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PACIFIC SOUTHWEST REGION: A Different Kind of March Madness
California-Nevada Offices , April 15, 2014
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Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest art on display at the Crocker Art Museum.
Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest art on display at the Crocker Art Museum. - Photo Credit: USFWS
A sample of some of the 2,703 submissions this year.
A sample of some of the 2,703 submissions this year. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Judges from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and California Waterfowl examine the art to find a winner.
Judges from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and California Waterfowl examine the art to find a winner. - Photo Credit: USFWS
The 2014 California Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest winner, ruddy ducks by Jonathan Chen, age 15 from Fremont.
The 2014 California Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest winner, ruddy ducks by Jonathan Chen, age 15 from Fremont. - Photo Credit: USFWS

By Cindy Sandoval

March Madness conjures up images of college basketball and fans with face paint, but there is also March Madness happening in the world of art.

The 2014 Junior Duck Stamp contest submissions have been rolling in and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff and volunteers have been sorting through nearly 3,000 works of art. Every year children throughout California take their knowledge of waterfowl and create a 9" x 12" horizontal portrait of a duck or goose or swan. Children, teachers and supporters of the stamp gathered this year at the Crocker Art Museum to glaze at the submissions and watch the live judging and announcement of this year’s state winner.

In years past the California Jr Duck Stamp Contest has been hosted at Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Willows but this year was moved to an art museum to showcase the creations as not only the end product of waterfowl education, but as works of art. In an effort to raise awareness of the Junior Duck Stamp Program and help children understand the bird’s biology and importance, Service staff and volunteers visit classrooms to teach students about waterfowl and their habitat. With over six million students in the state of California, the Service cannot visit every classroom but with the help of partner organizations like California Waterfowl and the web, information on waterfowl and the program is far reaching. One student artist who created a common eider submission explained, “before the contest I did not really know anything about my duck or any duck, I had to read about them and learn what color it was and even what kind of plants it would be found in.”

According to Lora Haller, Visitor Services Manager at Sacramento NWR “the art allows students to express what they have learned about waterfowl in a way that they might not be able to do in writing or on an exam. In a way their art work is like a term paper, it is what they create after learning about waterfowl.” Thanks to the effort of Haller, her staff and the conservation and art community spreading the word about the contest, there were 2,703 entries this year. While the number of entries was down from last year, California children still submit more entries than many other states.

Haller added, “last year nationwide there were about 29,000 submissions from all 50 states and some United States territories, most states usually have a couple hundred entries but we have thousands.” The entries arrive from all over the state from both urban and rural counties from students that live next to wetlands and students that live in some of most densely human populated areas in the nation.

With so many entries, the judging takes place over two days. The first day of judging was held at Sacramento NWR as art was divided into four groups according to grade level. The groups K-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12 are all judged individually and the best 100 pieces of art from every group made their way to the Crocker Art Museum for the second day of competition.

Besides the rules that dictate the entries like size and orientation, there are other submission features that the judges consider when choosing a winner. The waterfowl featured in each piece of art must be a species found on the list of eligible species for the contest. Judges will also take into account the habitat the bird is depicted in. Service employee Steve Emmons explains, “The artwork should show the species in the appropriate habitat, for example a sea duck sitting inside a tule marsh may not be all that accurate.”

This year’s judges represented members of different organizations and demonstrates how the Junior Duck Stamp program brings together different people. The five judges on the second day of competition included employees of the Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California Waterfowl CEO/President John Carlson Jr. and wildlife artist Rich Radigonda. These judges carefully examined each submission and placed a poker chip on the artwork they felt best represented the species, habitat and what the students learned about waterfowl. Finally, the winners of each of the four age groups were displayed for the judges and an overall winner was announced. This year the art design that earned the distinguished title of California’s Best of Show was a pair of ruddy ducks by Jonathan Chen, age 15 from Fremont, Calif. His artwork will be submitted to Washington D.C. to compete with the other states’ Best of Show winners during the National Junior Duck Stamp Design Contest on April 18, 2014.

The winner of the National Junior Duck Stamp Contest will have their art reproduced to aid future waterfowl conservation as the winning design is used to create the Junior Duck Stamp for the following year. Junior Duck Stamps are sold by the U.S. Postal Service, Amplex Corporation consignees and some wildlife refuges for $5 per stamp. Proceeds from the sale of Junior Duck Stamp support conservation education, and provide awards and scholarships for the students, teachers and schools that participate in the program.

Once the judging is finished, the work is far from over. The Service mails out certificates to all students that participated in the program as a thank you for their interest and hard work in conserving waterfowl and waterfowl habitat. The Service then hosts an awards ceremony at a wildlife refuge for the contest award winners and the students are supplied with plaques and awards from the Pacific Flyway Decoy Association and California Waterfowl.

This California Junior Duck Stamp Program is so successful because of the generous and supportive partnerships among the organizations that provide the funding and manpower. Volunteers from the Sacramento NWR and California Waterfowl worked on the daunting task of laying out all the artwork, tallying scores, and recording winners. Additional major sponsors for the program include the California Rice Commission, California Department of Water Resources, and other federal, state, private, and non-profit environmental conservation and education agencies. The Service looks forward continuing classroom visits and displaying student water fowl art for many years to come.

Cindy Sandoval is a public affairs specialist at the Pacific Southwest Regional Office in Sacramento, California.


Contact Info: Cynthia Sandoval, 916-978-6159, cynthia_d_sandoval@fws.gov



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