After School JOY

Learning in Nature, about Nature, with Nature.

Learning happens everywhere, and all kids need to go on outdoor adventures and play.

This is what After-school JOY offers.

Willa and Tuli and squirrel

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?

Grades K – 5th grade

Boulder Community School of Integrated Studies

(Registration is full)

Mondays and Thursdays, August 30, 2021 – May 25, 2022

Sidewalk JOY logo

Fireside Elementary, Louisville

Enrolling now

Tuesdays and Thursdays, August 31, 2021 – May 26, 2022


  • 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



  • Enrollment is open for Fireside Elementary. 
  • This is a safe space for all.
  • A maximum of 6 children will be enrolled per day. 
  • Children must have a mask available to wear, based on Boulder County Covid-19 regulations.
  • Cost: $50 per week
  • Payment methods: Zelle, cash, check


  • JOY staff will meet children outside their school upon dismissal. After enjoying a snack, and hearing about each other’s day in school, we’ll all head out into the neighborhood on foot. 
  • Parents will pick-up their child at the predetermined location, by 5:15 pm.
  • To prevent the chance of contracting COVID-19, all children and Mary must have a face mask available to wear when deemed necessary.
  • JOY staff will provide after school snacks. 

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

    • Drinking water in a water bottle
    • 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 

Play hunting and gathering games

Huge pine cone

  1. Shape small worlds


Develop friendships with animals


Construct adventures


Mary has been trained in recognizing and initiating David Sobel’s Childhood and Nature Principles when engaging with children outdoors: 

  1. Making forts and special places;
  2. Playing hunting and gathering games;
  3. Shaping small worlds;
  4. Developing friendships with animals;
  5. Constructing adventures;
  6. Descending into fantasies;
  7. Following paths and figuring out shortcuts.

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. 

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

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


Luke Whittling

Oliver painting dino track

Chalk painted Dino track

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. 

Outdoor checkers with rocks and shells

Left and Right hands and direction


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. 

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.