Frequently Asked Questions
1. How large is Abracadabra’s outdoor classroom?
The Kathy Wilson Outdoor Preschool Classroom -- Alakazam -- was developed on a 62’ x 72’ plot of land, which is really quite small. It is about the size of a four car garage -- if anyone in early chidhood education has one.
2. Is there a DVD or video of the outdoor classroom?
Coming soon. Please e-mail the Foundation to be put on the mailing list. Contact Us by calling 703-548-8000
There is also substantial educational theory behind each of the seven zones of Alakazam, the Outdoor Classroom.
More details can be provided to the serious educator by contacting the Foundation. Contact Us
3. How much did it cost? And how did Abracadabra come up with the funds?
The entire project cost $80,000. The Abracadabra parent community raised a portion by putting on an elegant dinner/auction. However, by far the largest portion of the funds (66%) came from Baptist Temple Church. Abracadabra is a non-denomination preschool program but is still a major outreach mission of Kathy's Church.
4. What’s the big deal – it’s a playground. How did you rationalize spending that kind of money on a playground instead of on teacher salaries?
It’s not a playground – it’s another classroom, that is outside. At Abracadabra time spent outside in the fresh air is not ‘time out’ from learning – it is additional ‘time in’ for substantial exploration, creativity and discovery. Key points to consider:
· The High Scope curriculum specifies that adults and children spend at least 30 minutes outside during a half-day program and 60 – 90 minutes outside during an all day program (many preschools in good weather spend 25% of their day outside!);
· School grounds and playgrounds are universally under programmed for education. This playground was designed to be a classroom. Too many schools view “playgrounds” as “time out zones” for teachers. Kathy Wilson’s brilliance was she saw the space as a continuation of the learning process that was occurring inside the building.
· This playground promotes active play, adventure play, quiet learning, quiet play and nature. Adventure play is most linked to cognitive development for young children and is typically the kind of play that is least available for young children.
· Charlottee Umojo, the national training expert for High/Scope says that regular playgrounds with unstructured “wild” play actually hurts the education process because students transition poorly back inside to the learning process.
5. How can I get my child on the playground? How can I observe the playground in action?
If you live in the Alexandria community, join the Baptist Temple Church! Or, call to schedule a visit – the teachers will be happy to have you join them as they engage with the children in wheeling around the trike track, perching under a tree or painting on the outdoor easels.
The Kathy Wilson Foundation also plans several weekends throughout the year where neighborhood children experience the Outdoor Classroom. Watch this website for announcements. But remember! No children above 5 allowed.
Board of Director Member, Marcia Call has suggested "Alakazam" be made available 20 days a year for 2-hour long birthday parties. A teacher would be available to guide the learning experience.
Another idea is to make the Classroom available to neighborhood children on several weekends a year.
Finally, we will make available for a small fee a DVD of the Classroom. This should be available by the start of school in the fall. Depending on the level of interest we are toying with the idea of a one-day conference on the Classroom in the second week of November when it is warm but the leaves have turned. Contact us if you like this idea.
6. Was Kathy really a big deal in politics?
Howard Fineman, of Newsweek Magazine, said Kathy Wilson was the single most important person responsible for pushing Walter Mondale to put the first woman on a national ticket. His letter is printed in full and can be found under the History section of the web site. Once you go to the History section look on the navigational bar for "Letters About Kathy"
7. How did Kathy die?
At the age of 54, Kathy died very peacefully in the early morning hours of September 1st, 2005, in Rehoboth, Delaware, a beach community. The formal autopsy described her death as an “acute cardiac event.”
Earlier that evening she enjoyed dinner and a walk on the beach with her husband Paul and a long walk through the oceanfront neighborhoods. She had no symptoms whatsoever of the problem.
Kathy’s brother-in-law, Ralph Goodrich, was the St. Lukes Hospital Heart Clinic Administrator in Kansas City, Missouri for over 10 years. He says, 30% of women with heart disease discover the problem when their first symptom is death. An emergency room nurse who taught at Abracadabra for Kathy said the disease is the biggest killer of women every year – much more so than breast cancer. She also said it was asymptomatic—meaning women do not experience any warning signs that men do.