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Eight students awarded in Junior Duck Stamp contest

By Staff | Apr 30, 2018

TIFFANY REPECKI Winning students, from left, Abbie Wheeler, Darren Jenkins, Gia Lackenby, Vanessa Kelly, Olivia Kauffold, Molly Dunn and Adeline Von Wowern with Principal Chuck Vilardi, art teacher Tylor Smith, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge Conservation Educator Sara Hallas and Preston Hall, field reporter for The Sanibel School's Sea TV.

The Sanibel School, along with the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, recently recognized several of its students for placing in the 2018 Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest.

On April 25, eight students were honored by the faculty and refuge staff, as well as spotlighted on the school’s Sea TV. Marking 25 years, the Federal Junior Duck Stamp Conservation and Design Program is an art and science based curriculum teaching wetland and waterfowl conservation to K-12 students.

Refuge Conservation Educator Sara Hallas explained that the program gets children learning about conservation and how important conservation is for wildlife, like waterfowls, and their habitats.

“It helps them to realize how incredibly important it is to step up and do something,” she said.

“And they create these wonderful pieces of artwork,” Hallas added.

TIFFANY REPECKI The Sanibel School winners from the statewide portion of the 2018 Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest were reorganized on April 25 via the school's Sea TV. Ryan Jankauskas counts down to airtime.

The refuge judged over 2,000 entries from more than 40 cities statewide, with a total of 100 students in multiple age categories receiving first, second and third place honors, along with honorable mentions.

From The Sanibel School, Vanessa Kelly, 9, won first place for her green-winged teal duck in crayon,

while Gia Lackenby, 9, won first place for her male and female kissing duck pair in colored pencil.

Vanessa said she was shocked to learn that she had won first place.

“I thought it looked cute and I thought it looked good,” she said of picking a green-winged teal.

PHOTO PROVIDED The winner of the 2018 Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest was Raylen Kang, of Johns Creek, Georgia, with an acrylic painting of an emperor goose.

Gia echoed that she was also surprised to win first place.

“I didn’t believe it at first,” she said.

Asked about doing two ducks, Gia said she loves art and wanted to spend extra time on her entry.

“I don’t know, it just came up in my mind,” she said of the kissing pair. “They’re in love.”

Honorable mentions went to: Sophia DeCosta; Molly Dunn, 10; Darren Jenkins, 9; Olivia Kauffold, 9; Adeline Von Wowern, 10; and Abbie Wheeler, 8. Each of the students received their entry in a frame.

PHOTO PROVIDED In Florida, the Best of Show recognition went to Anna Grace Swanson, 15, of Titusville.

Principal Chuck Vilardi sat in on some of the art classes while the youth worked on them.

“I’m very proud of our boys and girls,” he said.

“They were taking it very seriously,” Vilardi added. “It was a big deal with them.”

Art teacher Tylor Smith noted that the school typically has a few winners.

“That’s why I was so amazed that we had so many,” she said. “We’ve never had that many.”

Sara Hallas

Each of the students has to research their duck species before they can begin.

“They just can’t draw anything,” Smith said, adding that the habitat and coloring have to be correct. “They had to be accurate with their depiction.”

She estimated that the youth worked on their entries at school and at home for about a month.

“They’re fantastic artists, all of them,” Smith said.

The artwork of the 100 statewide winners will be on display at the refuge.

“They’ll stay up all year,” Hallas said.

In October, the students will have the opportunity to take part in a special ceremony.

“We make it a point to make the kids feel excited and honored they were a part of it,” she said.

A best of show from each state moves on to the federal contest. For Florida, Best of Show was awarded to Anna Grace Swanson, 15, of Titusville. Her painting came from the studio of Painting by Bledsoe.

The winner of the 2018 Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest was Raylen Kang, of Johns Creek, Georgia, who submitted an acrylic painting of an emperor goose. It will serve as the design for the stamp.

The program began in 1989 as an extension of the Migratory Bird Conservation and Hunting Stamp, commonly known as the Federal Duck Stamp. The first federal stamp was designed in 1934 by Sanibel cartoonist J.N. “Ding” Darling, who was serving as the director for the Bureau of Biological Survey.

The national Junior Duck Stamp art contest started in 1993, and the first stamp design was selected from the eight participating states. The program was recognized by Congress the following year.

Federal stamps are conservation revenue stamps; 98 percent of the purchase goes to help acquire and protect wetland habitat and purchase conservation easements for the National Wildlife Refuge System.

One hundred percent of the revenue from the sale of Junior Duck stamps, which cost $5 each, goes to support recognition and environmental education activities for students who participate in the program.

While waterfowl hunters 16 years of age or older are required to purchase a Federal Duck Stamp, a current stamp will also serve as a free pass into national wildlife refuges that charge an entry fee.

For more information, visit www.fws.gov/refuge/jn_ding_darling/.

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is at 1 Wildlife Drive, Sanibel.