When Wilton High School students arrived at school last week, they found a welcome new addition, “the Cave”. Located just off the main lobby, the Cave offers a space for students to meditate and decompress from the daily pressures of high school in a serene, peaceful environment.
Students took advantage of the many guided meditations that were offered all week, attending during their free periods and even stopping in during short classroom breaks.
They were very excited to experience the Cave and the effects of meditation, as some of the comments from students who used the room this week demonstrate: “It makes my day feel so stress-free and brings up my mood;” “Meditation in this room makes me take my mind off life and realize the importance of a stress-free life;” and “The addition of the meditation room is very beneficial to the mental well being of students at WHS.”
Dr. Robert O’Donnell, Wilton High School’s principal, is very pleased with this new addition. “The Cave is another shining example of Wilton High School’s focus on student health and well-being and the fulfillment of our Portrait of the Graduate strand of Balanced Healthy Human Being. It is an area where students can practice mindfulness, meditation, and techniques to reduce their stress levels. Students who are physically and emotionally healthy and who have a good school/life balance are ultimately more successful academically and in life’s pursuits,” he said.
The Cave is the result of a collaborative effort led by Crickett Safko (WHS ’21) who approached the administration in the spring of 2019 to create a meditation room at WHS.
“We can’t thank Dr. O’Donnell enough for his guidance and support of this project. Dr. O’Donnell located the perfect space and provided support at every turn. With the additional stress brought on by COVID, the timing of the Cave couldn’t have been better.” Safko said.
The Cave is located in an interior classroom with drop-in fiber-optic star panels to provide the illusion of the night sky. The walls are constructed from a combination of white beadboard panels and a wipeable blue vinyl material. A built-in sound system and aromatherapy add to the deeply tranquil space.
In creating the Cave, organizers had the collaborative support of the Wilton Fire Marshal, Building Department and First Selectwoman’s office. One of the most challenging issues was sourcing materials during COVID that complied with existing fire and building codes. Fire Marshal Rocco Grosso was involved from the beginning, helping ensure the materials selected had the proper fire rating.
The project was funded entirely through private sources, including local support from the Wilton Kiwanis Club, Leonard’s Upholstery (Norwalk), Rings End (Wilton) and Carston Stereo (Danbury).
Parent Cave Co-Head Lara Paschalidis remarked on the noticeable effect the room had on students in just the first week.
“I love seeing so many of our students trying and embracing meditation and the tranquility of the Cave. To choose to take five, ten, 15 minutes out of their day to take a moment for themselves and reset from all their daily pressures. Their transformation is truly amazing!”
Safko also is pleased that her idea has been made a reality and hopes other schools will embrace the concept too.
“We hope that the Cave inspires many other school systems to create a similar space and we are happy to share our experience and the steps needed to implement it with anyone who is interested in creating something similar,” she said.
Other Wilton schools, including Cider Mill School, are following WHS’s lead and are establishing similar rooms for their students. Organizers are seeking donations for the Cider Mill meditation room project (for more information on supporting the project can email Paschalidis.
The Cave is open for use by students, faculty and administrators during the day and after school. Guided meditations will be available regularly and additional mindfulness programs are in the works.
Organizers are also looking for additional WHS parent volunteers to oversee students in the Cave during the school day. Maria Galarza, Parent Cave Co-Head, encourages parents to volunteer.
“I am so excited to be a parent volunteer for the Cave meditation room. Having this oasis at our high school is such a gift for our students, faculty and school community. Parents please sign up to volunteer and come and experience the room for yourself,” she said.
Galarza added that more parent volunteers are needed so that this space continues to be available for students. Anyone interested in volunteering in the tranquil space can sign up for a shift online. For additional information and questions, please email the Cave’s parent Co-Heads Maria Galarza and Lara Paschalidis.