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Greater New Bedford Students Use Trade Skills to Build a Partnership with the Community and Mother Earth

SkillsUSA Massachusetts members use their skills to serve both the community and the environment.
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Photo provided by Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School.

The students and staff at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School (GNBVT) in Massachusetts are creating history through the construction of a Living Building Challenge structure. It is designated as the welcome center for the Lloyd Center for the Environment, a renowned environmental education center on the Slocums River in Dartmouth that provides outdoor recreation opportunities and environmental education.

The Living Building Challenge (LBC) signifies a pathway to the future where humanity can live in harmony with ecosystems, promoting infrastructure standards that prioritize the use of environmentally friendly materials. Once completed and certified, the Lloyd Welcome Center will hold the distinction of being one of only 30 LBC certified buildings worldwide. The Welcome Center has been built by students under the guidance of their instructors, collaborating across six career and technical education programs at GNBVT. The students from Carpentry, HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Engineering, and Media Technology came together to turn this environmental dream into a reality. This project underscores GNBVT’s desire to incorporate green initiatives into their curriculum and work-based learning projects.

The undertaking posed many challenges for the students, who discovered that effective teamwork is both demanding and rewarding. Learning the importance of communication during scheduling to ensure enough workspace for each program to accomplish their tasks was one major takeaway, and that’s a useful skill for their future careers.

HVAC student Caila DaSilva shared her experience, saying, “ I’ve learned patience and communication with your teammates because it’s important to have those talks and know how to overcome mistakes or tough situations, help each other out, and not let yourself get discouraged about something you can’t do, because your teammates will always be there to teach you something new.”

Frank Goncalves, the off-campus Carpentry instructor, expressed pride in his students, stating, “They gained real-world experience and a sense of pride because they are helping out our community.”

HVAC instructor Glenn Morel emphasized the significance of environmental education, remarking, “It’s important to teach students about environmental issues and the impact of product waste. For this project, we account for every material we use, and we even bury excess biodegradable material. It’s pretty cool.”

Cathryn Duff, Founder and Director of Studio to Sustain INC., described the project’s vision, saying, “The Lloyd Board wanted the entire building process to be educational and focused on the environment. Once the center is up and running, it will continue to serve as an environmental education building. Pursuing LBC means that the building is self-sufficient, producing all of its own power, with composting toilets to avoid sending any waste into municipal systems. All of the compost will be used and harvested for distribution in this 85-acre reserve.”

Grant Crowell, a former GNBVT student and SkillsUSA member who now serves as a Carpentry teaching assistant, spoke about his experiences participating in SkillsUSA competitions, sharing, “Practicing for these competitions opened my eyes to numerous opportunities in my industry, whether it involves construction work or finish work such as furniture and cabinet making. Engaging in these competitions made me realize that if I truly want to be the best possible worker in my trade, I need to have the same level of dedication in the real world. In other words, I must give 110% and demonstrate a genuine desire to learn everything I can every day. One of the main reasons I returned to Greater New Bedford Voc Tech is to teach the next generation of skilled workers that they are more than capable of achieving things they once thought were beyond their reach. I hope to help them recognize their capabilities and show them that a successful career in my profession is attainable, as long as they possess the hard work and dedication required for the trade.”

With miles of marked walking trails, the Lloyd Center offers visitors a wonderful way to learn about Buzzards Bay’s habitats and connect with the local environment. The visitor center has touch tanks with local sea animals and the observation deck offers a spectacular view of the Slocums River and Buzzards Bay — on a clear day, you can even see all the way to Martha’s Vineyard. For years to come, GNBVT students and instructors will be able to take their families to visit the manifestation of their hard work and learning as they enjoy the beautiful nature that New England has to offer, bringing joy to many while not harming the planet.

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