For over twelve years, I have been working with two professors from Aarhus University in Copenhagen, Denmark.  We have visited each other several times, presented together at professional conferences, and written numerous articles and book chapters together.  It has been such a rewarding international collaboration for me!

This week, I had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of a Celebration for Dr. Grethe Kragh-Müller, recognizing her 40 years of writing in the area of early childhood development.  Mira Nymo Wessels, from Børneringen (the publishing company that gave the party), invited me to be the “surprise” speaker for the event. What a joy it was to be a part of this marvelous celebration and to be the guest lecturer!

I was able to discuss the international need for Creative Thinkers in the 21st Century and referred to Grethe as a great example of a creative person.  Many of Grethe’s colleagues, area supervisors, early childhood teachers, and friends attended this afternoon event and joined me in honoring Grethe for her important work in our field.

Each time I visit Denmark I am touched by the wonderful people who live in this country.  I am always amazed how we share so many beliefs about young children and agree on effective approaches for nurturing their capabilities.

 

Grethe and her daughter

 

Grethe’s Celebration

My work with Grethe and Dr. Charlotte Ringsmore have expanded my global understanding and helped me better understand young children.  Although we live thousands of miles apart, we share our beliefs about the potential of young children and our respect for the dedicated people who work with them in America and Denmark.

Together we can be a powerful positive voice for young children and those who work with them.

April was a very busy and productive month with an amazing ending at Fairfax Futures with teachers who said, “Yes we are creative!”  How wonderful to hear that response from a group of early childhood educators!

Fairfax Futures Board Members Steve Day (PNC Bank) and Joan Isenberg (George Mason University) meet with Sup. Cathy Hudgins and keynote speaker Dr. Rebecca Isbell

Then on to Central Alberta Early Learning and Care Conference in Red Deer, Canada, with a keynote for family child care providers, many of whom are using my book to implement creative opportunities with their young children. We closed with a “laughing session” that had us all chuckling, giggling, and laughing out loud.  What hilarious stories were shared and enjoyed by us all.

Many of you have heard me say, “Creative minds need rest and downtime.” I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a week in the beautiful Canadian Rockies relaxing, meditating, and regrouping.

I returned home invigorated and filled with many new ideas, project possibilities, and ways to spread our mission.  We need young creative thinkers, collaborators, communicators, and problem solvers.  Help me spread this message as we identity the abilities that are needed to thrive in the 21st Century.

Think more, copy less!

Early Childhood Professors and I in Saudi Arabia

“Marhaba” – Hello in Arabic.

I have just returned from an exciting adventure in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Tatweer Co. for Educational Services, in collaboration with the Saudi government, sponsored the 6th International Exhibition and Forum on Early Childhood Education, “Teaching and Learning in Early Childhood Education, 2018.”  It was a great honor to be a part of this outstanding conference that demonstrated the Saudis’ commitment to the Mission of 2030 that includes strengthening the quality of programs for young children in their country.

For three days, government officials, administrators, professors, and early childhood educators from Saudi Arabia and around the world shared their expertise related to the importance of the early years in children’s lives, the critical need for quality programs, and the essential element for providing trained early childhood teachers in these environments.

My specific contributions were a workshop on “Investigating Early Childhood Education with an Eye Toward the 21st Century” and serving on a panel discussion focused on the 21st century skills that young children need to be successful in this rapidly changing world.

Saudi professionals designed and supported this conference, stimulating participants’ thinking, helping us make important global connections, and recognizing the country’s commitment to young children and their families.

I made many new friends and discovered that when we have a shared belief that young children’s learning is the foundation of education, we speak the same language and can work collaboratively for the benefit of all young children – regardless of our varied backgrounds.

Jenan sharing a special memory with me

Jenan M. Alahmed was a positive force at the conference and also the person who supported me throughout this amazing journey.  Leaders like Jenan will be instrumental in developing quality curriculum, training, and early childhood programs in this progressive and forward-thinking country.

Mabruk (Congratulations!) for having this impressive conference!  It was such a joy for me to be a small part of this International Conference on Early Childhood Education lead by Saudi Arabia.

Read more about the conference on Arab News 

I just returned from a wonderful trip to Northern California where I worked with early childhood professionals in Lake County.  The Conference was led by Angela Cuellar whose energy and positive attitude set the tone that helped us all enjoy the day. The educators were so responsive and worked with me on all kinds of interesting interactions which included singing and laughing together.  We had many creative moments as we investigated how to nurture creative young children in our classrooms. Our breakout session focused on designing an inspiring environment that supports creative thinking, communication, and collaboration.  This was a great day!

While we were exploring the area, we drove through the mountains and stopped at the rocky California coast. An interesting place was Bodega Bay where the Hitchcock film “The Birds” was made many year ago.  I first saw the horror movie as a teenager and have always had a fear of birds flying at me and pecking out my eyes.  I am happy to say I faced my fear and found that in fact the birds on the coast were beautiful and, even if they flew close to me, they were not going to attack me. What a relief!

Photo Credit: Sonia Yoshizawa

A special thanks to Angela who invited me to this wonderful place and Sonia who supported me during this fabulous adventure.

Creative Challenge for the day: Take a risk or try something new today!

I just returned from Minneapolis, Minnesota, where I provided the Keynote for the 38th annual Conference for ELEA Region.  Their theme was “Inspiring Wonder and Curiosity,” so my topic, “Inspiring Young Children to be Creative Thinkers,” was a perfect match for their focus.

With all my travel and speaking, I have few trips where everything works. This was one of those times I want to celebrate and tell you where things worked. My flights were on time, my setting was a beautiful auditorium, my presentation and microphone worked, and the early childhood educators were so responsive. Heather and her diligent team made all the puzzle pieces fit together which made my experience great and provided the participants with a joyful day filled with learning.

My breakout sessions were designed specifically for Infant and Toddler teachers and the second for Preschool teachers.  After each of these sessions, the teachers shared with me some of the things they were doing in their programs with young children. I was so impressed with their dedication and creative ideas!

When everything works so well it allows me to enjoy the special people who are in the early childhood profession and the inspiring leaders who support quality programs for their young children.

May you have many opportunities when things work well for you.  Let’s celebrate these special moments!

After spending some time reflecting and setting 2018 goals, I am ready to get started on my new adventures. To update you, my spring schedule is very busy with presentations in CA, MN, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Denmark.  It is exciting for me to have these opportunities to share the news, “We can nurture young creative thinkers!”

Last week I gave the keynote and breakout session at the ELC of North Florida Conference in Orange Lake, FL. For months I had been communicating with Joan Whitson, the delightful leader of this excellent group. We shared many ideas and beliefs about young children and her capable teachers. The enthusiastic group of early childhood educators who attended interacted with me throughout the session.  It is such a joyful experience for me when participants are so positive and interested in learning about creative young children. This group was exceptional!

Joan Whitson, Brian Williams from Kaplan, and Margie Tedder

One of the highlights of the day was to meet the nominees for Teacher of the Year, sponsored by Kaplan’s Brian Williams. The teacher selected this year was Margie Tedder.

But I want you to know there were many wonderful teachers in that group who are also having a positive impact on the young children in their classrooms.

Get your new year off to a great start: try something new, sing a familiar song with different words, and practice using supportive comments when young children are sharing their amazing creative ideas with you!

A creative teacher inspires creative children!

I am just back from a wonderful NAEYC conference where I was able to reconnect with amazing colleagues and build new relationships with new friends. What a joy to be with educators who share my beliefs in young children and celebrate their amazing capabilities! Interacting with these hardworking and dedicated early childhood educators helps me recognize that together we can build a positive environment that will support all children during a critical time of their development.

Here are a few of the many of my inspiring moments at the Conference.

Our talented NAEYC Editors who worked with Sonia and I on our book “Nurturing Creativity”. From left Rossella Procopio, Holly Bohart, Rebecca Isbell, Kathy Charner, Sonia Yoshizawa.  

Our Friday morning session was “Weaving the 4C’s into Your Program: The essential skills needed to inspire young creative thinkers and confident innovators for future challenges!”.

In keeping with our theme of “weaving” we created twig looms for our hands-on activity at the conclusion of our session.  Using a variety of materials and the words symbolizing the 4C’s (Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking), partners worked together to create interesting patterns in their looms.  These amazing participants proved again that Early Childhood Teachers are creative, innovative problem solvers who serve as inspiring models for young children!

Turn your imagination loose as you integrate the 4C’s into your classroom. Be inspired by working with other creative people who share your vision!

 

I am just back from an amazing conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

When my keynote topic is “Nurturing Young Creative Thinkers,”  I often ask conference participants, “Are you creative?” Too often I get negative responses.  But this time, the teachers of the Children’s Campus of UNM gave me resounding positive responses, “Yes!”  How wonderful to interact with teachers who recognize their own creativity and clearly demonstrate this ability as we talk about their classrooms.

Collaborating on inventions

In fact, this remarkable group of positive, engaged, and creative teachers will continue to provide support and encouragement to their young children by designing an environment with many possibilities for creativity, communicating, collaborating, and critical thinking.  These are the essential skills needed in the 21st Century to be successful in our rapidly-changing world.

My special assistants, Amber and Magaly

What a joy to visit the Campus Lab School and see the well-designed facility, with natural light-filled spaces, outdoor areas off each classroom, and caring teachers who were actively interacting with their young children. Director Daniela Baca and her dedicated team have provided the inspiring leadership for this great program while continuing to mentor their teachers’ professional growth. This model program provides many quality opportunities for learning by young children, parents, UNM students, and faculty who participate in this wonderful environment.

Albuquerque International Balloon Festival

Let us celebrate this remarkable program and the people who make it work at the UNM!

Fall is such an exciting time for early childhood teachers and professors.  We get to meet and learn about our new students.  Each of them is uniquely different, with diverse experiences and special talents.  We share a common goal: to create a learning  environment that will nurture their growth and development, whether they come in a small body or an adult size model.

Today is my first class with my new graduate students who are striving to learn and develop as early childhood professionals.  My class is Historical and Theoretical Basis for Early Childhood Education.  This lofty title allows us to explore the roots of our profession: theorists and experts who shaped our field and trends that have influenced our thinking.

During this time, it reminds me of all the amazing people who have impacted early childhood across history: Plato, Froebel, Montessori, Piaget, Patty Smith Hill, Ziegler, Elkind and so many other stars in our rich heritage.  These amazing people ventured into new directions, inspired original thinking, and communicated their ideas to others.

Today, let us think about those who came before us, for their thinking continues to strengthen our field. Remember a mentor who positively impacted your thinking, and use that model to support new teachers, a new trainer, or a returning professional.  Working together makes us better.

Knowing our history makes us stronger as Early Childhood Professionals!

Concordia University has a long history of quality early childhood programs and exhilarating conferences.  This year I had the privilege of providing the opening keynote in their beautiful and recently renovated Chapel on campus in Chicago, IL.  What a spectacular environment it was for my presentation! Beautiful stained glass windows, an enormous pipe organ, lots of wood on the high ceiling that produced great acoustics, and a chapel filled with dedicated early childhood educators.

This conference was organized and effectively implemented by Melissa Smith, Carol Smid, and their team of helpers.  These Early Childhood Professionals were so creative and collaborated to produce a wonderful day of professional development. I also met the delightful Dr. Shirley Morganthaler who was the developer of the ECE program at Concordia and founder of the conference.

During my time at the conference I was able to interact with many warm and creative educators who I know will have a positive impact on the young children and families they will work with this year. Together we shared stories about the young creative thinkers that we have worked with and discussed the exciting possibilities for this year.  Ann O’Brien, my special helper, assisted me in so many ways making my entire time at Concordia so enjoyable!

Yes, we believe in the creative abilities of Young Children

The beginning of a year provides time to work with new children and guide their experiences to use the 4Cs: Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking in meaningful ways. We value and recognize that these critical abilities are needed for today’s young children to be successful now and in the future.

 

May your year be filled with joyful moments, and many playful possibilities!