Dr. Rebecca Isbell’s Blog

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!


What an amazing month of May it has been.

First, I was in Moncton, Canada for an exciting conference sponsored by the Early Childhood Centre at the University of New Brunswick. During the planning and at the conference I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Ann Sherman who is on the faculty in early childhood education. Ann is a delightful person who carefully planned and implemented a wonderful conference!

My keynote was “Understanding, Supporting, and Inspiring Young Creative Thinkers”.  The educators who attended were so warm and responsive that they made it an exhilarating experience for me too. We interacted, laughed, shared ideas, and ate together.

Later in May, I went to the Manitoba Child Care Conference that included around a thousand early childhood educators from all over the Providence. Many educators traveled long distances for their yearly conference in Winnipeg—this was their 39th year! Karen was the conference planner who made the conference, sessions, activities, and market place run so smoothly. The timing, quality of sessions, and involvement of participants was so well orchestrated – we all knew where to be and what to do. Karen and her team certainly made the whole conference enjoyable as well as educational. Marilyn, conference committee chair, added her warm special touch to the conference, working to make everything flow.

The conference theme was “Be Inspired! Be Incredible!” My keynote was closely related, “Young Creative Thinkers Can Change Their World and the Future”. Since I was able to be involved for two days, I did a variety of two hour breakout sessions ending with “Hilarious Moments in Early Childhood Programs: Laugh, Love, and Be Happy.” This shared time together regenerated our joy for working with young children and being in our wonderful profession!

My time in Canada was certainly a joyful time!



I just returned from the most creative early childhood conference I have ever attended! The theme was the brilliant idea of Kasey Kile, who has been leading the conference for the last four year with assistance from her friends at Kansas Child Care Training Opportunities.

I did the Keynote for this illustrious group of early childhood educators who listened, responded, and interacted with me as we investigated the power of stories read, told, and sung.

Atchison Child Care Family

Atchison Child Care Family

The focus of the literature for the day was animal stories that are appealing to young children. This entire experience reminded me again that early childhood teachers are very creative! They displayed their creativity throughout the day as they wore hats they had designed and made for the event.

In the afternoon, they participated in hands-on follow up activities that extended the stories we shared, including designing and making costumes to represent some of the animals in the stories we had enjoyed. A special feature was the afternoon “high tea” with yummy treats. The finale was “The Animal Parade” with all of us marching together to celebrate the day, stories, and these marvelous educators.

It was a joyful experience for me!



Creative Spark for the Day

When children are using a variety of materials to develop a creative idea, add a novel material that will challenge their thinking in new ways. A piece of foil, tissue paper, or sheet of foam. Be creative!

Today I submitted the final editing of my new book: Nurturing Creativity: A Critical Mindset for Young Children’s Learning. It will be published by NAEYC with an anticipated Fall 2016 release.

It has been a long journey with many dips and highs to get this book completed. But I am excited about the message it conveys: Young children are creative and inspired by their Creative Early Childhood Teachers.

Often teachers will tell me, “I am not creative.”

Let me tell you: You are creative! When you work with energetic and curious young children you have to be creative, full of ideas, and flexible in your thinking. You use your creativity everyday as you build an interesting and challenging learning environment.

Please celebrate with me today! Tomorrow, I will get back to work on presentations, training, and handouts for the spring months…but now let’s celebrate!

Keep your creative juices flowing and your life filled with joy. Be inspired by the astonishing children who are an important part of your life!

Celebration Time! Come on! Celebration Time!

Now that the busy holidays are over, it is the ideal time to recharge and clear our brains of unnecessary issues and concerns. It is important for our well-being that we find time for ourselves to be quiet and recharge.

When we are so busy, overcommitted, and striving for perfection, there is often a drought of creative ideas. Now you can find a time and place where you can let your mind wander, daydream, relax your body, or listen to calming music.

Making time for yourself to chillout and regain your energy is an essential element to nurture creative thinking.

Making time for yourself to chillout and regain your energy is an essential element to nurture creative thinking. Creativity cannot happen when your mind is overloaded or filled with too many distractions. Find a time for yourself – 15 minutes or more – to think about “nothing”. When an unwanted thought tries to capture your attention, throw it out. The goal is to clear your brain so there is space for new ideas and possibilities.

It’s OK to be alone.

When I was working on my graduate degree, writing a dissertation, working full time, and raising two young children, I became very concerned because I had no creative ideas, or no new possibilities incubating. It was very scary because I had always had many ideas. Had my graduate work killed my creativity? Had over-work sapped my brain? As one person told me, “It’s done something to your brain.”

On the day I graduated, driving home alone in my car as my family followed, my ideas starting popping. A shower of new ideas was coming to my consciousness. I was overjoyed! I celebrated the return of these exciting possibilities. But why was this happening at this time and place? I realized that for the first time in over 2 years I had a quiet time. Many of my difficult tasks that had been filling my time and thoughts had been accomplished. This quiet time in my car provided the place to relax, be quiet, and let my mind flow.

Give yourself the gift of time.

Escape from an overstimulating and demanding world and turn on your creative ideas. You are creative! Your ideas have not dried up. All that is needed is the time and calmness to let your marvelous possibilities sprout and grow again.

Enjoy this first step in your creative journey.