More Than Me! Sustainable Schoolyard Design

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This paper examines how schoolyard design in low resource communities can create a natural, restorative environment to not only foster learning, but also trauma recovery. Research has shown that nature can provide much needed cognitive restoration for children who have limited access to nature. However, there are no existing applications of sustainable schoolyard design in developing country contexts. We provide a case study of our schoolyard redesign project with More Than Me Academy (MTM), a girl’s school in Monrovia, Liberia. MTM aims “to make sure education and opportunity, not exploitation and poverty, define the lives of the most vulnerable girls from the West Point Slum of Liberia.” We used human centered design methods to uncover the cognitive and curricular needs of the students, staff, and community. Through this process, we discovered that the school needed enhanced caretaking (including safety, hygiene, and responsibility), opportunities for play and expression, restoration, and community. While the project was interrupted by the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia, we offer a guideline for how other multidisciplinary groups can approach redesigning a sustainable schoolyard to increase cognitive restoration in low resource contexts.

Human-centered design
Publication Type: 
Master's Thesis
Date Published: 
April 2015
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Full Citation: 
Johnson, Sydney and Marianna Kerppola. (2015) “More Than Me! Sustainable Schoolyard Design.” Master's Project, University of Michigan: Ann Arbor 1-21.
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