1. She attended school at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.
2. On Wednesday night, you can find her meeting her friends for their weekly sushi date.
3. She is a fan of Mississippi State University women’s basketball team.
4. Her favorite spot at the Mississippi Children’s Museum is the literacy garden.
5. She lives in Belhaven and loves her neighborhood. She volunteers any chance she can.
At the Mississippi Children’s Museum, exhibits and programs are designed to instill a joy for learning and promote early childhood development.
Executive Director Susan Garrard has been with the museum since the beginning, serving as a volunteer when the museum was still in its planning stages.
Now, she and the other members of the museum staff are looking to take the museum to new heights with a satellite location in Meridian and new exhibits and programs that are evolving to fit education in this day and age.
The Sebastopol native earned her undergraduate degree at Mississippi State University before attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.
After graduation, she worked as a buyer for McRae’s and in management while opening Laura Ashley stores. She and her husband, John, moved to Jackson in 1984.
When her sons Jack and William were born, she worked part time and undertook several volunteer roles in the community, including being the president of the Jackson Junior League.
As part of her work with the Junior League, she began working with the Mississippi Children’s Museum at its beginning stages and served on the board.
In 2008, she officially began working as a member of the museum staff, and the museum opened in 2010.
When the first executive director retired, Garrard stepped into the role.
“There was a wonderful group of volunteers that did a tremendous amount of planning,” Garrard said of the museum’s early stages. “It was very exciting, that commitment to excellence and doing something that was really aspirational for a community. It has been an amazing journey.”
The Mississippi Children’s Museum has about 25,000 square feet of exhibit space, which is divided into five different galleries.
There are also two separate outdoor exhibits. One is the pollinator’s exhibit, which is open to the public at the front door and does not require admission.
The other is the literacy garden, which is approximately 5,000 square feet and features art and interactive play exhibits.
“It is a garden with art objects and interactive play elements that really promote early language development skills for early education,” Garrard said. “It’s wonderful. It’s hard to describe because there are giant pink mushrooms. There’s a giant treehouse. There’s a waterfall. To me, it’s very beautiful and very unique.”
The museum’s calendar is always packed with daily, weekly and monthly programs. Some of the weekly programs include after school opportunities, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) club, Girls who Code, ABC Come Play with Me, just to name a few.
Garrard said there are a large variety of programs available to children of all ages.
In the summer, there is typically a traveling exhibition on display at the museum. This summer, Garrard said they will welcome the Ninja Turtles from Indianapolis.
“We cover hands-on tangible things and programmatic things,” Garrard said. “Most people don’t realize we have master’s degree educators.”
According to Garrard, the museum has a six-member education team who help plan curriculum programs.
“We are involved in lots of initiatives, everything from promoting 21st century coding skills to early language development and literacy,” she said.
“I hope that (children) are able to have experiences here that instill in them a joy for learning,” Garrard added. “I hope that they are able to discover something new and interesting and discover their potential.”
Currently, the Mississippi Children’s Museum is taking its style of learning opportunities to its satellite location in Meridian, which is still in the works.
The 20,000 square foot museum will have 10,000 square feet of exhibit space that will feature exhibits centered on the cultural and iconic things of Meridian, Garrard said, such as its history of flight, the railroad industry and musical influences.