Certain central ideas run through the Tree of Life experience. Every understanding goal, class rule, assignment and practice is rooted in core values that see the student as the primary driver in his or her own education. Children need to be actively involved, assimilating new knowledge by connecting it to their previous experience. Learning must be significant – meaningful – to a child’s life, and learners must be engaged. 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 and must be valued by the community.



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 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.

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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.


We place artistic value on the same scale as intellect and academia. The main event of the year is a musical 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. We aim to help students develop their confidence, nurture their talents, and develop a sense of community.



How can we 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 Tree of Life, we seek to guide student in gaining self-control, helping young people 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 2022, JR2 and SR students traveled to New York to participate in the Georgetown Model United Nations. 

In 2022, one student was chosen to join Foundation 2040 on an expedition to Antarctica to promote further protection of the southern-most continent. In 2021, two students participated in COP26 as youth ambassadors for Costa Rica.

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.

These achievements inspire Tree of Life students to make their voices heard.


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 caring heart is not cultivated by words only, but by actions. Students at Tree of Life have many opportunities to develop their consideration of others’ needs through outreach opportunities in partnership with UNICEF, the Santa Ana municipality and many private foundations working for the environment and social welfare.

REDES is an innovative solidarity program where Tree of Life students mentor children from the community in areas such as technology, working with tech companies like Akamai.

Students can volunteer as tutors to encourage students at risk of dropping out, working with the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation, or find their own personal project to make a positive impact on their community, supported by the Tree of Life Foundation.


In 2022, 10 Tree of Life students made it to the national level of the Chinese Bridge Competition. Two students were invited to compete in the international level of the competition, representing Costa Rica at both the primary and secondary level, to compete in language, culture and performance with students from around the world.

Interrupted by COVID, Tree of Life will reactivate its tradition of a trip to Mandarin-speaking countries in 2023. Tree of Life’s last China Trip was held in 2019, when 20 students travelled to Guangyi International School in Hunan Province. Students experienced boarding school life, practicing the Mandarin language while getting to know Chinese culture.



Tree of Life has offered full in-person classes since Jan. 2021. Our staff is voluntarily fully vaccinated with at least two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Masks are optional in all outdoors areas, and all classes except those taught by teachers with known health risks. When a staff member or student tests positive for COVID-19, they are asked to remain home for the duration of the quarantine period set by Costa Rica’s Ministry of Health.

Hand-washing, alcohol spray and temperature check continue as part of the welcome protocol at school. Students and staff who are encouraged to stay home if they have any flu or cold symptoms. During the day, maintenance staff periodically disinfect all shared areas. Alcohol gel and disinfectant are available in all classes, and hand washing stations are located next to the lunch line and near each section.