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.

30 March 2011


FRED IS BACK..........Fred Z126 arrived on Marrowstone Island two days ago
wearing his GO GREEN shirt and reminding one and all that Albatrosses tagged
with legbands beginning with the letter Z include WISDOM, the oldest known
wild bird on Earth! Wisdom is Albatross Z333 in case you spot her flying out over
the Pacific Ocean between now and July as she searches for food for her chick. Once
the baby bird fledges, Wisdom might just show up along our coast. One never knows!

In the meantime, Fred is busy with new plastic projects and probably because he is a 
Happy Eye Monkey from Hawaii with connections all around the planet,
Fred now champions

The photos above were taken this morning on the East Beach side of the island
where we receive tons of Seattle and Tacoma trash.

The colorful mesh bags came in on the tide yesterday afternoon
along the north shore of Hood Canal near the mouth of Shine Creek.

Funny, I used to feel a sadness on finding plastic on the beach.
Now with acceptance of its presence (much like beach glass),
I see it as a resource worth removing from the ocean
for all the right reasons,
then making cool stuff with it along with kids who care.

North and Central Kitsap Kids do care a lot!

We will be fusing plastic, picking it up from watersheds, 
drilling holes in bottle caps, and more.........to make
and more.........Stay tuned.

p.s. My Stringball still grows, but it has now been repurposed completely
as a kind of storage unit for plastic art supplies.......

The fish you see in the bottom photo was made mostly with fused 
shopping bags, oyster mesh bags, dog treat bags, top ramen wrapper, and
junk mail plastic wrappings. The eye is a bottle cap. The gill cover is
a food container lid and the white mesh is a crab bait holder, cut
then fused to some bread wrappers and other plastic bags.   

23 March 2011

FUSED PLASTIC PROJECT NUMBER ONE......Saving Albatrosses One Plastic Bag at a Time!


Created after Beach Cleanups with
Bags, Plastic Film, Bottle Caps, Recycled Phone Wire, Found Objects

I photographed these on one of the beaches where I pick up plastic.

If you look closely, you will notice that one of the closures
(Middle Bag I call "Move over Gucci")
is a Monopoly Hotel found on this beach.

The red plastic is a mix of bags and film from a local grocery store.
It is thin. It would otherwise be tossed in the trash
and was originally used to wrap pallets of frozen food in shipment.
Bag used in far right piece is combo of this and an empty Sunflower Seed Package.


If you are familiar with fused plastic........
sort out some bottle caps, selecting soft ones, not those
with a rigid feel to them........
You can fuse the bottle cap between layers of plastic bags!
(The Green Blotch on the middle bag is a former bottle cap
that melted nicely, fusing elegantly into the red plastic)


I just started doing this for a project with kids in a couple weeks,
so I am having a lot of fun learning on their behalf.
The basic steps I've followed:

1) Sandwich about four or five layers of plastic bag
between PARCHMENT PAPER that is placed on a hard, flat surface.
Make sure the plastic is inside the parchment 'sandwich", especially if using
your only iron. I've been reusing the same piece of parchment paper
that is about three feet long and folded in half.

2) Press down hard with a hot dry iron, using a bit of circular motion
to heat the plastic uniformly. Again, make sure the plastic is tucked in between the
layers of parchment paper.

3) As the plastic fuses it simply flattens out and you can easily flip the
parchment sandwich to fuse both sides. 

4) Continue pressing as if ironing a shirt, tucking edges over as you see the
now fused sheet form into a more rigid piece. It stiffens quite a bit.

5) You can now cool the sheet and form as you wish or simply use to cut out fish, trees, flowers,
or other shapes.........All suitable for outdoor uses!

The above pieces were single sheets. I folded them over, then fused at edges to form pouches.
No additional work was required to fold the flap. The sheets from this batch
were pliable enough to simply fold. I then punched holes in the sheets where I wanted
to attach the bottle cap buttons and "sewed" them on with recycled phone wire.

I'm now experimenting with bottles, frisbees, toy soldiers, and other found
plastic trash I collect pretty much everyday at the beach........

Thanks to Michelle Kaskovich for the Inspiration!


The bag on the far left incorporates plastic mesh that fused
nicely with the red sheeting. Sharon Buda and I picked 
the mesh from a beach the other day after she and I had
presented at the NAEA Convention in Seattle.
You will be seeing a lot more use from this type of mesh bag,
one of the most common beach finds in recent months. Like
Bottle Caps
It comes in many bright colors and is a type of plastic that easily fuses!

Have Fun and Malama i ke Kai

22 March 2011

WISDOM RETURNS.........Mana'o Akamai...........

Photograph by USFWS Midway Wildlife Biologist, Pete Leary

In a March 21 News Release, the USFWS has officially announced that
has returned to her chick following earlier reports of her possible loss
in the aftermath of the Tsunami of March 10, 2011.

The Mana'o Akamai (Spirit of Wisdom) is strong.........

This 60 year old Female Laysan Albatross
has been successfully raising chicks
on Midway for several decades and is

Mixed results following the tsunami were understandable for many reasons.
Adult Albatrosses share in the raising of their single offspring.
Both partners switch off during the nesting season,
flying hundreds of miles to feeding grounds, 
returning to feed their young one a mix of sea life,
composed of a high percentage of flying fish eggs and squid.

Wisdom must have left Midway shortly after or even during
the time of the tsunami which swept away and/or directly killed
approximately 110,000 juvenile Laysan and Blackfooted Albatross chicks
and about 2,000 adult Albatrosses.
Many more seabirds were killed, including shearwaters and petrels.
Burrow nesters, these seabirds are more difficult to count than the
cup nesting and much larger Albatrosses.

Weighing about 8 pounds, Wisdom has survived life on Midway
through many years of the build up of ocean plastic that annually
kills about one million seabirds worldwide.

Tsunamis are not preventable and the low lying Pacific islands
where many seabirds nest are in harms way whenever severe quakes occur.
Rising Sea Levels also threaten their populations
and yet,
It is the death by plastics (legos, bottle caps, pens, markers, sheeting, lighters, toothbrushes,
fishing gear, broken crates, combs, brushes, and other items
we fail to successfully repurpose
enter rivers, streams, storm drains, and seas
then float out into the ocean. 

Looking for a Squid, Albatrosses
mistake the glisten of a bottle cap for food, snatch it up,
then fly back to Midway where their waiting young dine on 
so much plastic, they are unable to consume natural food.

See earlier posts at SOAR and links at this site
for educational information, teaching tools, and 
art/ecology ideas........

In the meantime, Wisdom has found safe feeding areas
and her survival suggests hope for the future of our 
ONE OCEAN, her only home.

See http://www.fws.gov/pacific for more information
about Pacific Ocean issues and further Wisdom updates.  

Thanks to Pete, John, and all out on Midway!!!!!!!!!

20 March 2011


Green Darter. Photo by Barb Mayer. Midway Atoll.

Project SOAR and Friends of Fred have added DRAGONFLY
to our growing list of species.

The above photo was taken by Barb just as the adult Dragonfly
began unfolding its wings at the edge of quiet waters.
Google Green Darter and you will find many articles about these insects.
Team up with Friends of Fred and you will soon learn much more and,
hopefully get involved in the science and art of Dragonflies.

I spent a couple days presenting and attending the
National Art Educators Association convention this week.
On returning home, I realized I should have presented a talk
called INSPIRATION........

Dragonflies inspire for sure.........They are beautiful creatures.
Their wings seem so delicate and yet they carry these predators
as if made of Boeing aluminum and fitted to the body with rivets.
Some kids, when I ask about this beauty tell me God made them.......
To each his and her own beliefs........

As an ecologist, I am adding Dragonflies to SOAR
because they represent a critical link
in watershed ecology
Their beauty helps kids create dazzling art,

Art and Science go together in the world of children
like chocolate and peanut butter.....and honey, and nuts, and more

Dragonflies link with their relatives, the even more delicate Damselflies.

Dragon and Damselflies are aquatic, totally so for most of their lives.
They are somewhat unusual in that the juvenile form, known as NYMPHS,
lives far longer than the adult form and there is no intermediate stage between

The NYMPHS are so kid friendly.

I take hundreds of kids out onto and into ponds, netting up big wads of gooey muck.
We haul the net onto the shore and take a look..........
At first there may be no sign of life.......nothing at all. Then, suddenly, as if added by
Steven Spielberg,
DRAGONFLY NYMPHS crawl out of the goo, greeted by screams of delight!

A Dragonfly Nymph might measure a couple inches and, equiped as it is with 
The Nymph can and does feast on fish!

As a juvenile, the Dragonfly is an awesome predator, inspiring kids
with its curious shape, strong legs, and water lifestyle. 

Follow this blog thread and we will share seining trips to 
Buck Lake in Washington State with kids from Breidablik Elementary
and, later in the spring, with kids from Ohio and beyond.

Watch for the Nymphs this spring as they crawl out of the muck
at a pond near you........Watch as they become motionless, then crack open to reveal
a dazzling 

Much Smaller Damsels are also predatory as juveniles, live in the same 
basic wet habitats, and go through a similar metamorphosis......

To tell a Damsel adult from a Dragon adult?

Like butterflies and moths, the two generally have different wing resting positions.
Dragonflies hold their wings out when at rest.
Damselflies hold their wings together. 

If you live in Hawaii,
Watch for endangered Damselflies and read more about them in:

F.G. Howarth and W.P. Mull


Hawaiian Damselflies: An Identification Guide
by Dan Polhemus and Adam Asquith

Happy Dragon and Damselfly Watching!

16 March 2011

Fred The Happy-Eyed Monkey

Here are the lyrics, all revised and ready for you to sing along with the kids from CSG on their debut performance at YouTube:

Fred the Happy-Eyed Monkey

Adapted from Peter, Paul, and Mary's Puff the Magic Dragon
Ron Hirschi and the Form III classes at Columbus School for Girls, Columbus, Ohio

Fred the Happy-Eyed Mon-key,
Was born by the sea.
And surfed a-long Bla-ack Pot,
In a Bay called Hanalei.

All the lit-tle Kei-ki,
Smiled when - 'ere he came,
Navy Ships would hoist their flags,
When Fred called out their names.

Fred the Happy-Eyed Monkey,
Loved the birds and SEAS.
Fred the Happy-Eyed Monkey,
Loved the birds and SEAS.
He knew that he could d-o more,
With help from you and me!

Then one day it happened,
Fred, created SOAR!
Now the lit-tle Kei-ki,
go down to their own shore!

They pick out all the plastic,
And put it in its place.
Now, Fred smiles his Monkey smile,
Having helped the Human Race!

Oh, Fred the Happy-Eyed Monkey,
Loves all the Seas.
He surfs and boogie boards to play,
At a place called HANALEI........

o-o-o-ooh yeahhh........Ha-na-lei
right down by the bay!!!!!!!!!!!

15 March 2011

NEWS DIRECTLY FROM MIDWAY...Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument

To see and hear first hand accounts of the impact of the Tsunami on Midway Fish, Wildlife, and Habitat:


As one who saw hundreds of dead albatrosses during "normal" conditions, I can't imagine how tough it is to witness thousands dead and dying. As more reports come in, I will keep you posted on information from Midway sources. The deaths of reef fish and incredibly powerful Ulua is especially sad to hear about since these fish are threatened in ways we don't normally appreciate. I am guessing more reports will help to determine losses of corals as well as the fish Pete talks about in his recent posts.

I'm a fish person and dream of catching Ulua the size you will see at Pete's blog. They are beautiful fish and feed at night, so the Ulua would likely be washed ashore as it chased smaller fish, not sensing the tsunami as something to move away from. Just last spring, during high surf on the windward side of Oahu, I almost touched a huge Ulua as it chased a parrotfish at the front of a big wave. The Ulua chomped the parrotfish in half as the wave curled, dropping the head end onto the beach, right at my feet.......So, they ride waves to feast. Sadly, the tsunami waves also carry them far too high onto the shore.

Please also note the importance in this tsunami event of Naupaka, the shore plant that more or less filtered Albatross chicks from wave surges.........This natural vegetation is what the USFWS is working so hard to protect as workers struggle to pull up non-native plants that inhibit nesting and destroy natural habitat.

All things connected.......from naupaka to ulua to baby petrels and albatrosses................Thanks USFWS!


14 March 2011


Our hearts and helping hands go out to all the people of Japan and we urge everyone to find ways to help ease the pain and suffering following the earthquakes and tsunami.......But we must also consider our original mission and help all who wish to know more about impacts on Albatross and other wildlife.

At latest report, we know that tens of thousands of Laysan Albatrosses and large numbers of Black Footed Albatross were killed on Midway. A high percentage of the world population nests there and even though waves reached no more than about 5 feet above normal, over one half of low lying Eastern Island was swamped by the surge of tsunami waves.

A bright spot in all of this was the survival of the Short Tailed Albatross Chick who had already been washed from its cup nest once before!!!!!!! And, we have heard that Wisdom, the Sixty Year Old Albatross (Laysan) and her chick also survived. She nest on Sand Island where the approximately 65 humans reside and found themselves just fine after the waves washed over much of the runway and lower lying areas of the island............Not to say there is any "highland" to be found...........USFWS staff and volunteers were busy and continue to rescue and monitor. Our Friend and supporter of SOAR, John Klavitter is on island and as soon as it seems right to get in touch, I will post a comment from John.

I do know that he has made comments about the Black Footed Albatrosses on Midway. They nest closer to the ocean, generally, than Laysans. And so, they were hit harder.

I remember so well being on Midway when the chicks of both species were testing their wings. I thought at that time that the greatest threats they faced were from humans who toss plastics into the sea..........and now this natural event the birds have evolved with for centuries, adapting to the rise of seas. Wisdom chose her nesting place long ago. She survived this tsunami and so will many hundreds of others. We might mourn the losses as is our kind way of thinking about all species..............and yet, survival is what brings hope. If a Sixty Year Old Albatross can raise a Chick out in the middle of the Pacific, life goes on......and if a Short Tailed Albatross ----- ONE ONLY thousands of miles from any of us ----------can survive this historic tsunami......Then surely, life goes on.

Please give to a Japanese relief organization of your choosing and remember the Albatrosses and other seabirds, sea turtles, monk seals, and wildlife of the ocean who can not survive without human help.

To learn more about the fate of all Pacific Albatrosses and other seabirds, visit http://www.acap.aq/ and follow the Friends of Albatross Midway (FOAM) site of good friend, Barb Mayer....  

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.