The Tree School

The Tree School is one of the most dynamic, engaging educational projects SoundOut has ever been introduced to. Located in the southern part of Bahia state in Brazil, it moves beyond the constructs and definitions of normal schools, including student voice and student engagement, and fully embodies every aspect of Meaningful Student Involvement.

About

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The first The Tree School was formed in Southern Bahia with thinkers, artists, and activists from the quilombola movement, the Landless Workers’ Movement and Palestinian refugees. They wanted to activate community-based discussions around exile, right of return, identity construction and subjectivity building. They were also concerned with reflecting and understanding the role of education as a liberating and democratizing tool.

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The Tree School is first and foremost a gathering place of people around a tree perceived as a living being. The tree, with its characteristics and history, is the device that creates a physical and metaphorical common territory where ideas and actions can emerge through critical, free and independent discussion among participants.

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All students choose to come to The Tree School on their own – it is a fully consensual school. It is based on non-hierarchical relationships between adults, children and youth. With everyone co-learning, co-teaching, and co-leading the entire school all of the time, the Tree School directly addresses social oppression, cultural alientation, student segregation and more.

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SoundOut visited The Tree School’s exhibition as part of the 31st Bienal of São Paulo. It was an inspiration and celebration of the power of democracy, community and education serving powerful, purposeful goals for everyone involved, and beyond.

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Founding Organizations

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A Brazilian art collective called Contrafilé partnered with Campus in Camps, an experimental educational platform based in Dheisheh refugee camp, Palestine. Focused on decolonizing knowledge, they wanted to foster trans-generational learning environments that are not confined within the traditional walls of academia. Working across across different forms of knowledge, they also want to integrate aspects of life and dialogue with the larger community.

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Related Content

Elsewhere Online

  • The Tree School, a spectacular .pdf book about the experience of people directly involved in The Tree School. Inspiring, honest and authentic, this publication contextualizes Meaningful Student Involvement in a larger project of democracy-building through community and education. Highly recommended.
  • The Tree School, a powerful art installation in São Paulo focused on learning, education and democracy. Completely altering the observer/observant dialogue, it encouraged interaction, meditation and more.
  • Contrafilé, the Brazilian art collective that co-launched The Tree School.
  • Campus in Camps is an experimental educational program based in Dheisheh refugee camp, Bethlehem Palestine.
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SoundOut Learning Toolbox

Engagement is Not Black and White - Students at the SoundOut Summer Camp

For more than a decade, SoundOut has been sharing some of the very best ways students say they learn in schools. There are specific ways students know they become engaged in class and through Meaningful Student Involvement. Following is a list of different approaches we include. Each is explored on its webpage, along with resources and more. Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Learning Through Meaningful Student Involvement

 

SoundOut Teaching Tools

  • The SoundOut Student Voice Curriculum is a collection of twenty-seven session plans, a facilitator’s guide, a student handbook and an evaluation guide designed to teach high school students about how they can become partners in changing schools. Units include students as planners, teachers, evaluators, decision-makers and advocates for education.
  • The SoundOut Skill Building Lesson Plans features more than 20 workshop outlines designed to help learning groups explore different aspects of Meaningful Student Involvement and Student/Adult Partnerships. All exercises are hands-on, interactive, and focused on taking action. The workshops are designed for learners of all ages, including student-only and adult-only groups.

 

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Place-Based Learning and Meaningful Student Involvement

SoundOut for Meaningful Student Involvement

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Place-based learning is an approach to learning, teaching and leadership in schools that engages the unique background, resources and outcomes of identifiable communities related to their own communities, cultures and natural environments. Meaningful Student Involvement can empower place-based learning to become highly relevant and significant in the lives of today’s learners.

What It Is

Rather than being a separate curriculum or program, place-based learning is similar to Meaningful Student involvement because it is a framework for teaching, learning and leadership that can be infused throughout education, including classrooms, principals’ offices and school boardrooms. Through Student/Adult Partnerships, students work with teachers, community members and other adults to learn from their community’s culture, history, natural environment, local economy, and issues and opportunities. Many years of research and practice show that even very young students can learn about their community. Academic work is tied to place is ways that matter both to students and to others in the community. This is authentic learning, and is often more rigorous than other approaches.

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