12 YEARS AND COUNTING
Tree of Life International School (TOLIS) started in 2008 with five students, aged 3-7 years of age, all girls. The main reason behind this project was Angela Jarman’s and Christian White’s personal experience as parents in a traditional school. Instead of being curious and motivated, their daughter was frustrated and bored. They decided to join forces with another family and a Montessori guide to create a learning center where children could explore and develop their skills through projects that were personally significant and could be shared with the local community. Working in mixed ages and small groups, the school founders believed children would thrive if permitted to use their multiple intelligences.
ALWAYS LOOKING FORWARD
From the beginning, the school offered students choices in projects that would develop their skills in English, Spanish, Mandarin. Outdoor education and makerspaces have always been a critical part of the TOLIS curriculum, as children learned to use design thinking and develop their aesthetic appreciation in nature or with technology. In 2009, the school moved to Calle Margarita in Santa Ana. On each successive year, TOLIS added grade levels, gaining recognition from the Ministry of Education in 2013 (Primary – Middle School) and 2018 (Secondary). It now also holds a license as an Integral Attention Center. Its present enrollment is 200 students, from Early Childhood Education to High School, with graduates studying locally and abroad.
In October of 2020, Tree of Life was approved by Cambridge Assessment International Education to offer its world-class programme. Its cross-curricular subject inspires learners to be curious and think independently. The school and Cambridge’s programme share the same values: to develop an informed curiosity and lasting passion for learning in students.
Success in Cambridge qualifications often give students admission to the world’s best universities – in the US, Australia, Canada, Germany and beyond.
Each year, TOLIS applies to be recognized as a Blue Flag school and in 2016 earned five stars, which is the top level. Completely powered with solar panels, TOLIS also frequently participates in local environmental projects, like beach clean-ups, tree-planting and park restoration. The effort of documenting sustainable practices involves all grades, and each class has a representative that encourages good habits like zero-waste snacks, bringing your own water bottle, cutting back on paper waste, turning off lights and conserving water. It also has Costa Rica´s Red Cross certificate.
AN INTERNATIONAL VIEWPOINT
TOLIS promotes its international focus with a number of events and traditions, from cultural exchanges to shared projects that cross borders. Its student body is also diverse, with more than 20 countries represented, while teachers come from the US, Canada, England, Taiwan, Argentina, Colombia and of course, Costa Rica.
Each year, teachers look for interests that students can share not only as a class, but with children from another culture. We encourage teachers and students to reach out to other schools, and share the results of their project.
A PLACE TO DREAM AND CREATE
As Reggio Emilio’s philosophy mandates, TOLIS develops flexible workspaces in order to help learners cope with different challenges.
Our classes are multifunctional, and we rotate our subjects on a daily basis. Every piece of furniture is mobile and adaptable to the assignment. The goal is to develop lateral thinking.
School facilities include an art studio, a science lab for physics, chemistry and biology, a makerspace complete with a 3D printer and laser cutter, a multiple use area for performing arts, a sports field, a playground, a solar-heated pool, and a mandarin language lab.
Every hall, class and school area showcases pictures, arts, crafts and other creations, for a school is built with more than just concrete blocks: it also needs the mortar of dreams.