After School JOY

Learning happens everywhere, and all kids need to go on outdoor adventures and play. This is what After-school JOY offers.

After a full day in school, what could be better for children than spending time outdoors exploring their school’s neighborhood, climbing trees, running through fields, wading in streams, and relaxing under the canopy of trees sharing what they’re learning in school, drawing, telling stories, jokes and singing songs?

Ages 7-9 (K – 4th grade)

Session I – September 8th – December 17th, 2020

Session II – January 4th – May 21st, 2021

Days: To Be Determined 

2:45 – 5:15pm

$25/per child 

  • Eating healthy snacks 
  • Keeping hydrated 
  • Neighborhood adventures 
  • Climbing trees, bouldering, and wading streams 
  • Getting dirty and wet 
  • Observing and imitating animals 
  • Delving into Fantasy Play 
  • Using and Making Maps and Following Paths 
  • Investigating Small Worlds 
  • Gathering cool stuff, for who knows what! 
  • Building relationships
  • Learning to manage risk and avoid hazards 
  • Inventing things we love to do 
  • Breaking out into song and dance 
  • Making art with found objects 

Mary L. Russell, Owner and Lead Teacher

Colorado Early Childhood Lead Teacher and Director Qualified

Colorado K-6 Elementary Education License

Bachelors of Science in Education, University of Vermont

Masters in Educating for Sustainability, Antioch University New England

Nature-based Early Childhood Educator

Call: 970-618-1450



  • Participating children must be registered by September 4, 2020 for Session 1, and by December 21st for Session 2 to guarantee their spot. 
  • This is a safe space for all.
  • A maximum of 6 children will be enrolled. 
  • The same children must participate each day, in each session, due to new early childhood Covid-19 grouping regulations.
  • Cost: $25 per day
  • Payment methods: Venmo, Paypal, cash, check


  • Mary meets children outside school building, at predesignated spot. After enjoying a snack, and hearing about each other’s day in school, we’ll all head out into the neighborhood on foot. 
  • A predesignated location will be identified for parents/guardians to pick up their child.
  • To prevent the chance of contracting COVID-19, all children and Mary must have a face mask available to wear when we are closer than 6 feet from each other. 
  • Mary will provide after school snacks in individual wrappings. 

Children will come with their own backpack, with all of the following:

    • Drinking water in a water bottle
    • Sun hat
    • Proper clothing for the day’s weather
    • Closed-toes shoes – please, no flip flops or dress shoes

Optional items in child’s backpack:

  • Camera
  • Magnifying glass 
  • Binoculars
  • Rope/twine, etc.
  • Frisbee, ball, etc.
  • Rainy days – Raincoat, rain pants, rain boots 

David Sobel’s Childhood and Nature Principles

Make forts and special places

Play hunting and gathering games

Learning about wild edibles

Nature art

Shape small worlds

Develop friendships with animals

Construct adventures

Ascend into fantasies

No such thing as bad weather

Follow paths and figure out shortcuts


Leave No Trace, Nature and Trash-to-Treasure Art

What we bring out in our backpacks, pockets, etc. will return home with us. Of course, using trash receptacles we find in the community is completely appropriate. Wild animals do not need our help with food, and we discourage feeding them. Packing lunch and snacks in reusable containers creates less waste. 

Trash left in nature is deadly to wildlife

This video depicts what is possible when we look at trash as treasure.

Ms. Russell’s Trash-to-Treasure on Disney Planet Challenge,

Turning Trash into Treasure

From 2007 – 2012, I was a middle school science teacher. One of the many fun activities I developed to teach one of my standards, was Trash-t0-Treasure. Below is a photo of one of my students who created a business from the repurposed waste she collected at home. 

Nature Bracelet

Collecting native plant specimens while creating art

Using our Observation Skills

In order to maneuver the world, children must learn to use all of their senses – seeing, hearing, speaking, smelling, touching, intuition, feelings, etc. As children grow and mature, adults can support their need for independence by respecting their own, unique gifts of observation. 

Nature’s sunscreen

Scavenger Hunts!


Creature Care

While outdoors, we will encounter wildlife. We will instill a sense of respect and compassion for all living creatures, by modeling a sense of wonder and amazement at all bugs, animals, spiders, and reptiles we encounter, and teach the children to become allies with them, not adversaries. All creatures will be left in their natural habitat, where we found them. 

Care and kindness for all living beings

Best friends for life

Managing Risks and Avoiding Hazards

It is imperative that children learn to manage risks, and identify and avoid hazards; 

  1. Manage risks – something within their control (using their critical thinking, problem solving, physical, emotional, and social skills to learn new skills, meet new people, etc), and,
  2. Avoid hazards – something they cannot control  (being hit by a car in the street or a falling tree toppled by the wind, or being struck by lighting. 

With this in mind, teachers will ensure children understand and practice managing both risk and hazards in outdoor play. They love a challenge, and we will support their desires to climb up and down dry ditches, trees and rocks, to wade in streams, play with sticks, throw rocks, and build forts. 

Physical challenges