Dr. Rebecca Isbell’s Blog

Every day we are receiving negative news and depressing predictions that I began to wonder if we could at least find some positive happenings in today’s world.  I became attentive to the creative thinking that was being demonstrated throughout our country during this difficult time.  Perhaps this was the light I was seeking to move me to a more positive way of thinking.

Once I focused on the creativity of teachers, parents, and health care providers, I was delighted to find many examples that demonstrated their amazing abilities to solve problems and come up with workable solutions. So many unique possibilities were found that it was difficult for me to decide which examples to share with you.

For this blog, I have selected five remarkable examples from hundreds of possibilities that I was able to identify. I hope these will spark your thinking so you will be able to appreciate the creative ways we have coped during these new challenges we had never anticipated.

Five Creative Innovations

 

First Challenge

Insufficient number of masks for health care workers, and community members.

Solution: Making basic mask patterns and then moving to making unique masks that demonstrate design flexibility. This creative fluency was seen in the many variations of materials used and ways to secure the mask in position.

 

Second Challenge

Schools and Early Childhood programs are closed, compelling parents and caregivers to plan learning opportunities at home for their children.

Solution:  Determine how materials distributed by school and childcare teachers can be used in the home environment. Providing more opportunities for play with materials that are found at home. Identifying more outdoor time with parents and children exploring together.  Using additional time for reading wonderful books and finding the joy inside the stories, illustrations, and meaning verbal interactions.

 

Third Challenge

Some children need more help than parents or caregivers can provide at home.

Solution: There are many possibilities for supporting learning but one of the most interesting was offered by the Retired Teacher Association of Illinois.  They volunteered to mentor students who need extra help in reading, writing, math, or sciences. One 85-year-old retired teacher, with over 30 years of experience, explained that her life work was to help children learn, and now she could continue doing just that. Her grandson has helped her refine for technology skills.

 

Fourth Challenge

Communicating with others when you are confined to your home.

Solution: Use of Facetime, Zoom, and other technology platforms offer connection with coworkers, friends, and family members. An interesting twist of technology was to find ways to communicate to Health Care Workers how much they are appreciated and valued.

 

Fifth Challenge

We have been unable to be present at live performances of theater, concerts, or visit art galleries.

Solution:  Amazing opportunities have been developed for virtual experiencing musical performances, Broadway shows, and museum visits. One of my favorites was the inventive way the Toronto Orchestra was able to play together from their homes and preform a spectacular rendition of Copeland’s Appalachian Spring.

Enjoy the video!

In this time of new challenges, it is encouraging to recognize that our creative thinking is alive and thriving!

In the next few weeks, take note of the wonderful creative ideas and solutions that are occurring around you…

You are creative,

In early February, Anchorage AEYC held their annual early childhood conference. For over a year, I had been communicating with Christie and Cecilia (co-conference directors) learning about their members and their interests. These two dynamos planned and implemented a fabulous conference with early childhood educators from throughout the state.  Some teachers traveled hours in small bush planes to attend this quality professional development opportunity.

Anchorage was experiencing a warm front, with day temperatures hovering around 30 degrees and snow falling on most of the days of the conference. But that did not slow down these dedicated early childhood educators who are committed to creating a nurturing environment for Alaska’s young children.

My keynote focused on inspiring the 4C’s: Creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking in young children. The participants were so responsive as we waved our hands, sang songs, and discussed the amazing capabilities of young children. On the final day, I closed the conference with “The Story Behind the Humor” where we shared humorous moments in early childhood classrooms. We laughed at the funny stories, discussed the learnings they demonstrated, and shared personal experiences. It was a great ending for an exceptional conference!

It is amazing that in the middle of winter, and in Alaska, I had the warmest experience of 2020 so far! It happened because of my interactions with these dedicated and caring early childhood teachers and directors who work diligently every day to make life wonderful for young children and their families.

Together we can change the lives of young children and support their families!

As you make plans for 2020, here are 20 ideas to get you off to a creative start.

For you

  1. Do something you have never done before. (What will it be?)
  2. Wear an item of clothing or jewelry you have never worn.
  3. Notice the change of the seasons and identify your observations.
  4. Drive to work using a different route.
  5. Try a new recipe or change the ingredient in an old favorite.
  6. Wear two different earrings or two different shoes.
  7. Use a new word or phrase in your conversations. Observe the response.
  8. Bring something you love to work and share it with others.
  9. Actively listen to someone else’s story.
  10. Have a conversation with someone significantly older or younger than you.

With your children

  1. Respond positively to children’s unique ideas. (Wow, amazing idea! You are really thinking.)
  2. Read a new story to your children that is intriguing and thought provoking.
  3. Add a large piece of colorful fabric to the block center and observe what happens.
  4. Include a beautiful new item in your classroom. (a picture, sculpture, pottery, weaving, collage)
  5. Provide a new center in your classroom that builds on your children’s interest. (Nature Center, Fitness Spa, Inventors Lab)
  6. Introduce a finger play or poem that you haven’t used in several years. Add motions, sound effects, or music to create a new version.
  7. Add a collection of interesting hats to the Home Living Center.
  8. Collect paper that has texture and include it in the Art Studio for painting, cutting, and constructing.
  9. Think about ways to give your children more choices during the day so they can become decision makers.
  10. Design a quiet space that will provide a place where a child can find a place to calm, think, or have creative ideas.
  11. Ask your children what they would like to add or change in their environment.  Let them help make some of these changes.

Everyday we have the opportunity to try something new or do it the same way we have always done it. Make 2020 the year you break out and try new things, adventure into new possibilities, and nurture your creativity.  You and your children will be glad you did.

Grow creatively,

Let’s reflect on our wonderful week in Nashville with thousands of Early Childhood Educators. What an exhilarating experience connecting with long time colleagues and new found friends!

Sonia and I visited our latest book published by NAEYC in their bookstore, Nurturing Creativity: An Essential Mindset for Young Children’s Learning.

On Saturday, creative teachers and students joined us in our early morning NAEYC session, “Nurturing Creativity Throughout the Day in Early Childhood.”

The problem posed: Create a sculpture using all the people in your group.

  • Collaborate to decide what you want to create.
  • Construct your original design.
  • Elaborate on your idea by using colorful scarves and flashlights to highlight your sculpture.

At the close of our session, they collaborated in group activity. Here are some of the Structures and Creations that were completed!

Let’s celebrate these Creative Early Childhood Educators who are supporting young children’s development!

Power to your profession!

I just returned from an amazing event with New York State Early Childhood Education teachers called NYSED Professional Learning Opportunities: An Inspirational Night with Dr. Rebecca Isbell, author of Nurturing Creativity.  The session was filmed inside the beautiful WMHT Public Media TV studio where we explored the creative potential of young children. We examined aspects of creative development during their early years including their ability to communicate, collaborate, and problem solve. The exciting evening was planned and implemented by the leaders of the NYS Department of Education: Early Childhood Division, and was led by Karen, Jane, and Rebecca (not pictured), Associates in the Office of Early Learning.

Karen, me, and Jane

After working all day, these fabulous teachers were still energetic, responsive, and engaged. These dedicated teachers will return to their classrooms and create wonderful environments that will nurture their young learners.

Niskayuna Central School District: Teachers from Glencliff Elementary, Hillside Elementary, and Craig Elementary

It was such a joyful experience for me to have the opportunity to work with these exceptional early childhood professionals who are striving to integrate creative possibilities into their classroom while valuing the unique responses of their children. They are at the “tipping point” for getting students ready to thrive today and in the 21st Century!

Creative teachers nurture creative young children. Go NYS!

Join me and my co-author Sonia Yoshizawa on Saturday Morning for an exciting and informative session at the NAEYC Annual Conference! We will be offering creative ideas and activities to problem solve and co-reflect on unique ways to nurture young children’s thinking, one of the 21st Century Competencies.

Don’t miss our sparkling session, and hope to see you in Nashville, TN!

Session title: Nurturing Creativity in All Areas: Incorporating Stimulating Opportunities into Early Childhood Classrooms
When: Saturday, November 23, 2019
Time: 8:00 AM (Remember the early bird gets the worm!)
Room: 209 C (Music City Center)

We are planning on seeing you and reconnecting as we focus on creative young children and their teachers!

I recently returned to my special place in the mountains and I reflected on how I came to love and appreciate nature and beauty.

When I was a young child, my favorite and frequent outing was to travel to the Smoky Mountains National Park about an hour from my home. The best part was jumping from rock to rock in the mountain stream that ran through the Chimney picnic area.  We would sit on boulders in the middle of the stream and eat my mother’s pimento cheese sandwiches. I was not a coordinated child, but I loved to jump from rock to rock often landing in the cold mountain water. I was never scolded for my missteps. My dear mother simply always came equipped bringing little Becky a complete change of clothes, so when the inevitable happened, she was prepared.

I was blessed to have loving parents who took me to the forest, parks, and lakes instilling in me a love for the natural world.  When we saw a beautiful site, a massive tree, a blooming flower, a fern, or a waterfall my father would always say “Take a picture in your mind of this and you will have it with you forever.”

Today I returned to that mountain stream that I took a picture of over 50 years ago. I was amazed that the picture that I often remember was the same one I had carried in my mind since that time.

Young children need to experience, explore, and treasure the outdoors and all its beautiful splendor. And that love will last them a lifetime.

Share the outdoors with a young child!

As we are getting ready for a new school year, it is important for us to think about the first impressions we make on our children, their parents, and our coworkers.

I was reminded of this critical truth this past week before I did the Keynote for the Michigan Lutheran Early Childhood Conference.  When I was first contacted by Travis, the Superintendent of the Lutheran School District in Michigan, I was impressed by his kindness as he tried to make my experience pleasant and demonstrated his concern to provide a quality professional development opportunity for his early childhood teachers. It was heartwarming to witness his sensitivity toward me as well as his teachers.  We had been communicating by email for over a year, making sure the theme, times, and arrangements were all going to work well.  Each of these interactions was positive and helpful.

I knew this was going to be an amazing conference because of the first impressions we had established in our communications.

When I arrived in Lansing, Michigan, Travis picked me up at the airport–smiling and helpful–and delivered me to my hotel. The next morning his wife, a delightful kindergarten teacher, drove me to the conference site.  I found that the early childhood teachers attending the conference were excited about the New Year, responsive to my invitations to participate, and filled with joyful expectations for their young children. We talked, shared a meal together, and told early childhood stories that made us laugh.

My positive anticipation for this conference was set by my first impressions of Travis. The teachers, the conference, and the setting were wonderful, just as I knew it would be.

Remember: When we first meet our children, talk to their parents, or join your coworkers, their first impressions of us will be established by our helpful words, personal warmth, and supportive behaviors.  Start off positively and keep the flow going!

Have a wonderful year and celebrate your creative young children!

It has been a busy month working with diverse Early Childhood Programs across the country from Texas to New York to Michigan.

At each program, I found the place and people were unique and very interesting.  At Humble School District in Texas, an energetic team was led by Jennifer who, with her dedicated team, planned and implemented an Academy for their PreK programs from 18 different sites. The Conference was held in a new middle school that was so beautiful, sleek, and massive. I was so encouraged working and interacting with these warm and responsive PreK teachers. They were so focused on finding ways to nurture young children’s thinking and providing a language-rich environment during the critical early years.  Together we explored many possibilities for integrating these 4C’s into their classroom. This strong program and dedicated teachers in Humble will have a positive impact on many young children in TX this fall and for many years.

In Grand Ledge, Michigan, we explored the skills needed for young children to thrive in the 21st Century: Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking. We suggested another important C: Confidence, which requires trying new things, taking risks, and being persistent. The capable director of this program is Breanna who was assisted by Maria and Devon. Throughout the day these amazing educators participated in small group activities that demonstrated how thinking and language skills could be integrated into their early childhood classrooms.

In one hands-on activity, participants were asked to create something from the ingredients of a clear plastic bag containing a collection of open-ended materials: a straw, pipe cleaner, PVC elbow, piece of ribbon, a nut cup, rubber band and a small twig.  These creative teachers came up with original ideas and confidently shared them with us. We ended the day with humorous stories about our experiences while working with young children. We explored the meaning of some funny recent happenings and laughed and laughed. An early childhood teacher needs a great sense of humor, and these teachers certainly had this important characteristic. The young children in these classrooms are getting off to a great start, which will last a lifetime.

When flying back home, I reflected on my wonderful adventures with these Early Childhood Teachers.  It was amazing to acknowledge our shared vision and celebrate each teacher’s importance in the lives of young children.

Together we can change our world, one child at a time!

Our brain is working, sorting, and making connections all day long. My world, like yours, is filled with creative work, in-depth projects, and many personal responsibilities. Some include: books to be written, selecting words to explain ideas, using conversations to build relationships, and presentations to develop. These diverse tasks are so time consuming that few moments remain for thinking creatively or nurturing an interesting idea.

Much of the literature on creativity emphasizes the need for us to take a break from all the busyness that keeps our mind on high alert, running on adrenaline, and stressed out from our high expectations. It is difficult to find a way to relax our mind, clear our heads, and experience the joy in the moment.

For the past two weeks I have had the incredible opportunity to relax, not think about deadlines, and to take in the beauty of a new place… Portugal. There is something about being in such a beautiful place, surrounded by ornate architecture built thousands of years ago, unique hand painted pottery, delicious and fresh food, and interacting with interesting people that helps relieve the stress and put our lives in perspective.

By the time I returned home my creative juices were flowing, and new projects were developing in my brain.

If you can’t go to Portugal, you can find a quiet place and take some time for yourself in a National Park, forest, or even your own backyard where you can clear your mind, turn off the phone, and simply enjoy the beauty around you. This quiet time will allow you brain to unwind, delete unnecessary junk, and open your senses to the amazing world around you. This break will give you renewed energy, and new ideas that you have not experienced in a while. You will be amazed at your creative possibilities that are lying dormant, but rise to consciousness when given a break!

I often encourage teachers, my students, and colleagues to take some time off during breaks. If you are going to work during the break, take a few days to disconnect and immerse yourself in a different environment.

After that relaxing down time you will feel better, be filled with more creative possibilities, and finish the project you wanted to complete!

Take a brain break!