Our Team

Play Counselors are adults who

  • Oversee the children playing but do not interfere in children’s play
  • Set up and clean up playful spaces
  • Provide loose parts materials
  • Assess risks and modify the physical environment to meet the needs of the children
  • Support children’s ideas
  • Promote child-directed play

Susan Caruso is the Director and Founder of Sunflower Creative Arts, a nonprofit organization that offers hands-on learning programs in Play, Nature, and the Arts for children and their parents. In June 2018, Susan started the Sunflower Play Initiative, a community outreach program that strives to give all children access to child-directed free play. She is a specialist in guiding children and adults to discover their passions, realize their potential and develop a strong personal voice. She has been an educator, master player, parenting mentor, musician and compassionate voice and advocate for children for over 30 years. Susan is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), and an innovator in early childhood education. Her inspired, child-centered teaching approach led her to develop Sunflower’s educational model of respect for the individual, learning through experience and learning within the community.  In addition to directing Sunflower’s vision and philosophy, Susan enjoys sharing her insights and continuing to learn and grow daily by working with children, parents and teachers through teaching classes and workshops, consulting educators and youth organizations and presenting at conferences.

Simone Chin is the Assistant Director of the Sunflower Play Initiative. She began her role in January 2019. Her two sons have attended Sunflower Creative Arts over the past five years, during which she has been both a volunteer and helper in the classroom and for special events. Simone is a native of Miami, FL, and holds a PhD in Experimental Psychology from Florida Atlantic University.

Jessica Lopera is the Administrator for the Sunflower Play Initiative. She is a first-generation American and, from a young age, enjoyed visual arts. That may explain her career choice: graphic design. Her passion about play and the importance of community are the natural and direct result of being a mother to a recent Sunflower Creative Arts graduate. In 2019, she was named a member of Sunflower’s Board.