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News / Life / Pets & Wildlife

If it looks like a duck … it could become a stamp

Contest invites children to enter original art — and to learn more about Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

By Shari Phiel, Columbian staff writer
Published: January 21, 2023, 8:30pm
4 Photos
Art teacher Michelle Hankins, standing at right, helps her daughter Ruby decide what colors would best complement her duck drawing during a Saturday art workshop at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.
Art teacher Michelle Hankins, standing at right, helps her daughter Ruby decide what colors would best complement her duck drawing during a Saturday art workshop at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. (Shari Phiel/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

With rain and sometimes even flurries falling Saturday, it was the kind of weather that’s perfect for ducks. It was also the perfect day for drawing ducks.

Fifteen to 20 students from Ridgefield spent the morning learning how to draw the ducks, geese and swans that call the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge home.

Sponsored by the refuge and the Ridgefield Art Association, the workshop invited children to create an original art piece to be entered in the Washington Junior Duck Stamp contest, a free competition open to K-12 students in formal or tribal schools or homeschool. Similar contests are held annually by each state and U.S. territory.

“I love connecting the community together, and this is another venue to connect the art association to the national wildlife refuge through art,” said Maureen O’Reilly, president of the Ridgefield Art Association.

The workshop was held at the refuge’s new multipurpose building in the Carty Unit. Park Ranger Mesha Wood is leading the effort to get more kids involved in the duck stamp contest. The Ridgefield refuge is also hosting the statewide portion of the duck stamp contest for the second year in a row.

“What they’re asked to do is draw a picture of a North American waterfowl species, so a duck, goose or swan,” Wood said. “Then they enter it into the contest.”

But Wood notes there’s more to the program than simply drawing a picture. She said it encourages students to explore wetlands and waterfowl conservation, biology and wildlife-management principles.

“As part of the federal program, it asks students to incorporate the arts and sciences into one project. After they’ve gone out and observed waterfowl and they’ve learned about the adaptations, their homes, wetlands, and the wetlands-management piece that U.S. Fish and Wildlife works toward, then they transcribe those lessons into a work of art,” Wood said.

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All entries in Washington will come to the Ridgefield refuge and will then be judged within four age groups: grades K-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12. One “Best of Show” winner will then be selected from the top entries to compete in the national contest.

The junior stamp contest draws about 20,000 entries nationwide each year. The winning artwork from the national contest will serve as the design for the Junior Duck Stamp, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service produces annually. Proceeds from the much sought-after and collectible $5 stamp support environmental education activities for students who participate in the program.

Wood said about 100 entries were submitted in Washington last year but that organizers hope outreach efforts and programs like Saturday’s art workshop will at least double that number.

The kids and parents at the workshop seemed more interested in having fun with crayons and colored pencils than in creating a winning entry.

Middle school art teacher Michelle Hankins volunteered to help with the workshop. She also brought her daughter Ruby and son Hudson along.

“I like volunteering for stuff, and I think the refuge is just a nice place that my family comes and enjoys,” Hankins said.

Hankins said she really appreciated having an activity that she, her kindergartner and her first grader could all enjoy together.

Chris Robison said it was a great way for him and his daughters Quinn and Zoey to spend the morning.

“We live in the area, and my daughters really love art,” Robison said.

While 9-year-old Zoey plans to enter her drawing in the contest, 6-year-old Quinn decided to keep hers.

Although too young to enter the contest, 3-year-old Cassie Rinta tagged along with mom Kelly Rinta. When asked if she was having fun, Cassie responded with an enthusiastic “Yeah!” So what was the best part of the day? “I don’t know,” Cassie said.

For more information about the Washington Junior Duck Stamp contest, contact Wood at mesha_wood@fws.gov. Entries must be postmarked or in hand at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge by Feb. 15. Entries can be mailed to Junior Duck Stamp Contest, Ridgefield Refuge Complex, 28908 NW Main Ave., P.O. Box 457, Ridgefield, WA 98642.