Raena Parsons receives regional Sense of Wonder award


Raena Parsons teaches fish identification to elementary school kids at Norskedalen Nature and Heritage Center. Photo by Orey Eckes/USFWS.

Raena Parsons, an environmental education specialist stationed at Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin, is the 2019 recipient of the regional Sense of Wonder award. We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service use the Sense of Wonder award to honor employees who have designed, implemented or shown visionary leadership in an interpretive or environmental education program that fosters a sense of wonder and enhances public stewardship of the country’s fish and wildlife heritage. Nominees are evaluated on their ability to use the principles of interpretation and environmental education to create original and innovative methods of connecting the public with our resources and programs.

Raena was selected as this year’s regional recipient due to her extraordinary work as the fish hatchery’s first and only full time interpretative staff person. In addition to visiting schools, Raena welcomes and educates visitors at the Great River Road Interpretive Center, a 5,000 square foot facility that opened in 2018. The new visitor center includes educational exhibits focused on the natural resources of the Upper Mississippi River, the history of the region, the hatchery’s species recovery work and soon, through Raena’s efforts, an exhibit highlighting the center’s rooftop pollinator garden. Raena’s innovative approach connects static interpretive materials with physical interactive interpretation. As a result, visitors are able to get an up close look at how beehives function and how pollinators help fisheries resources and the larger ecosystem. This project is being done in addition to Raena’s ongoing work to engage residents and visitors to the area through interpretive programming for school groups, coordination of hatchery events and providing a presence at community events.

The Sense of Wonder award is coordinated by the National Wildlife Refuge System. Raena’s win as a Fish and Aquatic Conservation employee illustrates that like national wildlife refuges, national fish hatcheries play an important role in connecting the American public to the country’s resources. Raena’s regional selection qualifies her to compete for the national Sense of Wonder award, which will be announced in November at the National Association of Interpretation conference in Denver, Colorado.

Congratulations to Raena on being selected for this prestigious award! Learn more about Genoa National Fish Hatchery and the Great River Road Interpretive Center to plan your visit today.