Seven Ponds Nature Center

A Nature Sanctuary and Environmental Education Center


SPNC Appoints Next Executive Director

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Daryl Bernard will begin his tenure as the next Executive Director of Seven Ponds Nature Center on February 13, 2017. Daryl will work alongside current Executive Director Mike Champagne for four weeks, until Mike’s retirement from the center on March 10th after 25 years leading Seven Ponds Nature Center.

Knowing that it would be hard to replace Mike, the Board was elated to find someone of Daryl’s caliber with his proven leadership and community building skills.  He has been described by his colleagues and students as having an infectious amount of enthusiasm and determination.  The Board was excited to hear about his ability to create a true sense of wonderment for the natural world in the younger generation and to accomplish goals that others told him would be unattainable.  The Board is confident that he will be able to lead the Center into its next half-century and to maintain it as a significant resource for environmental education.

Bernard comes to Seven Ponds after an eighteen-year career as a middle school science teacher in the Saginaw Township Community School District. During his tenure at White Pine Middle School, he started the school’s highly successful cross country program, attracting up to 80 students per season to the team, and earning the MITCA Michigan Middle School Cross Country Coach of the Year Award in 2012. He also started a middle school birding club, introducing numerous young people to the world of birds and nature.

A Michigan native, Daryl grew up immersed in the outdoors, constantly exploring and discovering. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree at Saginaw Valley State University, and was presented with the William B. Owsley Award for Outstanding Biology Graduate by the SVSU biology staff upon graduation. He went on to earn an additional Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, which led to his career as a middle school science teacher.

“I am beyond excited about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead of me. I feel incredibly honored to be named the next Executive Director of Seven Ponds Nature Center. I have read the history of Seven Ponds, and I stand in awe of those whose vision and dedication over the past 50 years has made Seven Ponds Nature Center the incredible place that it is today. I will commit myself fully to leading the center forward with that same vision and dedication.”

The staff and board are excited about the passion and leadership Bernard will bring to role of Executive Director. His desire to share the wonders of the natural world with those around him aligns perfectly with the mission of the Center. We hope that you will stop by and give Daryl, and his wife Laura, a warm Seven Ponds community welcome as he begins his work in mid-February.  

Reflections from Seven Ponds

This last newsletter of the year marks a time of transition. Fall of 2016 is winding down. Leaves are already off the trees, summer resident birds have flown south, and many animals have become inactive until next spring. Winter will soon be upon us, bringing tracks in the snow, winter birds, a chance to snowshoe, and snow to shovel. Of course, the year itself is also coming to a close. Soon, we will all be writing the year 2017 on our correspondence and wondering how the past year went by so fast. It has been a productive year at Seven Ponds, and we thank you for all of your support.

While this time of the year is always a time of transition at Seven Ponds, it is especially true this year. Over the next few months, there will be some significant changes in the staff of the nature center as Office Manager Dan Hayes, Naturalist Lois Rheaume, and I all retire. Together, these three full-time staff members have been at the nature center for over 85 years. In addition, the three have more than 100 years of combined experience working in Michigan nature centers.

Dan Hayes will be retiring as Office Manager at the end of 2016, after more than 38 years at Seven Ponds. He came to the nature center in the fall of 1978 in the role of Naturalist. For 12 years, he led school groups, gave weekend programs, conducted summer activities for children, and performed all of the many other duties required of a Seven Ponds Naturalist. In 1990, when the position of Office Manager opened up, Dan decided to take on this challenging job. He has now served in this position for more than 26 years, performing bookkeeping duties, keeping contribution records, handling correspondence, putting the newsletter together, and managing the nature center’s computer systems. Dan has an extraordinary set of skills, ranging from desktop publishing to bird song identification. He is extremely knowledgeable on a variety of topics, including the practices required for the successful operation of a non-profit organization. All of these attributes have served the nature center well over the years. He is so much more than his position title implies. I know that I have personally leaned on Dan during my time as Executive Director, frequently seeking his counsel or asking for his assistance on projects. His presence at the nature center helped me greatly as I made the successful transition into the Executive Director’s chair.

Lois Rheaume plans to retire from her full-time Naturalist position at the end of April in 2017. She first came to the staff of Seven Ponds when she accepted the position of Seasonal Naturalist in September of 1994, simultaneously finishing up her college degree with an internship at the nature center. In 1996, a full-time Naturalist position opened up at the center and Lois took over this role. She has now served more than 20 years in this capacity. Over these years, Lois has been an extremely important part of the nature center’s environmental education program, leading school groups, conducting summer classes, giving weekend programs, leading field tours, and generally sharing her knowledge on a variety of topics. She is a lifelong learner who enthusiastically shares her love of natural history, conservation, and the out-of-doors with others. There are many people who have become turned on to nature due to Lois’s efforts. In addition to the above, Lois has extraordinary artistic talents which have made Seven Ponds the envy of our nature center colleagues. If you want to see the results of her talents, take in the exhibits in the center’s Discovery Room, look at all of the signs at Heritage Harvest Days, or be amazed at the unbelievable costumes she fabricated for the Enchanted Woodland program. Whenever I or another member of the staff needed her artistic abilities, she was there for us.

As for me, I plan to retire next March after 25 years at the nature center. I have one more “Reflections” article scheduled for the spring edition of Heron Tracks. Look for my thoughts on my years at Seven Ponds then and news of some new faces.

Mike Champagne, Executive Director

(from the Winter 2017 issue of Heron Tracks)

Grants & Gifts

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Lapeer County Community Foundation Grant
This summer, the nature center received a grant from the Lapeer County Community Foundation for $3,920.00 to create an activity center for pre-school children in the Discovery Room. The activity center features a cubbyhole system containing such items as animal pelts, skulls, feathers, turtle shells, games, puzzles, and other things which pre-school children will enjoy examining. The activity center also contains a small table and chairs, just right for small children, where the cubbyhole objects can be looked at. This new feature for the Discovery Room should be in place by the time you receive this newsletter. Come out and take a look!
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Around the Center

Knee High Fun
Just in case you haven’t seen the new pre-school nature discovery area, you may want to come on out and enjoy the Nature Nook with your young nature lover. It is filled with puzzles, puppets, books, and blocks all revolving around a nature theme.

Batty Bungalows
Six new bat houses will hopefully provide our resident bats with cozy places to live. Three stations of paired houses have been erected on poles in the North-80 and near the front parking lot. This is another wonderful Eagle Scout Project, completed by Nathan Scott.

Wants and Needs

  • New hand-held loppers for use in our work against invasive plants.
  • Books for the Stinger’s January sale.

Have you included Seven Ponds in your will?

The Lapeer County Community Foundation manages 61 funds to provide grants for a wide range of charitable purposes. Since 1996, over $2.75 million has been given to enhance the quality of life in Lapeer County. This includes several generous grants to the nature center. The Foundation was instrumental in our recent Capital Campaign and has also provided funding for invasive plant control and other projects. We appreciate their continuing support.