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.


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.

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.

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.

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.


Founding Organizations

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.


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.