About Us

Build & Play is a community program of Sunflower Creative Arts, a nonprofit organization that offers programs for children of all ages and parents in Delray Beach, Florida. We believe hands-on learning experiences in PlayNature and the Arts are absolutely essential for healthy human development. The pillars of Sunflower’s educational philosophy are Respect for the IndividualLearning Through Experience and Learning Within Community.

In 2018, we launched Build & Play to celebrate Sunflower’s 25th anniversary and to promote child-directed play in the communities of South Florida. Our mission is to shine a light on the profound power of play. Build & Play strives to give children access to child-directed free play while raising awareness of the value of child-directed play among communities and educators.

Our Build & Play team consists of playful counselors, volunteers and teen interns who share the belief that all children need time, space and freedom to play. If you would like to volunteer, please fill out this form. We would love to hear from you!

Our Play Counselors

  • 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

Michele Service is the Director of Build & Play.  She is an artist, tree-hugger and educator who enjoys putting smiles on students’ faces, and being an encouragement to exceed expectations at every opportunity. Originally from Barbados, Michele earned her B.A. in Commercial Art from Stockton State University and M.A. in Education from Fielding Graduate University. She has pursued many opportunities as a Sales Administrator, Director of a private school, Paraprofessional, art instructor, teacher at a Charter School and co-founder of a community garden before joining Sunflower Creative Arts as a teacher in 2015 and then Director of Build and Play in 2021. 

Monica Ortiz is the Assistant Director of Build and Play.  She began this new role Fall of 2022, after leading Build and Play sessions in the Spring and Summer of 2022.  Monica has been a Seedlings teacher at Sunflower Creative Arts since October of 2021.  She has been an Early Childhood Educator for 8 years, where she discovered the importance of nature and play in learning and overall wellbeing.  Monica earned her M. Ed. with a focus in Mental Health Counseling from the University of Florida.  She cherishes bringing her daily yoga practice into every moment and being present with loved ones.

Susan Caruso is the Director and Founder of Sunflower Creative Arts. In June 2018, Susan started Build and Play as 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.

Build & Play is a community program of Sunflower Creative Arts, a Delray Beach based 501c3 nonprofit empowering children to be confident, creative and compassionate through Play, Nature and the Arts. We are funded by donors, grants, Sunflower Creative Arts, Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County, and The Jim Moran Foundation.