Campus in Camps, Dheisheh Refugee Camp 2012
The Tree School is a gathering place for groups and individuals interested in learning from each other and in sharing common urgencies based on lived experiences. The Tree School could last for days, months or years depending on the participants’ interests. It is a space of conviviality and the joy of learning together.
Learning under the shade of a tree is a common practice rooted in many cultures around
the world. The tree, is a living being, with its particular story and mythologies. Its connection with other plants offers a physical and metaphorical space for sharing knowledge.
The creation of Tree School took place in different contexts, from a refugee camp in Palestine to the amazon in Brazil, from a University in Melbourne to a forest in Croatia. In all these different experiences of tree schools, we have been asked many times to extract a methodology. Fearing that the tree school will transform itself into an educational model to be repeated everywhere in the same way, and in order to preserve its informal, joyful, communal and spontaneous spirit, we prefer instead of extracting a methodology to share what we call the ingredients of the tree school. Ingredients come from a Latin word meaning “entering into” (ingredi, from in- ‘into’ + gradi ‘walk’) a component part of any combination, recipe, or mixture. Therefore, tree school ingredients acquire different meanings, tastes and intensity according to how the participants put them in relation to each other, and how they “enter into” a relation to a specific location.
Instead of prepacked planning activities, the tree school is organised around rituals that create a safe place for sharing emotions, feelings and spirituality. The unpredictability and un-planning requires setting group rituals so participants can join the unplanned collective thinking and connect to each other
In the tree school we understand the conversation as the primary source of knowledge production and interaction. Conversations are ways to formulate thoughts and elaborate them collectively.
The act of dislocation is fundamental in the tree school; it can alter who is the local and who is the outsider, who is the guest, and who is the host. Dislocating is an act which enables the tree school’s participants to quickly build common foundations for learning from each other that are not located in one place but have different locations that interact with each other.
There is no preset curriculum or program or readings. What is at stake in the tree school is the possibility of unlearning and relearning. What constitutes knowledge? How do we unlearn modernist and colonial conceptions? How regain the right to learn from experiences and not only from books?
The tree School is a temporary space based on trusting the knowledge of each participant that leads to unpredictable and unknown conversations. Being unpredictable does not mean being disorganised or careless; it is a way of learning to be open to the unknown, doubts and being exposed and honest.
Al-Atabeh in Arabic is the space that connects the entrance of the house with its immediate surroundings. It is that space where a person feels that they belong to both the house and the outside, the unknown. It also means the space of transformation and the moving from one place to another. The tree school aims to create that space of both safely belonging and navigating the unknown. The tree school offers the space to safely be critical towards our own knowledge in connection with others who feel the need to do the same. Seeking knowledge at the Al-Atabeh and being critical does not mean that we are leaving behind the house and our local knowledge, yet we do not want to be confined within the walls of our own knowledge. Being at the Al-Atabeh in a safe place is being able to transform one’s life experiences and be critical without leaving home behind.
Cooking and eating together is one of the most immediate exchanges of knowledge. Sometimes we might find it challenging to be open to other cultures, but we open up immediately for each other’s different ways of cooking and eating; they constitute the base for the tree school.
In Italian, Ritrovo means getting together with the joy of being together as friends. By gathering under the tree, participants share individual memories which form the foundation of the tree school as a joyful space for learning.
More ingredients to be added by new participants and new contexts!