The New Canaan High School senior prom was all about class. For many attendees, the elegant crimson tablecloths and eco-friendly centerpieces dressing 39 tables in the Stamford Marriott ballroom Friday night reflected the event's theme, "The Class of Class." For Hannah Herde, the night was similar to a final exam.

As president of the NCHS graduating class of 2010, Herde was charged with planning prom. As a student of the Senior English and Senior Project class, she had to choose a project -- any project -- as the focus of her second semester studies. Based on the theory that experience is the best teacher, the project students would elect had to lend itself to frequent journal entries and a culminating essay.

Her classmates picked tasks like music composition, film production and a study of running. Herde chose to plan a memorable senior prom.

"At first I thought I was going to get in trouble for killing two birds with one stone," she said. "I had to plan prom anyway. But I'm the kind of person where if you do something, you put your whole self into it, or you don't do it at all because you're not going to be happy with the outcome."

With a letter grade and the responsibilities of senior class president contingent on her party planning, Herde felt she had reason enough to devote about 20 hours each week to the design of what she hoped would be the most magical night of the year.

The prom committee had a $2,500 budget for decorations. Almost $900 funded one of the must-haves: tablecloths. With little more to spend, the committee decided to rely on recyclables to transform the hotel convention center into an artistic, appealing space.

"Newspaper was the inspiration of the whole design," Herde said. "You wouldn't believe what you can do with this stuff."

Committee members coiled old black and white print into streamers they later hung above a canopy entrance to the ballroom. They collected vase donations from community members to hold inexpensive red flowers they purchased off the shelves at Costco. They also crafted sustainable table centerpieces from moss and cemented branches gathered in Waveny Park during the March nor'easter.

"The Class of Class is using recycled vases and sticks from the woods," Herde said. "How cool is that?"

Packing mounds of green moss into softball-sized spheres a few hours before the start of prom last Friday, Julie Kay, the mother of a senior student and a former event planner, explained her involvement with the planning committee: "I saw [Herde's] enthusiasm and drive to do something different and I saw her frustration with their budget. I saw these kids saying that senior prom is really, really, really important to them. And I know everyone is always talking about how disappointing it is to go to senior prom because it's so forgettable once they get there. But it doesn't have to be. So we decided to think outside the box and stay conscious of waste and the materials we were using.

"It's kind of this edgy design," she added. "There's almost nothing cookie-cutter about it. It's artsy and it brought together this whole community of people who showed up to help."