CORNWALL — The board of trustees of the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum announces the retirement of Executive Director Jacqueline Grant. Grant has been a staff member at the Nature Museum for 17 years. She has served as director since 2004 and prior to that served as Director of Development.
During her tenure as director the Museum refocused its mission and, in 2007, changed its name from the Museum of the Hudson Highlands to the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum to better communicate its goal of creating responsible caretakers of the environment. Grant led the development of four educational Quest trails on the 177-acre Outdoor Discovery Center property and the opening of an accessible visitor’s center. The following year, she led the effort to design and build a new wetlands area and a new, safer, entrance off of Angola Road.
Recognizing the centrality of the Museum’s nature-based preschool to the mission, Grant led the expansion of the Young Naturalist Preschool in 2009 with the addition of new classroom space and two additional classes. 2009 also saw the 50th anniversary of the Museum which had been founded in 1959 as a middle-school science and nature program. The anniversary celebration brought one of the museum’s original directors and 16 of the original middle-school “founders” to a day of remembrances.
Probably her most significant accomplishment is the development of Grasshopper Grove, the Hudson Valley’s first natural play area. Research shows that a primary influence on adult conservation values is frequent unstructured play in nature as children. Recognizing that impact on the Museum’s mission, Jackie championed the “natural play space” idea and, with many supporters, brought Grasshopper Grove from conception through funding through execution. This was followed by Grant’s securing a major grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for the Early Childhood Active in Nature Project, which provided the free opportunity for over 1,000 young children to visit Grasshopper Grove, and for over 100 teachers to receive education workshops on the value and practice of encouraging nature play.
“I have had the privilege and good fortune of being a steward of this valuable organization since 2000, helping to move its important mission forward. The most rewarding aspect has been working with wonderful people. It is the dedicated and imaginative staff, hard-working board of trustees, enthusiastic volunteers, generous and caring donors, the people who participate in our programs and, especially, the wonder that children find in nature that are the heart of the Museum. It has been my joy to work with such people for the ultimate benefit of our beautiful earth.”
Susan Christensen, board chair, points out that, during Grant’s tenure, the Museum has almost doubled in size and has significantly broadened its educational programming. It currently connects with more than 35,000 visitors and program participants annually. “Under Jackie Grant’s leadership, the Museum has grown from a neighborhood resource to being a regional destination, with a peerless nature-based preschool, a strong management team, and a fabulous cohort of nature educators.”