Discover the Tree of Life Experience

Our Mission and Vision

Tree of Life International School seeks to develop leadership and excellence every day. This is a mission that applies to all members of our learning community: teachers, students, staff and parents. Leadership is recognized as having discipline over oneself and being a positive influence to others. Excellence is about standing out for being ourselves – something that occurs when we are able to recognize and maximize our qualities.  TOLIS involves students, parents, teachers and members of the outside community in lifelong learning.

Tree of Life recognizes that each learner is the driver in her or his own education. Although young, our students bring a wealth of cultural experience and genetic information and have their own interests, desires and ambitions, right from the youngest age. They are thinkers, explorers, testers of theories and dreamers. They have the right to be curious and creative, to love their school and have their own goals in learning. Our students are active, seek independence, love to reason and debate. TOLIS recognizes their strengths and their right to be fully involved and engaged in their own development.

Words from our Director

Tree of Life International School is a Kindergarten to year 12 inclusive school with a student population of 220 students, working in classes from 10-18 students. The school was founded in 2008 in the San José suburb of Santa Ana. It has developed a proud reputation for academic excellence and art performance.

There are consistently more applications for entry into our education system, as the impact of our students continues to spread in positive and diverse ways. Tree of Life International School invites you to familiarise yourself with the exciting educational opportunities we provide for your child by contacting the school.

TOLIS encourages parents to participate at both formal and informal information evenings, parent/teacher interviews, music performances and drama productions. Parents have the opportunity to contribute to the school council and council sub-committees through our TOPS committee. We regard communication as a two way process between the family and the school. Avenues for communication exist in the student diary, weekly newsletter, Compass, school website and email.

Telephone inquiries are welcome at all times. (+506 2203-5867). Tours of the campus are conducted annually, or on request. Our TOLIS Community Newsletters are posted online and parents may choose to receive email notification of new newsletters. Please email: or email individual staff with your TOLIS inquiries.

School Values

Since 2010, TOLIS has been certified as a Leadership school with the Franklin Covey Organization. All teachers take the course for the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and aim to put the habits into practice in every interaction at school, from student government and the PBIS Committee to the Student-Teacher-Parent conferences at the end of each semester. The values behind the 7 Habits are applied in establishing identity, goal-setting, time management, conflict resolution, team-building, well-being and any school discipline. The Leader in Me Program at TOLIS is especially visible in the following programs and opportunities:

  1. Camps:
    Leadership Camp:
    Students from grade 8 – 12 begin the school year with a 1-day, 1-night camp based on the 7 habits and focused on leadership skills. They serve as team leaders to their younger peers in the subsequent 7 Habits Camp over 3 days and 2 nights.
    7 Habit Camp:
    Students from grade 2-7 spend 3 days and 2 nights in adventure activities focused around the 7 Habits.
  2. Parent Training:
    Each year, all new parents attend the 7 Habits Workshop at TOLIS to learn about the “Leader in Me” program. The obligatory workshop helps ensure that parents, students and teachers share a common vocabulary for values.
  3. Classroom Materials & Tools:
    All classrooms display the 7 Habits, which are central to the Conduct Evaluation used to establish each student’s conduct grade. The 7 Habits are also a common theme to all of the “Positive Behavior in School” initiatives (see Article 7). Teachers use the Franklin Covey Leadership tools to aid creative thinking and data analysis.

Our story

TOLIS Founders, Christian White and Angela Jarman, had initially planned to home-school their two daughters for a few years, to combat their children’s boredom and frustration with regular schooling.

Following the guidance of former New York Teacher of the Year, John Taylor Gatto, author of “A Different Kind of Teacher” and other books that inspired the unschooling movement, they gave their girls a year of experience-based learning, following the children’s particular interests. One of those passions was Mandarin, resulting in the hiring of a teacher from Taiwan. A year later, a Montessori guide and two other families decided to join the home-school / un-school and the students chose the name, Tree of Life, after a particularly interesting project based on trees and culture. It was Feb. 2008.

The school’s first site was a condominium in Santa Ana. There were five students, all girls. Already the school had a diverse flavor, with 5 nationalities, four religious backgrounds and teachers from 4 different countries. Tolerance and diversity was important from day one. So was building community. From the beginning, students shared a family-style lunch centered around healthy food.

In 2009, the school grew to 12 students, ranging in age from kindergarten to grade 3, and moved to its second site, this time in Rio Oro. Growing by word-of-mouth, the school population continued to expand student by student.  By the time Tree of Life’s first students had reached the fifth grade, the school had established itself in its present location in Santa Ana, on Calle Margarita. Its first official ceremony was appropriate: a talent show, organized by the grade 5 students. Enjoyment of the arts has always been important, and public speaking is a skill that all students acquire.

In 2010, TOLIS became the first certified Leadership School in Latin America, training all of its teachers in the 7 Habits Program with Franklin Covey. Since 2010, all teacher re-train every year in the 7 Habits.

In 2011, TOLIS completed the Singapore Math training program.

By 2012, Tree of Life was certified by the Ministry of Education, in time to graduate its first grade 6 generation. By this time, the school had approximately 70 students. The school’s drama program started in earnest, producing its first full-length play, “

In 2013, the school started its Social Entrepreneurship Program, as students started businesses to raise funds for a social cause. This resulted in the Snack Shack, the student-run coffee shop, where proceeds fund student trips to China.

In 2014, the Mandarin program showed its first fruits. Two students won the Chinese Bridge Contest in Costa Rica and went to China. The same year, the school held its first China Trip for grade 8 students.

In 2015, the school added grade 9. Two students were invited to speak at the Scratch Conference in MIT.

By 2016, the first grade 10 class completed IGCSE exams, taking the extended versions of the courses and scoring well.

In 2017, the school was recognized as a high school by MEP, and was able to register for its first national baccalaureate exams for grade 11 students. The school had now reached a total of 152 students, with 12 Seniors, 36 Juniors, 70 in Elementary and 34 in Early Childhood. There were now over 24 different nationalities, with teachers from 7 countries. The school conducted its second China Trip and also served as Latin America’s host for the Scratch conference.

In 2018, the school expects to graduate its first generation with both A-Levels and the national baccalaureate. It hasn’t strayed far from the original intent: to give children the freedom to explore their interests while challenging them enough to keep even the most active child engaged.

Our Certifications

Tree of Life International School is a recognised Leadership Institute and we are proud to share the below certifications that help shape our school values, learning and culture. Please read more about these certifications, below:

Ministerio de Educación Pública

Tree of Life International School is recognized and approved by the Ministry of Public Education in Costa Rica (MEP). As an institution we are subject to the direction of the Private Education of the Ministry of Education.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People®

Since 2010, TOLIS has been certified as a Leadership school with the Franklin Covey Organization.

Bandera Azul Ecológica

We received in 2017 for the second time our 5 stars Bandera Azul-Centros Educativos award, and we are hardly working and committed to continue this project this year.

Cambridge IGCSE

Cambridge Assessment International Education prepares school students for life, helping them develop an informed curiosity and a lasting passion for learning and its part of the University of Cambridge.