Dr. Rebecca Isbell’s Blog

We are continuing our series of blogs that celebrate creative happenings and the amazing people that are a part of this positive news. Today we are featuring some people who have “made it” in S.T.E.M. fields and, in the process, have changed our world!

jemisonDr. Mae Jemison, M.D.: Physician, Engineer, Designer, and first woman of color in Space.

Science and the arts share creativity. I believe that creativity allows us to see and accomplish feats and become people who did not exist before.”



debrasterlingDebbie Sterling: Engineer, Founder and CEO of GoldieBlox

“When I first started in mechanical engineering class, I was the only woman in the room. Then we were tinkering and playing—it was fun. For the first time I connected to the world around me and the simple machines that make it work.”



2f06665Diana Albarran Chicas: Electrical Engineer, Co-founder, Latinas in S.T.E.M

“ It is critical that girls study STEM fields so that our country continues to innovate. I am a big believer that our youth has the ability to come up with solutions, particularly because many of us have grown up thinking outside the box and doing more with less.”



Michio-Kaku-HSDr. Michio Kaku: Cofounder of the String Field Theory, author, and host of radio programs.

“We have to show people that scientist can come from all cultures. Science is for everyone with hard work, a little bit of inspiration and luck; you too can become a scientist and change history.”



These statements are from scientists and creative thinkers whose achievements have led to breakthroughs in their fields and are inspirational examples for the next generation of leaders and problem solvers.

Today in your classrooms you have young children who are thinking in creative ways. They need us to value and support their ideas. As we nurture their problem solving and follow their interests, we are helping them begin their journey into the sciences and the arts.


Are you as tired of all the negative, angry, vindictive news as I am?

Today I am starting a new series of blogs that will focus on positive, interesting people who are being creative. We will celebrate their unique thinking and find inspiration to encourage our own creativity.

First of the Series: Classical Music from Half Filled Glasses

In front of the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg Florida sits a man playing beautiful music to a growing group of admirers. In the sun and beneath the shade of a Kapok Tree is a table filled with clear glasses of different sizes and filled with varying amounts of water.

He has carefully tuned the glasses to produce the notes in four octaves. When he plays, the glasses produce a beautiful clear sound as his fingers stroke the sides in systematic rhythm. He plays Beethoven and tunes from different cultures. Folks come and listen as he shares his music to those who have gathered around him.

He has brought beautiful music to his world, found a unique way to create the clear sounds, and is sharing with others. He smiles as he plays, finding great joy in the music he is creating. We share his enthusiasm for the music and his amazing talent!

Can you find a ways to share positive events and happenings with others? Let’s focus on the creativity that abounds in our world!

What a great beginning for the new year!

I first met this illustrious group of PreK teachers and their supervisors in Colorado Springs on September 3 & 4, 2016. During our two days together, we focused on integrating the 4Cs into their classrooms to inspire Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking with their young children. At the end of the sessions, each teacher made an individual plan to implement new ideas, materials, or integrate the 4Cs into their fall curriculum.

When I returned January 3 & 4, 2017, I was able to listen to the teacher’s plans and celebrate the ways they had enhanced their classrooms with the 4Cs.  It was so amazing to hear the creative ways the teachers were extending and enriching their environment for their young children. A few of the incredible possibilities shared were: An Inventor’s Center, Outdoor Art Adventures, Making Music on a Fence, and Loose Parts in Many Centers. In our afternoon session we sang new melodies, moved to music, created visual arts, and shared stories. Through these exercises, we were stretching our thinking and including the arts in an innovative manner.

This professional development, extended over 3 months, allowed the teacher’s time to incubate their ideas, reflect on the results, and make adaptations when needed. In January, teachers thought of ways to extend the original plans into other aspects of the environment and/or curriculum. These planned, sequential sessions, produced amazing results and encouraged teachers to explore new ways to nurture young children’s creative thinking.  What a wonderful experience it was for us all! I am exhilarated by this in-depth exploration and the enriched experiences that were created!

As you plan professional development opportunities for your teachers and staff, think about ways to extend and connect training so there is time to be inspired, to implement ideas, and return to reflect on the entire process.  

Have a wonderful 2017! I hope your days are filled with creative possibilities that will enrich your life!

Where in the World is Isbell?

The Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO

The Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO

unnamedWhat is creativity? Why is it important? How can you help children develop it?

Learn the answers to these questions and more with the authors of NAEYC’s newest publication, Nurturing Creativity: An Essential Mindset for Young Children’s Learning.

We hope you will join us on Wednesday, November 30, from 3:00–4:00 p.m. ET to find out how you can inspire children’s creative thinking across all areas of learning—including science, math, reading, technology, social studies, and the arts.

Sonia and I just returned from a marvelous NAEYC Conference in sunny California. The sessions were wonderful and filled with enthusiastic early childhood teachers and a variety of others that work with young children.

Our Saturday morning session, “My brain is full of ideas! Unleashing young children’s creative thinking in an exciting learning environment”, was attended by participants from all over the world including Japan, Indonesia, China, Australia, and the US. We tried something new by inviting the folks to participate actively in a unique way. First, they created a “Fling-a-maginga” using colorful crepe paper and pipe cleaners. Then, they used their creations to positively respond to ideas they liked by shaking their Fling-a-maginga over their head! This produced a visually interesting effect, as these interactions were exhilarating for all of us!



Participants with their Fling-a-maginas

During the session we discussed the essential need for creative thinking for the young children in our classrooms that will be living in a very different world in 2032. We investigated the amazing abilities of creative young children and shared ways to nurture their creative confidence in early childhood classrooms.

We also celebrated the creative teachers who are working with young children every day by inspiring the four C’s: Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking in their programs. These teachers are planning, questioning, and designing an environment that inspires creative thinking in their young children.


Me, Christy Isbell, and Shirley Raines

An important component of NAEYC’s conference is reconnecting with friends and colleagues.

Plan on attending NAEYC conference in Atlanta next year—we hope to see you there!


The NAEYC conference is a great place to gain new insights, make new connections, and reconnect to colleagues. It is so stimulating to be a part of this enormous meeting filled with early childhood educators, and others who work with young children. This is an exciting opportunity for us!

Join us for our Featured Session: “My brain is filled with ideas” Unleashing Young Children’s Creative Thinking in an Exciting Learning Environment.

Saturday morning at 9:45- 11:15 am in the Convention Center room 515A with Rebecca Isbell and Sonia Yoshizawa

Please come by and introduce yourself to Sonia and I.    We want to work together to nurture young creative thinkers so they are ready for the future!

See you soon,


This Fall, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Pre K teachers in District 11 in beautiful Colorado Springs. It was a busy day for us filled with information about the creative process, discovering young children’s unique abilities, and investigating the importance of a stimulating environment. These teachers and their supervisors were bursting with so many ideas and possibilities – it was an exciting time for me. This experience reminds me again how early childhood teachers are creative and how young children are blessed in their classrooms!

Dr. Isbell with small group creations

Dr. Isbell with small group creations

I was thrilled with these teachers’ insights, understandings, and desires to continue growing professionally. At the end of the day, each teacher selected an idea, a new addition, a learning center, or special way to expand the 4C’s in their classroom: Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking.

In two months, I will return to these teachers and we will reflect on the creative projects they have implemented in their PreK classroom. Our next day together, January 3-4, 2017, we will be extending the discussions to include the Arts: Visual Arts, Music, Movement, and Drama. Integrating these areas will provide new opportunities for young to use creative thinking.

One of the many amazing sculptures

One of the many amazing sculptures

Kathy Howell and her expert team leaders have organized a collaborative professional development plan to extend learning over time, and to support PreK Teachers’ inspiring efforts. I am so happy that I have been a part of this great effort and have the opportunity to continue working with these dedicated educators!

This past weekend, over 10,000 people from all over the world enjoyed the storytellers in the tiny, historic town of Jonesborough, TN. The town was beautifully dressed for the special occasion with fall pumpkins, corn stalks, and colorful mums on steps, porches, and buildings on Main Street. Huge white tents were scattered around town and were filled with listeners anxious to hear the stories, songs, chants, movements, and messages of each unique storyteller. Each storyteller approached their stories in a different way, with sound effects, songs, graceful movements, or facial expressions that supported their message.

storytelling-with-leif-and-aneThis year our dear friends, Leif and Ane from Denmark, stayed with us, attended the sessions, and enjoyed the diversity of the tellers. I am sure their brains were tired since they had to translate the stories they heard into Danish and then attempt to interpret the moral of the story. But, they were strong and attended many sessions, heard tellers from Ireland to Japan to Appalachia, and laughed at all the right places. What great fun it was to attend such a wonderful event with friends who shared your appreciation for the power of story!

Now it is time for us to carry on the storytelling tradition. Share a family story to your children or grandchildren or retell a story you enjoyed as a child. Help these children develop an appreciation for stories told, understand the power of words, and develop empathy for others. Orally told stories capture the imagination of young children, match their level of understanding, and inspire them to tell stories too.

Join us next year for the 45th International Storytelling Festival in October 2017 in Jonesborough, TN.

Storytelling Tent

Storytelling Tent

I hope to connect with you next year in one of the white tents and together we can be inspired by the array of talented Storytellers!

Santa-Fe-Opera-Christy-and-Mother-fullAlthough my daughter Christy lives very close to me in Johnson City, TN, we have a difficult time finding time for real conversations. We are both busy professionals, authors, speakers, professors, wives and mothers. Every once in awhile, we actually find time to be together, converse, plan, remember, and reconnect.

This past weekend was one of these special times when we traveled together to New Mexico. Christy (Dr. Christy Isbell) was speaking at the University of New Mexico and I had an open period from my speaking and writing.  So, we planned a wonderful adventure together visiting Georgia O’Keefe’s Museum and attending a performance at the Santa Fe Opera in the open air theater surrounded by mountains.   We also were able to admire the beautiful creations on display in the International Indian Festival complete with Native American music and dancing.

This was a gorgeous place, with amazing cultural experiences, tasty southwestern food, and artwork to thrill the soul. But, the best part of our time in New Mexico was being with my daughter!

Take time to talk, eat, and laugh with your family. These are the memories you will treasure for a lifetime.


It is a new year, with new children, and new possibilities.  The beginning of the school year is an exciting time filled with anticipation of all the great things that will be achievable this year.  Your classroom will be filled with young children of different sizes, shapes, races, and backgrounds.  One of the challenges for us, as early childhood educators, is to discover their interests, capabilities, and potential. To do so, we must become careful observers. I encourage you to listen to their conversations, and pose questions that will help you to determine each of their unique abilities.

During the first days we work to establish a positive relationship with each child. One way to do this is by greeting them personally, engaging them in conversations and listening to their ideas. These are important ways to build this growing relationship. The children will recognize that their carefully designed environment supports them as active learners. It provides choices to follow their interest, and includes materials that capture their curiosity.

New Elements for Beginning the School Year

  • Natural materials collected from the area where you and the children live. These are clustered together to be examined and explored by each of the children at their own unique pace. These familiar items provide a connection to their surroundings and expand understandings.
  • Pictures of each child that can be touched, viewed, and arranged in an interesting design. Each child’s picture can be mounted on a wooden block that can be manipulated and moved during play. This helps the children to begin to recognize their classroom as a community of learners, and see themselves as an important member of this group.
  • Include an exciting collection of books that matches their level of development and interest.  Display these books in the Library Area, while including pillows, rugs, soft seating, and a place to listen to stories on tape.  In this area they can lounge and read independently, or with a new friend.
  • A quiet place where they can relax when the excitement of the day, the many activities, and interactions with other children may make them tired.  When you are overstimulated as a result of tiredness or hunger, you may become irritable, and this is certainly true with young children. This calming place can be visited and enjoyed as needed.

Enjoying the beginning of the school year and appreciating each of sparkling young children who make up your classroom community, will make this a wonderful year for YOU!