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Sunday, August 25, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Give a hoot for silent auction loot: West Valley Outdoor Learning Center to mark 18 years with fun day

The West Valley Outdoor Learning Center is throwing itself a birthday party Saturday to celebrate 18 years of providing education about raptors, owls and other wildlife to students in West Valley and beyond.

The OLC Jamboree will be Saturday at the center. There will be plenty of activities throughout the day to keep children entertained.

“We thought we’d do a carnival theme but with a focus on animals,” said Outdoor Learning Center director Jami Ostby Marsh.

There will be a toad toss, hedgehog bowling and a pin the beak on the owl game, but no actual animals will be used or harmed, said Ostby Marsh. There will be actual tortoises in the tortoise races at 10:30 and 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m.

“They like strawberries and dandelions, so we’ll entice them,” she said. “It will probably be more laughter than racing.”

The center is home to several birds of prey, tortoises, snakes and other animals. There’s a natural area out back with trails and places to explore. Some of the owls and raptors are brought to visit classrooms and other facilities to teach children about the majestic birds.

The highlight of the jamboree celebration is a silent auction that will run all day. Many of the items up for bid are pieces of art, most featuring birds who live at the center. They range from photographs to drawings to paintings, plus a carving of a rodent skull. There’s also a quilted portrait of one of the birds.

“We’ve had tons of people bring stuff,” she said. “Ninety-five percent of the people are volunteers or people who have been involved with us.”

One of the pieces is a pencil drawing of Hanovi the great horned owl sitting on her nest. Center staff thought Hanovi was a male for 17 years until she laid an egg this spring, Ostby Marsh said. The art was drawn by a young autistic girl, Ave McLeod, who has been coming to the center for years. She sits with the birds and reads to them every week.

The center never celebrated its anniversary until a volunteer suggested it last year, she said. Quite a few people came to that inaugural event.

“It’s fun to see the amount of people we’ve impacted over the years,” she said. “I think I just forget how long we’ve been here.”

Ostby Marsh has been at the center since the beginning.

“I was just lucky enough to come right when they started construction,” she said.

Her favorite part of the job is teaching the children who visit about birds and other animals. She said she likes to see the long-term impacts it has on the kids, inspiring some to seek careers related to animals.

“I get to do something new every day,” she said.

Saturday’s celebration also will include a petting zoo, crafts, a photo booth, face-painting, popcorn and lemonade. The suggested donation for admission is $5 per person, but it’s not required.

Money raised from the silent auction and the admission will be used to support the center.

“We’ll put it toward feeding the birds,” Ostby Marsh said.

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