A METHOD FOR GROWTH
Certain central ideas run through the Tree of Life experience. Every event, moment and task is deeply rooted in our core values. We believe that it is through experience that these values become a key part of each child’s life. Furthermore, the learning experience is not only for our students. Teachers, parents and stakeholders are also vital partners in the process, for we believe learning involves the community.
LEARNING BY DOING
Students in Tree of Life learn by doing. Students make sense of their experiences when they are actively engaged in making things and exploring the world. Through trial and error, they can learn to adjust and reach a goal. This pedagogical approach engages learners in more hands-on and creative modes of learning. Projects are designed to fuse different disciplines (math and art, languages and music, technology and humanities, science and ethics) developing an interdisciplinary perspective.
Tree of Life International School follows constructionist principles, respecting children as protagonists in their own learning. The school provides a context for that learning with open-plan classrooms, where teachers guide children towards “owning” their new knowledge by doing something with it — something that has personal significance.
Teachers, parents and students form an education partnership, awakening the attitudes, values, habits and skills that facilitate learning for life.
AT THE FOREFRONT
We place the student up front and center. They are given a vote and a voice in Student-Teacher-Parent meetings, Student Government, and as one of the stakeholders in the TOPS organization. Students host all school events as masters of ceremony.
To maintain a strong student-teacher relationship, students participate in the 7 Habits Council and also participate in the creation of class rules and rubrics. They are urged to speak up in class, reflecting on their own progress.
SELF-EXPRESSION THROUGH ART
We place artistic value on the same scale as intellect and academia. The main event of the year is a musical play where students show their abilities in English, performance, singing, dancing, and speaking on stage, displaying commitment and enthusiasm that rivals Broadway.
The self-confidence required to perform onstage is cultivated over the year in all age groups with the Talent Show, the Mandarin Fair and an annual showcase of art as well as numerous cultural events. Growing confidence, nurturing talents, and developing a sense of community is pivotal to our goals.
From grade 8 onwards, high school students may choose up to six hours per semester from a catalogue of elective courses that allows them to earn extra high school credits. Courses are designed to introduce students to activities they may never have considered, giving them new life skills. They also provide an introduction to Cambridge electives such as Music, Theater, Art & Design, Technology & Design, Business, Nutrition, Physical Education, Psychology and more.
STRENGTH THROUGH NATURE
A tradition since 2012, the 7 Habit Camp features everything that we think makes TOLIS students special. First, the students (7-18 yrs) leave technology and home comforts behind, staying in rustic dorms where they clean up after themselves and work together in house teams. Second, they explore their limits and discover new appreciation of nature, through hikes, physical challenges, games and quiet time. Third, they reflect on their work as individuals and as teams, drawing out of the experience the importance of each of the 7 habits. Lastly, the experience becomes a touchstone for the rest of the year: if you have braved the “Leap of Faith” or faced the mud pits of the Jungle Challenge, you are up for anything!
A CIVIC MINDSET
How to be agents of change? How can we understand the role we each must take in society? School is where we take our first steps as future citizens of the world. At TOLIS, we seek to guide them in gaining self-control, help them understand the core values of a global society, and instill the universal truths that drive development and progress.
Democracy and civic duties are fundamental aspects of a proactive youth. In 2019, a group of eight TOLIS students from grades 9-11 participated in the Youth Parliament for over one month, debating on current issues affecting the environment. Their research brought them into contact with sitting members of the Costa Rican Legislature, as well as other student delegates from countries such as Japan, Mexico and Spain.
FACING THE WORLD
We strive to develop global awareness in our students. TOLIS has a MUN elective course where students practice parliamentary debate, develop their research skills and gain awareness about global issues. Each semester, we participate in Model United Nations events.
In March 2020, TOLIS hosted its first ever internal MUN for students grade 6-11. We also participated in the Lincoln Model United Nations, our first ever virtual Model UN, on May 21-22, 2020. In October, our MUN team participated in its first event hosted outside Costa Rica.
In 2019, TOLIS held its third trip to China. A group of 20 students travelled to Guangyi International School located in Hunan Province, China, experiencing boarding school life, and practicing the Mandarin language.
A CARING HEART
Our children are not raised in a vacuum. Every day we help them see the myriad of realities faced by others around the world and in our own country. To understand others’ suffering means to take action.
This is why we have REDES, an innovative solidarity program where our students mentor children from the community in areas such as technology.
More than 80 families in Santa Ana have benefited from this program, receiving 8 weeks of tech training, including 3D design and printing, programming, and electronic circuitry.