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 November 2011

Project SOAR Mapped and Soaring from Ohio

Debbie Charna and her SOAR Team recently mapped
Fred's travels around the world. Her room now includes this map and so, if you visit, Columbus, Ohio
do stop in to see where Fred might appear next and where he has spread his wisdom about
marine debris, ocean issues, and Papahanaumokuakea and other marine protected areas.

Of course, we could add here, a digital map, but it would be more fun for you
to see the original...........originals.......so rare these days!!!

While our project may not be the largest or most highly funded, it has a lot of heart and as you
can tell from the smiles on these faces, it is also a lot of fun to learn, teach, and share
in ways that will save the earth, one bit of info at a time........ 

Project SOAR has reached England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Switzerland, South
Africa, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Hawaii, New York, Ohio, Wyoming, Montana, Washington,
Oregon, Midway Atoll, and other locations around the planet.

Thanks in large part to pro bono efforts, SOAR
continues to move people to act in fun ways..........cleaning beaches, making art,
teaching about recycling and reusing, and sharing creatively so that
plastic pollution may someday be forgotten.

Please see the December issue of CURRENT, 
the journal of Marine Education
for an article about SOAR!!!

And do be in touch to receive a SOAR teaching kit
so you can be more actively involved!  

07 November 2011


I just sent the following letter to Senator Maria Cantwell in response to her call for funding to help cleanup the trash washed into the Pacific from Japan, following the earthquake and tsuname last spring.
I felt like it was a moment worth leaping on to help call attention to the ever present problem of ocean debris..............to remind her and others the problem is not something new and that the trash from Japan, sad as it is, will not simply land on our shore and be easily dealt with in a short period of time.

I go to the beach each day, picking up trash endlessly...............sorry to say, sometimes I am a bit down and don't bother since there is so much to deal with........Tonight was the worst since winter storms have already arrived. With the cold and early darkness, it is never easy to have a good walk, haul off some junk, play with the dog, and try to make a dent in the endless stream of junk.

Actually, I had ignored a huge chunk of rope for several days. Tonight, I just had to remove it and it was all I could do to haul it up and over the logs to remove it from the sea. Who knows where it originated! Multi-colored, it had to weigh more than 200 pounds. No matter, it will not wash back into the sea where it could actually re-circulate in the ocean and find its way in the currents to Japan!

Anyway, here is my letter to Maria Cantwell. I suppose I could have composed a better letter, but I wanted her to know about schools making a difference. Schools like Sharon Buda's Wyandont where kids learn about their connection to the ocean even though they are a couple of thousand miles from the sea. And, for sure, Debbie Charna's kids who helped create this Project SOAR! And, Lisa Keller's students at Bush School where she helps teachers guide projects that make a difference.

All I can hope for is that some funding finds its way to schools at which kids can ACT not just read about issues like this one. Education only matters if the world becomes a better, healthier place because of what kids learn. I'm not saying we should put kids in the seats of bulldozers and put them on the beaches.......I am saying we could have kids designing creative ways in which the plastics and other debris headed our way is dealt with in ways that first, do no harm to ocean life..............How about it kids? Any ideas?  

Dear Senator Cantwell,

I just returned from the beach near our home on Marrowstone Island in Jefferson County. As often happens, I spent more time removing several hundred pounds of trash from the shore than tossing the stick for our Labrador. Tonight, it was mostly in the form of a 2-300 pound chunk of nylon hawser and some tires.

On my way home, I listened to an NPR report about a bill you are sponsoring to deal with the trash washing our way from the spring tsunami in Japan. The sadnesses visited upon Japan remain in all our hearts and that huge input of plastic, etc will be a serious problem to be sure. But I hope you are aware of how long it will persist and how it impacts the Pacific, wildlife, and people all across the ocean.

We know, based on studies, that the world's one ocean was already filled with about 50,000 pieces of plastic per square mile prior to the tsunami.

Here on Marrowstone, we receive trash from Hawaii and the distant west as well as tons from Seattle and Tacoma. I pick up several tons each year, including large quantities of bottle caps, and other items not recycled in Seattle.

According to NOAA, flip flops I find on our beach may well have washed away from beaches on Oahu or the Big Island. And so, it will not be a surprise to begin to find "new" pieces from Japan in the weeks and months, and years to come.

That is why I write. This trash heap will not simply fall on our shores in a single or even in ten or twenty events. It will not be an easy to manage clean up fundable by a quick vote and a rush of equipment aiming to scoop up and return or recycle items.

It is going to be a problem for generations to come. And so, I urge you to include in your funding, efforts to educate and involve young people who are already working hard to reduce plastic and other trash sources.

According to the USFWS, as many as one million seabirds already die each year due to plastics in the ocean. Whales are entangled in trash, sea turtles die, seals are threatened as well. All the while, kids in grades k and above are finding ways to solve the problem.

This moment, this pressing problem from Japan, this fundable issue can be a time when you and other lawmakers decide education is a key to the ultimate solution.

All that trash will be churning and washing and mixing with other debris for decades, if not centuries. Kids I now work with in grade school will be in college by the time good solutions are found to deal with the problems of clean up, recycling, and repurposing the trash.

Please consider ways in which you can fund educational efforts that put kids in place to help deal with the issues. No workers in machines can match the kids who think, consider, and act creatively. I know this based on experience as a biologist who works with them on the pressing problems of ocean pollution.

Kids have helped me find ways of dealing with ocean issues in the past. I know they can help you.

I suggest you help support projects at the Bush School in Seattle; Wyandot Elementary in Dublin, Ohio; North Kitsap Schools in our home state; Fishing Cove Elementary in Rhode Island; Columbus School for Girls in Ohio; and many schools in the Hawaiian Islands where the trash will first wash ashore.

I've worked with many wonderful teachers who can bring creative solutions to the forefront if you help them inspire their students to come up with ways to deal with this enormous problem.

I am sending a copy of this letter to teachers and others who can help you. Thank you for responding to the crisis, and thank you for thinking of it as a longterm problem with needs for educational efforts that involve kids directly in finding solutions.

Ron Hirschi

Project SOAR



03 November 2011

GLOBAL INTEREST IN OCEAN PLASTICS........Some New Literature and Research

Global interest in Marine debris, microplastics, and the overall problem of plastics in our oceans has increased greatly in the past few years.

For my part, I've been sharing the problem and potential solutions with young people. I'm also at work on a book about Wisdom, hoping her life story brings attention to the issue. She has lived through the worst problems related to longline fishing and drift nets. Wisdom also survived her early years on Midway when rats were a plague. A little known cause of death on Midway was also avoided by this remarkable albatross-- that of lead poisoning from paint flaking off old military buildings. As many as 10,000 albatrosses die on Midway each year from this ongoing source of pollution according to the USFWS.

Wisdom has survived 60 years of ocean and island life, reflect the positive and potential for other birds. But many scientists have little hope for solutions to the growing crisis in plastic pollution and its associated problems related to PCBs, PBDEs, and other organics that "attach" to plastics in the sea. The following is a link to one of the best sources for finding literature on research into the problems and potential solutions, from SEAWEB. Be sure to check out the report on biodegradable plastic grocery bags:


Follow their newsletter and you will be rewarded with a great deal of information on this and other ocean issues. I urge you to support them financially too!

Thank You !!!

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.