About 100 Reynoldsburg students, parents and community members volunteered to brave the heat and humidity last Friday and Saturday to plant a variety of species at the district's new wetlands site behind the new high school on Summit Road.

About 100 Reynoldsburg students, parents and community members volunteered to brave the heat and humidity last Friday and Saturday to plant a variety of species at the district's new wetlands site behind the new high school on Summit Road.

District spokesperson Tricia Moore said the site encompasses about 4 acres, with about two being wetlands and the other two running along an unnamed stream which is a tributary to Blacklick Creek.

She said before the project is completed by this fall, about 9,000 plants will be planted, along with seeds for a cover crop and about 350 trees.

The two dozen different varieties of species planted over the weekend included swamp milkweed, bearded sedge, red-footed spike-rush, turtlehead, hairy willow-herb, American water horehound, and mad-dog skullcap.

"You'll find these plants are native to this region, and it helps establish the wetland and ecological environment that is conducive to the birds and critters and their habitat," Moore said.

The wetlands will become a laboratory for students attending the new high school and elementary school on Summit Road, both of which are slated to open this fall, Moore said.

Two structures called "yurts" -- round buildings in a dome shape -- are located near the wetlands and are intended to be used as eco-learning labs. Instead of just constructing brick and mortar buildings for the labs, Moore said, officials decided the yurts would blend in more with the environment and would be less expensive to build.

In late 2010, Reynoldsburg City Council authorized an agreement with the school district to use funds from an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency grant to restore and expand the wetlands area. As a result, the OEPA awarded the district $137,010 in a reimbursement grant, which means the schools will spend the money while developing the wetlands and then will be reimbursed up to that amount.

Moore said the money helps pay for the plants and trees and moving the dirt on the wetlands site up to the proper elevations.

Assistant superintendent Dan Hoffman said although the wetlands are beginning to develop and will be ready by fall, the site will be a work in progress for the first couple of years.

"We feel pretty confident we're going to have some things to study out there as early as the fall," Hoffman said. "What we're going to have is the capacity for kids, eventually K-12, who are in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs to study right there, so we think it is going to be a phenomenal science lab that's primarily outdoors."