Marsha Hart: Teaching her love of the environment
The great outdoors is her classroom

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Two and a half years ago, Marsha Hart retired from a successful 27-year career of teaching first and second graders enrolled in the Kentucky public school system.  Now, as Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery’s Environmental Education and Outreach Specialist, Marsha teaches people of all ages.

“When the opportunity to work at Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery was presented to me, I knew it would be something I would love,” says Marsha. “I always enjoyed visiting the hatchery, and I was impressed by all they do, from raising trout that is stocked all over Kentucky, to giving numerous group and field trip tours, and being an active, positive presence in the community.”

In her position, Marsha conducts and coordinates community outreach activities. The biggest splash is the annual Catch a Rainbow Kids Fishing Derby, which has been held at the hatchery for 35 years. This event is held the first Saturday in June with the help of volunteers and the Friends of Wolf Creek Fish Hatchery.

“Children who came to the derby when they were young are now bringing their children and grandchildren. One thousand kids registered to fish this year, with over 3,000 in attendance for the day. “The event takes a lot of hard work, but it is incredibly rewarding,” says Marsha.

The fall derbies are smaller, but they are just as enjoyable for the participants. Wolf Creek serves the community by staging a Wounded Warrior fishing event for veterans who have suffered injuries related to their service, a Catch A Smile Senior Fishing Derby for those ages 62 and above, as well as a Reaching for Rainbows Fishing Derby for children with special needs. Each one of these fishing events invites participants to enjoy time in nature fishing, along with a free lunch and prizes or tokens to take home.

Wolf Creek’s staff also travels to area nursing homes with equipment, trout, fishing poles, and bait. “While fishing, residents will often recall past fishing stories as they wait for a bite, then once the fish start to nibble, the excitement sets in,” says Marsha. “Reeling in a nice trout always results in a huge smile!”

While at Wolf Creek, Marsha has expanded her role as an environmental educator. She is now a Kentucky Association of Environmental Education (KAEE) facilitator. KAEE facilitators are educators who have been certified to host workshops in one or more nationally recognized curriculum programs. Marsha is also set up to train others in Project Wild, Project Wet, and Project Learning Tree. Project Wet is dedicated to solving critical environmental challenges by teaching the world about water. Project Wild provides wildlife-based conservation and environmental education that fosters responsible actions toward wildlife and related natural resources. Project Learning Tree uses forests as a window to the world, teaching students how to think, not what to think.

Marsha enjoys both teaching and learning.  She says the best thing about her job is its variety of tasks.

“I enjoy coming to work every day not knowing exactly what I will be doing,” says Marsha. “Some days I think I know how my day will go, but once I get to work, we may have a busload of people pull up to our visitor’s center who would like a guided tour of our facility, or I may be on the phone talking with prospective volunteers for our Work camping/Volunteer program, listening to all the wonderful places they have visited and volunteered. Some days I get to help give a bath to Ranger, our resident skunk, and other days I am working in our rain garden or nature trail.”

Taking care of the hatchery’s educational animals helped Marsha overcome her fear of snakes.

“I was terrified of snakes, and the thought of touching one or holding one tied my stomach in knots! After a few days of taking care of our educational animals Benny, a corn snake, and Quadro, a black rat snake, I was more comfortable around them,” says Marsha. “I was able to overcome a long-standing fear and hold the snakes confidently and be able to enjoy showing them to people while teaching about reptiles.  I also take the opportunity of overcoming my fear to inspire others: when I hear a child or adult say they hate snakes or are afraid, I let them know that I was not always able to be comfortable around snakes, but it is possible to overcome fears!”

Marsha’s love of teaching and learning is evident even in her spare time.  She likes reading and exploring new interests, watching YouTube Videos, canning garden food and learning how to play pickle ball.  She has been married to her husband Rodney for 33 years.  Her daughter Baylee is majoring in education. Like her mother, she loves nature, visits the hatchery, and has volunteered and helped with some of the fishing derbies and school groups when she is available.

Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery has become part of Marsha’s family.

“I am thankful for the opportunity to work for the Service,” says Marsha. “There are so many in the Service who want to do good things and make an impact. Connections I have made with others in the Service have inspired me to try new things, both professionally and personally.”

Story Tags

Connecting people with nature
Education outreach
Environmental education