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Meet the Willow Hut!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Not too far away from the newly-opened CDS treehouse (check out the details in our last blog post), the front yard of our 333 Dolores campus has received another new building. The Bower near the preschool bungalows now contains a small hand-constructed hut made of willow branches, where our students can spend some time retreating from the world around them. There’s an especially interesting story behind the hut, and we’d like to share a little more about how it came into being.

The idea for the willow hut originated at another of San Francisco’s top schools. The Bay School, a high school whose students include several CDS alums, requires each of its graduating students to work on an individual community service project of their own design. Drawing on her interests in nature and art, as well as the sense of self-improvement she had derived from meditation, Bay senior Sophia Thompson decided to build a structure that the members of a school community could use as a private space for meditation. “I wanted to create a safe place for students,” she says, “as well as to create a place of nature in the city.”

One of Sophia’s teachers at Bay is Katie Buono (mother of CDS middle schooler Zach), who suggested CDS as a potential spot for the hut to be built. It sounded like a perfect fit for our mindfulness program, and we enthusiastically agreed to host the project. Throughout the spring of 2017, Sophia began bending and weaving willow branches, shaping them into the structure she wanted. She devoted most of her weekends to the construction process, often working for four or five hours a day. She also recruited some of her friends to lend a hand on the project, and she emphasizes that teamwork was an important factor in completing the job: “With two people working for three or four hours simultaneously, we were able to build off each other’s energy and get more work done.”

Sophia finished the willow hut shortly before the school year ended, and it’s already in use by our summer camp students. Summing up her thoughts on the project, she tells us that the experience of meditating in nature “changed who I was and was a positive experience for me,” and she hopes that the willow hut can have a similar effect on the CDS community. We fully agree with her, and we know that it will be a great benefit to our students!