Two Powell High School students have won the Wyoming Junior Duck Stamp Competition’s top two prizes. Hayden Watts, a freshman, won the art division with a painting of a ruddy duck and Amelia …
Two Powell High School students have won the Wyoming Junior Duck Stamp Competition’s top two prizes. Hayden Watts, a freshman, won the art division with a painting of a ruddy duck and Amelia Kousoulos, a junior, won for her conservation message; “Protecting even one habitat can preserve many others. Just one small act can save many creatures.”
Both advanced to represent Wyoming at the 2023 National Federal Junior Duck Stamp Contest. The two students created their entries as part of an art class assignment with PHS art teacher Jim Gilman.
Teaching at Powell High School for 26 years, Gilman said one of his best students was Watts’ mother, Jessica Watts, and that a painting of a zebra she created still hangs in his father’s house.
“She was a fantastic student,” he said.
It has only been a recent phenomenon to see children of former students in his class. While he said the realization that he is old enough to be teaching a second generation “isn’t exactly the greatest thing in the world,” he is getting used to the idea of being a senior member of the staff.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s neat,” he said with some hesitation — like he’s still trying to convince himself.
Hayden Watts joked that her mother “warned” her about Gilman, but said he is a great teacher and they both love(d) his classes.
Gilman said the duck stamp assignment is great for his students, teaching them about conservation efforts as well as art theory. The assignment is mandatory for his first year students, and optional each year after that. Students have to sit out a year if they win the state competition.
“The duck stamp program introduces kids to conservation efforts. It teaches them a little bit about the history about where the duck stamp program came from, why it was developed and it’s a great tool for teaching beginning students about color,” he said.
The vibrant colors of ducks makes the assignment fun while introducing them to many lessons necessary in art, he said.
“Usually, the results are really quite good for the kids. It’s a nice project and most kids are very successful with it,” he said.
The top 100 submissions in each state receive a prize, said Raena Parsons, visitor services director at the National Elk Refuge for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“I think the Junior Duck Stamp programs is a really neat program, because it’s one of the few programs at a federal level where we get a waiver to purchase prizes and are able to send out prizes for the top 100 students in each state.”
Students will receive a package this year that includes art supplies and a birding field guide to encourage further discovery in art and conservation. Thirty-eight students from Powell submitted top entries.
Students in kindergarten through grade 12 participate in their annual state Junior Duck Stamp Program through their school, home, art studio or after-school group, or from a national wildlife refuge, park or nature center, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. After learning about wetlands, waterfowl and wildlife conservation, they express their learning through a drawing or painting of a duck, goose or swan.
Kousoulos plans to attend art classes at Northwest College after graduating and would like to go into the field in the future. Watts said she loves art, but she plans to go to college for a career in the medical profession.
“Hopefully a doctor,” she said.
The top piece of art in the nation — chosen at this annual competition — is featured on the Junior Duck Stamp, sales of which support educational programs and activities that nurture our next generation of conservationists.
A hooded merganser by 15-year-old Mila Linyue Tong of Virginia will grace the 2023-2024 Junior Duck Stamp, which raises funds to educate and engage our nation’s youth in wildlife and wetlands conservation and outdoor recreation. A panel of five judges chose the entry, painted in acrylic, from among best-of-show entries, which was judged last month.
This year, more than 15,000 young artists submitted entries to the Junior Duck Stamp contests around the nation. Tong won the $1,000 grand prize. The winning message, “Never duck the chance of conservation” by Grace Cao, 13, of Texas, received $200.