Ten years ago, there wasn't much there inside the rectangular outdoor area in the center of the Chenery Middle School.
Created so interior classrooms would have sunlight, there were few plants and the white plastic construction tarp underneath the ground was still visible. It was bright and essentially barren.
A decade later and a generation of students since, the Chenery Courtyard has literally blossomed; a triumph of hard work and cooperation by students and the town's seniors.
There is a central brick patio area with a table and chairs surrounded by native plants and shrubs, trees, vegetable plots and even a small pond with a small brook. Within the courtyard is ceramic artwork by students, a lasting legacy to future students to enjoy.
"This is a place where people just can 'be'," said Phyl Solomon, during the annual Chenery Courtyard Garden Celebration, where students and seniors mingled under a blooming tree after a concert performed by Chenery students last week.
Solomon has been the impetus behind the Courtyard Gardening Project, founded in 2002, as a joint effort between the school and Habitat Intergenerational Program, bringing together people of all ages to foster environmental stewardship.
The courtyard has become the Chenery's extended classroom where teachers not only have the opportunity to perform science projects but also just have a calming outdoor space to give classes, said Ben Ligon, the sixth-grade math and science teacher who has co-directed the Garden Club with Solomon for the past ten years.
"It's a place where educators, staff and students can enjoy. It's as much a resource as a computer lab," said Ligon.
Student volunteers earn community service hours by participating in the weekly Courtyard Club, working to maintain the area from composting material to tending the garden and the extensive plant collection.
It was working in the courtyard 10 years ago where Sean Mahoney's interest in nature was nurtured. Today, Mahoney graduated with a degree in forestry from the University of Vermont.
"My interest in environmental studies started here," said Mahoney.
"It's amazing how much has been done in these ten years, starting with three inch pots of plants," he said.