastic fish, jellyfish, octopuses, squid,
whales, and more...........These young artists completed

Believed to be the world's largest, barely surpassing
another created the day before,
This Shark is made from
Central Market Recycled Shipping Wrap, Penn Cove Mussel
Aquaculture Disc, and beach found plastics.

The shark is one of several hundred sea and land creatures
created from plastic that may well have ended up in the ocean.

as well as former Breidablik Students for helping
kids reporpoise a library full of plastic.

Stay tuned to see the installation of their creations
on the Playground fence! The project now includes a reporpoised canoe,
fishing equipment, and two years of beach trash collected on local shores.

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.