More than Me! Sustainable School Yard Design, Liberia (2015)

Client Organization: 
Sustainability Without Borders
Project Location : 
More than Me, Girl's Elementary School Liberia, West Africa
Secondary Client Organization: 
Christian Revival Church Association
Summary of Project Idea: 

The goal of this project is to engage students at the More than Me Academy in a participatory landscape design project that will provide designs for a new school yard landscape. More that Me is an international not for profit working to educate young girls in order to prevent poverty and prostitution. They are located in one of the poorest slums of Liberia, West Africa. The school is free to attending students.

The land surrounding the Academy is urban fill and not suitable for growing food, plants, and possibly not safe for outdoor play. The goal of Sustainability without Borders is to create a school yard that provides opportunities for education, play and rest. The masters project group will create a master plan with phasing for the site. Innovative design ideas are necessary in order to create a safe space for children. Additionally, if needed detailed construction documents for implementation are expected for some portion of the site. These will be used for the first phase of design/build. The design should also incorporate renewable energy technologies for the compound to operate off-the grid and an aquaponics system which are being designed by Sustainability Without Borders. Educational curricular support for using the garden is encouraged.

Liberia is reconstructing after its 14-year civil war that ended in 2003. The war left severe environmental and social impacts on local residents, not the least of which is tremendous poverty that limits access to fresh food and water, safe and affordable energy, and education for young people. This situation has led to the desperate situation in which young girls must act as prostitutes in order to survive. Access to education has been shown to have a significant impact on poverty reduction increasing wages, lowering birth rates and increasing investment in the community.

SWB is a student organization sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Systems. Their mission is to create a network of sustainability practitioners through the design and implementation of sustainable projects and human capacity development. SWB and More-Than-Me have a working relationship that has included a solar cell phone charging station micro-business, aquaponics design, and curriculum development.

Students working on this project will have to travel to Liberia to meet with stakeholders at least twice during the project duration. The first trip is envisioned as a discovery and customer needs assessment trip. The second trip will be a presentation of final design. Implementation of the design will be pursued to the extent possible but it is not expected from the team graduating on 2015.

Skills/Expertise Needed: 

Landscape design skills
Community participatory approaches to design
Construction skills /willingness to do physical work on site
Teaching / classroom experience (interest in developing lessons for use of outdoor classroom)

SEAS Program Areas: 
Sustainable Systems
Landscape Architecture
Professional Career Development Benefits: 

Students participating in this project can expect to gain hands-on design experience in design and construction of a new school yard landscape at the More than Me Academy. They will have an opportunity to work closely with experienced leaders in international development and youth empowerment. They will be in charge of all aspects of project management - from design conception, to construction documents to implementation.

The student group will have the opportunity to travel to Liberia for design consultations, discovery and assessment trips, and final implementations (pending financial support). Networking opportunities with More-Than-Me leadership as well as Liberian Government and Non-government organization officials can be expected. SWB has a significant network of stakeholders for consultation and collaboration in particular the United Nations Development Program and the United Nations Environmental Program in Liberia, Winrock International, Liberian Environmental Protection Agency, the Liberian Ministry of Land Mines and Energy, Liberian Rural Development Agency, and the Liberian Rural Renewable Energy Agency to name a few. The work of the group will be presented to these agencies either through individual meetings or in-group seminars with other SWB projects in Liberia.

SWB expects to prepare publications from the results of this work. The student group, under SNRE advisor and SWB officer support, will lead the publications.

Funding Sources: 
  • SWB has access to travel scholarships in the amount of $1000 per person per year for the students in this project. The students have to apply for the scholarships. 
  • More-Than-Me will provide room and board, and transportation during trips to Liberia. 
  • SWB is applying for an African Studies Center Grant that may provide $10,000 for seed funding. 
  • More-Than-Me expects to raise funds for the actual implementation of design.
Identify expected products/deliverables: 
  • A participatory design process engaging students, teachers and local leaders in design of school yard.
  • Master plan with construction phasing for future projects. 
  • Full design specifications for school yard landscape.
  • Design should include a space for growing food, aquaponics and playground
  • The first phase of construction of the landscape design. It is not expected that the entire design will be implemented in the first year of this project. 
  • Construction project plan should find ways to engage students in the building and care of site to develop skills, stewardship and a sense of ownership. 
  • Lesson plans for use of landscape post construction. (ie lessons might include but not be limited to: Growing vegetables, What is solar energy? Caring for fish. Nutrition)
Contact full name: 
Jose Alfaro, M'Lis Bartlett, Rachel Stehouwer
Ann Arbor
State or Country: 
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Bob Grese and Shelie Miller
Contact Phone: 
Contact information: 
SNRE alum
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Sydney Johnson, MLA Landscape Architecture 
  • Marianna Kerppola, MBA/MS Sustainable Systems
We are part of the CSS official student organization Sustainability Without Borders
Project Status: 
Past Project