Fall Science Centers

Today there is a major focus on including science in the curriculum for children, as seen in STEM. This emphasis on science and math is being encouraged in the early years and primary grades.

STEM-logoIt is important to remember, however, that young children are already natural scientists as they manipulate, explore, and question their physical world every day.

Because they are so interested in their physical world, it is a perfect time to add a new and exciting Science Center to your classroom.  This addition will encourage young children to examine real items from their environment, and connect their knowledge to things that interest them.

Items to Include

The concrete materials you include should be items that they see in their environment on a regular basis. It is also helpful to provide a few novel items that might stretch their thinking and invite problem solving.

Early Childhood Science CenterIn our region, there are many different kinds of nuts that are falling from trees during this season.  For example: pecans, walnuts, and chestnuts that all look, taste, and crack differently.

Other possibilities might be: dried flowers, and a variety of leaves, herbs, and bulbs.  Including some of these in the Science Center will provide a perfect match for young children’s way of learning.

These materials will encourage their examination and use of language as they discuss the fall items.  Don’t forget to include all of the seed and flower catalogues. They will add interesting printed material to the Science Center, and create a literacy opportunity.

Free Resource Download

Click the button below to download a PDF of the basic design, objectives, vocabulary, and webbing that can provide the foundation for your Fall Science Center.  Also included are activities, materials, and literacy suggestions that can be adapted to a fall theme.  These are for you to use and modify for your special group of children.  Let me know what exciting things you are including in your new and improved Science Center.


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Reference for Science Center is:  The Complete Book of Learning Centers, revised.  Published by Gryphon House and authored by Dr. Isbell.  It can be purchased in my bookstore.

Presented by CSX


Date: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Time: 5:30 – 8:30 pm
Place: 8505 San Jose Boulevard, Jacksonville, Florida
Fee: $35 per person, $45 per person after Oct 10th (includes dinner)


Featuring a stimulating keynote address The Dynamic Power of Play: Nurturing Learning in so Many Ways! by internationally recognized early childhood expert and author, Dr. Rebecca Isbell

Exciting workshops to choose from:

  • Creating an Amazing Environment that Inspires Learning
  • Superhero Play: Friend and Foe?
  • Hands on Introduction to Clay for the Classroom
  • Play Throughout the Day

A Delicious dinner
Vendors, displays, and more
In service hours
CEUs available for an addition fee

[button_icon icon=”document-pdf-text” url=”https://drisbell.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/ECE-Symposium-Flyer.pdf” blank=”true” size=”middle”]Download the Flyer[/button_icon]      [button_icon icon=”information” url=”http://www.jcajax.org/index.php?src=events&srctype=detail&category=Early%20Childhood&refno=5628″ blank=”true” size=”middle”]Visit the JCA Website[/button_icon]



Bethel, Alaska

It has been a busy fall traveling around the country from Bowling Green, KY to Jonesboro, AR and El Paso, TX.  In each place, I’ve had the opportunity to work with wonderful early childhood teachers who share my passion for creating the best possible environments for young children.

I have just returned from an amazing trip to Bethel, Alaska which is 400 miles west of Anchorage. In this frozen tundra, there are people who have devised a variety of creative ways not only to survive but to thrive.  In this region, there are Yupik villages where young children have the opportunity to be in early childhood programs led by dedicated teachers. These teachers understand their culture and way of learning. They are motivated by an outstanding project director and early childhood specialist.  As educational leaders, they travel to the villages by air and sometimes by dog sled in weather that can be 50 degrees below zero.  Truly a sign of a dedicated early childhood professional!


Playing Dress-up in handmade Parka

Playing Dress-up in handmade Parka


During my time here, we concentrated on ways to nurture language development in young children.  The teachers were delightful as they sang, listened to stories, and participated in the language enriching activities.  As with many cultures, they have a strong connection to storytelling which was the focus of our last session together.  Storytelling is tied to our heritage, and is a powerful tool as it extends our understanding for language enrichment.

It is reassuring to see what wonderful work these early childhood teachers are doing! I am so blessed to have been able to visit this very special place, and be inspired by their work with young children. Thank you!


Teachers in Bethel, Alaska

Director and teachers who work in Lower Kuskokwim District, AK


Learning Centers

Over the last few weeks, I have read with dismay headlines that claim “Pre-K is a waste of money.” These unfounded remarks should inspire us to call to action.

This upcoming year, a chapter that I have written for a book called “Innovative Practices in Early Childhood Education” will be published by Springer.  My article is entitled “Climbing the Mountain: Tennessee Journey to Quality Prekindergarten.” In it, I wrote the background of the Pre-K movement across the United States, and the massive support for the initiative. Next, I zeroed in on Tennessee’s focus on providing a quality program for young children.

The Tennessee Pre-K program was designed using extensive research and identified what a quality program looks like: trained certified teachers, small classrooms, active and appropriate curriculum, and strong components related to cognition, language & literacy, and social-emotional development.

Unfortunately,  young children in Tennessee have become a political obstacle for those who oppose expanding Pre-K programs.  Many focus on short-term gains, without the knowledge and understanding of the abundance of research that demonstrates the effects that quality early childhood programs have on young children such as: less retention, fewer referrals to special education, more success in kindergarten and first grade, and improved language and math abilities.  They are also unaware of additional research, including the Perry/Weikard study which covered fifty years, and found long-term benefits that follow these children into adulthood.  It was found that those participants stayed in school longer, were more likely to graduate, and as adults were working more and receiving less federal assistance.

Today I took action. I sent the attached article to newspaper editors across the state.  I also sent Governor Haslam a similar letter along with the chapter I wrote on Tennessee Quality Pre-K… no response.

Now I ask you to take action too! Let your governor and legislators know how crucial quality early childhood education is for children who live in poverty as well as many others who will gain from this program.  Explain how it impacts both children and their families in positive ways.   Inform them that our community, state, and nation need educated children to have a great start and find the value of staying in school.

Please use any part of this blog or my attached article to help others understand what you and I know.  Early childhood education is our best investment for the future!

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Everyone Has A Story To Tell

Well, if you read my last blog you know I suggested that you might do some “Spring Cleaning”. You probably know the old adage, “Don’t ask anyone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself”. After much soul searching, I decided I needed to do some cleaning and organizing in my warehouse where I keep many copies of my books for the orders I receive online.
During the thinking process – and some incubation – I had a great idea. What if I gave a free copy of my children’s book Everyone has a Story to Tell to each person who buys a copy of one of my other books using PayPal. This would give you a special “treat” and encourage you to take a closer look at your learning environment.
A free children’s book when you order a resource book that will provide you with many wonderful ideas. Bet you can’t beat that offer!


Free Children's Book

In many parts of our country, spring is popping.  Traditionally, this has signaled a time for spring cleaning, but today I want us to think about spring cleaning your classroom.

Spring Cleaning Your Classroom

Look around the space where you and your children spend a major portion of your day.  Can your children visually recognize where things take place: large group time, specific centers, and find the tools they need to be responsible members of the community?  Is it easy to find and return materials after they are used?

If your children are having difficulty with any of these, perhaps it is time to de-clutter your space so areas are more clearly defined.  If you just can’t bear to discard any of your belongings, perhaps you might feel better by giving these items to another teacher or program.  Keep in mind that some things need to be discarded.  This may be difficult, but it is spring cleaning.

Spring Cleaning Your ThinkingSpring Classroom

It is also time to spring clean our thinking, plans, and activities.  Have we lost sight of what is real learning for young children?  They are active participants who need experiences that are meaningful to them.

Young children need opportunities to work together, cooperate, and solve real issues.  They need to play with ideas, materials, and other children in creative ways.  This spring, let’s renew our understanding of how children learn, and provide the opportunities for them to participate in experiences that will enrich their thinking.

Spring cleaning begins today in our classroom. Both you and your children will find the joy in seeing learning bloom!

As 2013 begins we make many resolutions, sometimes the same ones we made last year. Some of mine include: lose weight, exercise more, and eat more chocolate. But this year, let’s make some resolutions that relate to making our classroom a marvelous place for you to live with your children. I have identified 13 ideas, some you may already be doing, others might be new possibilities for you to implement.

13 ideas for my 2013 classroom:

1. Add a new book with a tape or compact disc of you reading the story to the library area.

2. Make photos of each of your children and display them in a prominent place for everyone to enjoy. This builds a sense of community and belonging to the group.

3. Include a new learning center that you have never used before. A camping center, a restaurant, or garage sale/flea market may match the experiences and interest of your children.

4. Tell a story to your class. This can be a personal story about your childhood or a story that you have always loved. Nothing builds relationships like hearing a story told by a special person.

5. Each day provide a supportive comment to a child or children who are working together or sharing a material. Catch them being cooperative.

6. Ask a parent or grandparent to come to your classroom as a special guest. They can share a story, song, or recipe. Your children will appreciate their contributions and build relationships with others.

7. Try an art project that you have never done with the children. This will challenge both you and your children’s creativity.

8. Add an unusual item to the sand/water table for the children to discover and explore. Some examples: a clear plastic bottle with a small hole in the bottom, an egg beater, expanding sponges, or smooth glass stones used in flower arrangements.

9. Encourage girls to participate in the block area more. Both boys and girls benefit from building, problem solving, collaborating, and appreciating the work of others.

10. Bring a mystery item to circle/community time, preferably something the children may not have seen or experienced. Ask open-ended questions that will inspire thinking. For example, “Can you think of a way to use this?” “What if it was bigger or smaller?” “What would you name it?” Conclude with, “One use and name the inventor came up with was _____.”

11. Find a new writing tool for the writing/author center. Some interesting suggestions might be: a small sponge painting brush, a hole puncher, charcoal, or plastic gloves (using the finger as the tool).

12. Dramatize a familiar story like “Three Billy Goats Gruff” or the “Enormous Turnip.” Children can choose the role they want to play and some can be in the audience. Do it again and let others participate. Learning to speak and react with others is a skill we all need to develop.

13. I saved the hardest for last: declutter an area in the classroom. Start small, perhaps home living, the art area, or a storage space. You will be amazed at the things you find, and the things that you can give away.

Share with me some of the resolutions you are making about your classroom environment. You have such great ideas; I am looking forward to hearing about them!

Language Explosion

For the past two years I have been involved in doing make overs in preschool, PreK, and Kindergarten classrooms.  This entire process has been documented in my new book “Real Classroom Make Overs”.  Having the opportunity to collaborate with wonderful early childhood teachers and assist them with their classroom has been an exhilarating experience for me.  It has reminded me yet again, that our field of early childhood has many hard working and creative people.  It is my hope that the content and beautiful color pictures in our new book will help you “see” the amazing changes that are possible in classrooms. Be sure to notice the comments that the teachers and children made after the changes were made in their spaces.

As you get ready for fall? Think about the environment that you are creating for your children. Will they feel welcomed into this new space?  Will they see interesting things to do that will invite them into meaningful learning?  Will they see pictures of themselves and classmates that will help them recognize the community they will live in?  Can they identify choices that will let them to follow their interest into small groups/centers?  Are their beautiful items to examine and appreciate?

You have a power to design an environment that will inspire young learners and positively impact their development.  All you have to do is start with one area—-and do it!!!

Send me questions and pictures about your classroom environment —–we can brainstorm possibilities.  Together we can create a wonderful place for you and your children.

Here’s a great contest from my publisher Kaplan. Follow the directions for a chance to win big!

Step 1

Pin the graphic to the left to get started.

  • Follow us on Pinterest & create a board on your Pinterest profile with the title “My Kaplan Classroom Makeover.”
  • Include at least 5 products from www.kaplanco.com and at least 1 image of your dream classroom or classroom inspiration. Pin each item with the hashtag #PinIt2WinIt.
  • Kaplan products pinned on boards must total no more than $5,000. (This does not include taxes or shipping and handling.)

Step 2

“Like” us on Facebook & tell us why your classroom should be the winner!

  • Post a comment with a link to your board on Kaplan Early Learning Company’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/kaplanco
  • To be considered, all comments must contain a link to a Pinterest board as described in Step 1.

The Fine Print

Entrants must follow all instructions listed in Steps 1 and 2. • Boards must be created between 12:00 AM EST August 1, 2012 and 11:59 pm August 31, 2012. • Limit one entry per person regardless if entrant has more than one Pinterest account. • Winner will be announced September 3, 2012.

Official Contest Rules

The PreK conference in Alabama was fabulous.  It was well organized, interesting, and filled with amazing early childhood professionals.  The folks who attend my preconference session were so involved and a pleasure to talk with.

One of the questions that came up during the training was, “How can new learning centers be included in my classroom when it is so small?”   As I travel and present on environments that include learning centers, I frequently hear this concern.  One of the best ways to add a new learning center in a “filled” classroom is to transform a traditional learning center. 

A Home Living Center can become a Restaurant for a short period of time, two to three weeks.  When the children lose interest in the Restaurant, you can return the space to the traditional center of Home Living.  The Block Center, a traditional and long-term center in many classrooms, can become a Garage Sale/Flea Market temporarily.  The block area has many props that can be used to display the new items that are added for sale.

Making these transitions and adding new interest centers will stimulate young children’s thinking, their socio-dramatic play, and their skills for cooperative work.

Tell us about a transition that has worked in your classroom.  What area did you add and what props were included in your new learning center?